Against Capital Punishment: The Anti-Death Penalty Movement in America, 1972-1994

By Herbert H. Haines | Go to book overview

Preface

One of the most satisfying times in a scholarly career is when a research project comes along that melds several of one's academic interests. This book represents such a convergence. Since my undergraduate years, I have focused much of my attention on various deviance, crime, and social control topics. I have written rather little along these lines, but I have taught courses in these fields to students at three academic institutions. And since my first year of graduate study, I have also been fascinated by social constructionist theories of social problems; i.e., theories about how people organize, devise shared understandings of putative social conditions that they find undesirable, and attempt to change them. The third of my primary interests is social movement analysis, and it is in this area that most of my research has been done. For a person with this array of concerns, what could be more appropriate than a book about a social movement that seeks to do away with one of the most controversial practices in twentieth-century criminal justice?

This project, like most of the research I have undertaken, was born in the classroom. I first began thinking seriously about the death penalty in 1987 while I was designing a course on the sociology of violence. Both in academic and popular discourse, talk about "violence" is too often restricted to deviant applications of physical force. This obscures the fact that lethal and nonlethal aggression are woven into public affairs and that institutionalized forms of violence are worthy of critical examination in their own right. To compensate for the usual myopia that characterizes this subject, I added units on warfare, police violence, and capital punishment to the more standard topics of street crime, spouse abuse, and the like. As I explored the voluminous literature on the death penalty over the next couple of years, I noticed that aside from Michael Meltsner's book on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's litigation in the 1960s and early 1970s ( 1973), works that focused on "antigallows" reformers of earlier eras and a smattering of articles in mostly historical journals, anti-death penalty activism had been ignored. As surely as nature hates a vacuum, a researcher is loath to walk away from a topic that has been so underexplored.

-vii-

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Against Capital Punishment: The Anti-Death Penalty Movement in America, 1972-1994
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction: Death Penalty Abolitionism in America 3
  • 1 - The Fall and Rise of Capital Punishment: 1965-1976 23
  • 2 - The Return of the Executioner: 1976-1982 55
  • Summary 71
  • 3 - The Reemergence of Political Abolitionism 73
  • 4 - Framing Disputes in the Movement Against Capital Punishment 117
  • 5 - Abolitionism at the Crossroads 148
  • 6 - Reframing Capital Punishment: Pragmatic Abolitionism 167
  • Notes 197
  • References 221
  • Index 239
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