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The Dark at the Top of the Stairs: Four Destructive Influences of Capital Punishment on American Criminal Justice

16 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2011  

Franklin E. Zimring

University of California, Berkeley

David T. Johnson

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Date Written: November 8, 2011

Abstract

State execution is not a major part of America's system of criminal punishment, but it casts a long shadow over the principles and practices of the rest of criminal justice. This essay discusses four negative impacts of the death penalty on the larger system: (1) The hyper-extension of the substantive criminal law; (2) The symbolic transformation of harsh punishment to a private reward; (3) The creation and overuse of Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentences; and (4) The diversion of legal and judicial resources from other pressing problems in the criminal system.

Keywords: Capital Punishment, Imprisonment

JEL Classification: K14, K40

Suggested Citation

Zimring, Franklin E. and Johnson, David T., The Dark at the Top of the Stairs: Four Destructive Influences of Capital Punishment on American Criminal Justice (November 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1956686 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1956686

Franklin E. Zimring (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

383 Boalt Hall
School of Law
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-0854 (Phone)
510-643-2698 (Fax)

David T. Johnson

University of Hawaii at Manoa ( email )

Honolulu, HI 96822
United States

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