SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: None of the conventional explanations why American penal policies became so severe—rising crime rates, harsh public attitudes and cynical electoral politics — are persuasive. Nor are various “conditions of late modernity” such as the limited capacities of governments, increasing population diversity or increasing insecurity and risk aversion. All these things characterized every developed country in much of the period 1975–2000 and most did not adopt drastically harsher policies. Nor are such amorphous and over-generalized notions as “populist punitiveness,” “penal populism” and neo-liberalism of much use. Some things do have explanatory power cross-nationally. Moderate penal policies and low imprisonment rates are associated with low levels of income inequality, high levels of trust and legitimacy, strong welfare states, professionalized as opposed to politicized criminal justice systems and consensual rather than conflictual political cultures. For each of those factors, the United States falls at the wrong end of the distribution. The question is, Why? Four answers stand out: the “paranoid style” in American politics; a Manichean moralism associated with fundamentalist religious views; the obsolescence of the American constitution; and the history of race relations in the USA.
Journal Article 2: Adinkrah, M., & Clemens, W. M. (2016). To reinstate or to not reinstate? An exploratory study of student perspectives on the death penalty in Michigan, 62(1), 229-258. doi:10.1177/0306624X16643743
Abstract: The U.S. state of Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1846. Since then, several abortive efforts have been made by state legislators to re-establish the death sentence to deal with convicted murderers. Concurrently, some support exists among Michigan residents for the restoration of capital punishment in the state. This article presents the results of the analysis of an attitudinal survey of 116 college students enrolled in three criminal justice courses in a Michigan public university concerning the reinstatement of the death sentence in the state. The data from this exploratory study show that a slight majority (52.6%) of respondents favored reinstatement whereas 45.7% opposed restoration. Advocates and opponents of re-establishment of the death penalty in Michigan provided similar religious, moral and economic arguments proffered by others in previous surveys on capital punishment available in the death penalty literature. The current study makes a contribution to the scant extant literature on attitudes toward the death penalty in abolitionist jurisdictions. As this body of literature grows, it can provide baseline data or information with which to compare attitudes in retentionist states.