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Sentencing in Time
Linda Ross Meyer
Amherst College Press, 2017
Exactly how is it we think the ends of justice are accomplished by sentencing someone to a term in prison? How do we relate a quantitative measure of time—months and years—to the objectives of deterring crime, punishing wrongdoers, and accomplishing justice for those touched by a criminal act? Linda Ross Meyer investigates these questions, examining the disconnect between our two basic modes of thinking about time—chronologically (seconds, minutes, hours), or phenomenologically (observing, taking note of, or being aware of the passing of time). In Sentencing in Time, Meyer asks whether—in overlooking the irreconcilability of these two modes of thinking about time—we are failing to accomplish the ends we believe the criminal justice system is designed to serve. Drawing on work in philosophy, legal theory, jurisprudence, and the history of penology, Meyer explores how, rather than condemning prisoners to an experience of time bereft of meaning, we might instead make the experience of incarceration constructively meaningful—and thus better aligned with social objectives of deterring crime, reforming offenders, and restoring justice.

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Sentencing without Guidelines
Rhys Hester
Temple University Press, 2024
Sentencing matters. Reform initiatives hope to impart more uniformity and fairness in sentencing. Tough-on-crime laws like “three strikes” and mandatory minimum provisions deprive judges of sentencing discretion. While sentencing guidelines have been adopted by approximately 20 states since the early 1980s, many judges operate without guidelines.

Sentencing without Guidelines is Rhys Hester’s deep dive into how South Carolina, which never passed sentencing guideline legislation, nonetheless created meaningful punishment reform. It achieved uniformity in sentencing with a traveling circuit of judges, informal norms among judges, and the unique phenomenon of the “Plea Judge” to manage cases.

Hester examines how prior convictions, race, and geographical differences impact sentences to explain why individuals get the criminal sentences they do. He also explores how legal reform mechanisms can influence punishment goals and policy. Sentencing without Guidelines shows the benefits and drawbacks South Carolina experienced as it met sentencing reform goals. These lessons can be translated into policy for other jurisdictions.

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Sexual Assault
The Dilemma of Disclosure, The Question of Conviction
Rita F. Gunn
University of Manitoba Press, 1988

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Sexual States
Governance and the Struggle over the Antisodomy Law in India
Jyoti Puri
Duke University Press, 2016
In Sexual States Jyoti Puri tracks the efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in India to show how the regulation of sexuality is fundamentally tied to the creation and enduring existence of the state. Since 2001 activists have attempted to rewrite Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which in addition to outlawing homosexual behavior is often used to prosecute a range of activities and groups that are considered perverse. Having interviewed activists and NGO workers throughout five metropolitan centers, investigated crime statistics and case law, visited various state institutions, and met with the police, Puri found that Section 377 is but one element of how homosexuality is regulated in India. This statute works alongside the large and complex system of laws, practices, policies, and discourses intended to mitigate sexuality's threat to the social order while upholding the state as inevitable, legitimate, and indispensable. By highlighting the various means through which the regulation of sexuality constitutes India's heterogeneous and fragmented "sexual state," Puri provides a conceptual framework to understand the links between sexuality and the state more broadly. 

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Sins against Nature
Sex and Archives in Colonial New Spain
Zeb Tortorici
Duke University Press, 2018
In Sins against Nature Zeb Tortorici explores the prosecution of sex acts in colonial New Spain (present-day Mexico, Guatemala, the US Southwest, and the Philippines) to examine the multiple ways bodies and desires come to be textually recorded and archived. Drawing on the records from over three hundred criminal and Inquisition cases between 1530 and 1821, Tortorici shows how the secular and ecclesiastical courts deployed the term contra natura—against nature—to try those accused of sodomy, bestiality, masturbation, erotic religious visions, priestly solicitation of sex during confession, and other forms of "unnatural" sex. Archival traces of the visceral reactions of witnesses, the accused, colonial authorities, notaries, translators, and others in these records demonstrate the primacy of affect and its importance to the Spanish documentation and regulation of these sins against nature. In foregrounding the logic that dictated which crimes were recorded and how they are mediated through the colonial archive, Tortorici recasts Iberian Atlantic history through the prism of the unnatural while showing how archives destabilize the bodies, desires, and social categories on which the history of sexuality is based.

