Replacing Death with Life? The rise of LWOP in the context of Abolitionist Campaigns in the United States
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AbstractOn the basis of fifty-four elite interviews[1] with legislators, judges, attorneys, and civil society advocates as well as a state-by-state data survey, this Article examines the complex linkage between the two major penal trends in American society during the past decades: a declining use of capital punishment across the United States and a growing population of prisoners serving “life without the possibility of parole” or “LWOP” sentences. The main contribution of the research is threefold. First, the research proposes to redefine the boundary between life and death in relation to penal discourses regarding the death penalty and LWOP. LWOP is a chronic and latent form of ultimate punishment that strips life of its most valuable existential character. Second, the findings explore the connection between the rise of LWOP and the nationwide campaign against capital punishment. It explains that the abolition campaign normalized and accentuated LWOP as a symbolic substitute for the death penalty. The research reveals the thorny ethical and moral dilemmas facing anti-death penalty activists at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. Third, this Article demonstrates that the judicial use of LWOP and capital punishment at the state level does not support the claim that the expansion of LWOP caused a decline in capital punishment. In sum, LWOP has not merely been employed as a penal punishment for the United States’ most incorrigible criminal offenders—it has also been used as a strategic instrument to reshape American penal politics.
Acceptance Date10/02/2018
All Author(s) ListM Miao
Journal nameNorthwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy
Volume Number15
Issue Number2
Article number2
Pages173 - 223
LanguagesEnglish-United States
KeywordsLife without the Possibility of Parole, Death Penalty, Abolition

Last updated on 2020-21-05 at 11:51