Those who support capital punishment often claim that they do so because it provides justice and closure for the victims’ families. In Capital Consequences, attorney Rachel King reminds us that there are other families and other victims who must be considered in the debate over the death penalty.
Combining a narrative voice with vivid, passionate, and painful accounts of the families of death row inmates, the book demonstrates that crimes that lead to death sentences also devastate the families of those convicted. These families, King argues, are the unseen victims of capital punishment.
King challenges readers to question the morality of a punishment that victimizes families of the condemned and ripples out through future generations. Chapters tell the stories of families that have lost life savings supporting an accused loved one, endured intense public scrutiny, been subjected to harassment by the media, and are struggling to live with the inhumane treatment that their loved ones receive on death row. The author also explores the unique nature of the grief that these families suffer. Because their pain tends to elicit less attention and empathy than that of the crime victims’ families, King shows how it becomes much more desperate and isolating.
On a human level, this book is a powerful reminder that tragic events have tragic consequences that far outreach their immediate victims. At the same time, the accounts illustrate many of the flaws inherent in the judicial system—racial and economic bias, incompetent counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, the execution of juveniles, and wrongful convictions, some of which are only now being overturned because of recent advances in DNA technology.
Regardless of which side of the death penalty issue you are on, this book will lead you to pause and consider that all acts—criminal and retributive—have broader human implications than we are sometimes willing to realize.
Millions of children in the United States have a parent who is incarcerated and a growing number of these nurturers are mothers. Disrupted Childhoods explores the issues that arise from a mother's confinement and provides first-person accounts of the experiences of children with moms behind bars. Jane A. Siegel offers a perspective that recognizes differences over the long course of a family's interaction with the criminal justice system.
Presenting an unparalleled view into the children's lives both before and after their mothers are imprisoned, this book reveals the many challenges they face from the moment such a critical caregiver is arrested to the time she returns home from prison. Based on interviews with nearly seventy youngsters and their mothers conducted at different points of their parent's involvement in the process, the rich qualitative data of Disrupted Childhoods vividly reveals the lived experiences of prisoners' children, telling their stories in their own words. Siegel places the mother's incarceration in context with other aspects of the youths' experiences, including their family life and social worlds, and provides a unique opportunity to hear the voices of a group that has been largely silent until now.
"Sharp’s book reemphasizes the tremendous costs of maintaining the death penalty—costs to real people and real families that ripple throughout generations to come."—Saundra D. Westervelt, author of Shifting the Blame: How Victimization Became a Criminal Defense
"Everyone concerned with the effects of capital punishment must have this book."—Margaret Vandiver, professor, department of criminology and criminal justice, University of Memphis
Murderers, particularly those sentenced to death, are considered by most to be unusually heinous, often sub-human, and entirely different from the rest of us. In Hidden Victims, sociologist Susan F. Sharp challenges this culturally ingrained perspective by reminding us that those individuals facing a death sentence, in addition to being murderers, are brothers or sisters, mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, relatives or friends. Through a series of vivid and in-depth interviews with families of the accused, she demonstrates how the exceptionally severe way in which we view those on death row trickles down to those with whom they are closely connected. Sharp shows how family members and friends—in effect, the indirect victims of the initial crime—experience a profoundly complicated and socially isolating grief process.
Departing from a humanist perspective from which most accounts of victims are told, Sharp makes her case from a sociological standpoint that draws out the parallel experiences and coping mechanisms of these individuals. Chapters focus on responses to sentencing, the particular structure of grieving faced by this population, execution, aftermath, wrongful conviction, family formation after conviction, and the complex situation of individuals related to both the killer and the victim.
Powerful, poignant, and intelligently written, Hidden Victims challenges all of us—regardless of which side of the death penalty you are on—to understand the economic, social, and psychological repercussions that shape the lives of the often forgotten families of death row inmates.
The United States imprisons far more people, total and per capita, and at a higher rate than any other country in the world. Among the more than 1.5 million Americans currently incarcerated, minorities and the poor are disproportionately represented. What’s more, they tend to come from just a few of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the country. While the political costs of this phenomenon remain poorly understood, it’s become increasingly clear that the effects of this mass incarceration are much more pervasive than previously thought, extending beyond those imprisoned to the neighbors, family, and friends left behind.
For Trading Democracy for Justice, Traci Burch has drawn on data from neighborhoods with imprisonment rates up to fourteen times the national average to chart demographic features that include information about imprisonment, probation, and parole, as well as voter turnout and volunteerism. She presents powerful evidence that living in a high-imprisonment neighborhood significantly decreases political participation. Similarly, people living in these neighborhoods are less likely to engage with their communities through volunteer work. What results is the demobilization of entire neighborhoods and the creation of vast inequalities—even among those not directly affected by the criminal justice system.
The first book to demonstrate the ways in which the institutional effects of imprisonment undermine already disadvantaged communities, Trading Democracy for Justice speaks to issues at the heart of democracy.