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The Solemn Sentence of Death
Capital Punishment in Connecticut
Lawrence B. Goodheart
University of Massachusetts Press, 2011
The first case study of its kind, this book addresses a broad range of questions about the rationale for and application of judicial execution in Connecticut since the seventeenth century. In addition to identifying the 158 people who have been put to death for crimes during the state's history, Lawrence Goodheart analyzes their social status in terms of sex, race, class, religion, and ethnicity. He looks at the circumstances of the crimes, the weapons that were used, and the victims. He reconstructs the history of Connecticut's capital laws, its changing rituals of execution, and the growing debate over the legitimacy of the death penalty itself. Although the focus is on the criminal justice system, the ethical values of New England culture form the larger context. Goodheart shows how a steady diminution in types of capital crimes, including witchcraft and sexual crimes, culminated in an emphasis on proportionate punishment during the Enlightenment and eventually led to a preference for imprisonment for all capital crimes except first-degree murder. Goodheart concludes by considering why Connecticut, despite its many statutory restrictions on capital punishment and lengthy appeals process, has been the only state in New England to have executed anyone since 1960.

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Speaking of Crime
The Language of Criminal Justice
Lawrence M. Solan and Peter M. Tiersma
University of Chicago Press, 2004
Why do so many people voluntarily consent to searches by have the police search their person or vehicle when they know that they are carrying contraband or evidence of illegal activity? Does everyone understand the Miranda warning? How well can people recognize a voice on tape? Can linguistic experts identify who wrote an anonymous threatening letter?

Speaking of Crime answers these questions and examines the complex role of language within our criminal justice system. Lawrence M. Solan and Peter M. Tiersma compile numerous cases, ranging from the Lindbergh kidnapping to the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton to the JonBenét Ramsey case, that provide real-life examples of how language functions in arrests, investigations, interrogations, confessions, and trials. In a clear and accessible style, Solan and Tiersma show how recent advances in the study of language can aid in understanding how legal problems arise and how they might be solved.

With compelling discussions current issues and controversies, this book is a provocative state-of-the-art survey that will be of enormous value to legal scholars and professionals throughout the criminal justice system.

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The Supreme Court on Trial
How the American Justice System Sacrifices Innocent Defendants
George C. Thomas III
University of Michigan Press, 2011

The chief mandate of the criminal justice system is not to prosecute the guilty but to safeguard the innocent from wrongful convictions; with this startling assertion, legal scholar George Thomas launches his critique of the U.S. system and its emphasis on procedure at the expense of true justice.

Thomas traces the history of jury trials, an important component of the U.S. justice system, since the American Founding. In the mid-twentieth century, when it became evident that racism and other forms of discrimination were corrupting the system, the Warren Court established procedure as the most important element of criminal justice. As a result, police, prosecutors, and judges have become more concerned about following rules than about ensuring that the defendant is indeed guilty as charged. Recent cases of prisoners convicted of crimes they didn't commit demonstrate that such procedural justice cannot substitute for substantive justice.

American justices, Thomas concludes, should take a lesson from the French, who have instituted, among other measures, the creation of an independent court to review claims of innocence based on new evidence. Similar reforms in the United States would better enable the criminal justice system to fulfill its moral and legal obligation to prevent wrongful convictions.

"Thomas draws on his extensive knowledge of the field to elaborate his elegant and important thesis---that the American system of justice has lost sight of what ought to be its central purpose---protection of the innocent."
—Susan Bandes, Distinguished Research Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law

"Thomas explores how America's adversary system evolved into one obsessed with procedure for its own sake or in the cause of restraining government power, giving short shrift to getting only the right guy. His stunning, thought-provoking, and unexpected recommendations should be of interest to every citizen who cares about justice."
—Andrew E. Taslitz, Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law

"An unflinching, insightful, and powerful critique of American criminal justice---and its deficiencies. George Thomas demonstrates once again why he is one of the nation's leading criminal procedure scholars. His knowledge of criminal law history and comparative criminal law is most impressive."
—Yale Kamisar, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego and Clarence Darrow Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Michigan


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