A passionate and counterintuitive defense of the death penalty
that asks us to reconsider punishment as the key to reforming our
For twelve years Robert Blecker, a criminal law professor,
wandered freely inside Lorton Central Prison, armed only with
cigarettes and a tape recorder. "The Death of Punishment" tests
legal philosophy against the reality and wisdom of street criminals
and their guards. Some killers' poignant circumstances should lead
us to mercy; others show clearly why they should die. After
thousands of hours over twenty-five years inside maximum security
prisons and on death rows in seven states, the history and
philosophy professor exposes the perversity of justice: Inside
prison, ironically, it's nobody's job to punish. Thus the worst
criminals often live the best lives.
The Death of Punishment challenges the reader to refine deeply
held beliefs on life and death as punishment that flare up with
every news story of a heinous crime. It argues that society must
redesign life and death in prison to make the punishment more
nearly fit the crime. It closes with the final irony: If we make
prison the punishment it should be, we may well abolish the very
death penalty justice now requires.
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