I’m giving a paper at the APA central on Wednesdays at 3:00.
The racial disparities that plague the American criminal justice system seem to call for the suspension of criminal penalties, at least for black offenders. But refusing to punish violent offenses leaves unprotected those most vulnerable to crime, and outright abolition thus appears to undermine the rights and liberties of black Americans. I call this the decarceration dilemma. After analyzing and evaluating Christopher Lewis’s admirable attempt to resolve the dilemma, I offer my own, which employs a procedural rather than a substantive solution. I lean on the principle of expanded asymmetry (EA), which holds that it is better to underpunish than overpunish. After defending the principle, I note that EA obtains only under conditions of uncertainty. I then show that because virtually all trials of black offenders meet the uncertainty condition, sentencing authorities are obliged to treat black offenders leniently. I conclude by noting the advantages of my proceduralist approach.
For a super short, super accessible survey of the death penalty debate, see my entry at 1000 Word Philosophy.
The U.S. government has not executed anyone since 2003. That will soon change. AG Barr announced that the government will resume executing federal death row inmates. Five prisoners are schedule for execution in December and January. More here.
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On May 30, the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto to abolish the death penalty. New Hampshire currently has one inmate on death row, though repeal makes it likely he will not be executed.
For more, see NPR.
Governor Gavin Newsom has issued executive orders that effectively place a moratorium on capital punishment in the state. All death row inmates will be granted a reprieve, and Newsom will annul California’s lethal injection protocol. California has over 700 inmates on death row, but hasn’t executed any of them for over a decade.
For more details, see the NYT.
The Washington State Supreme court has ruled that the death penalty, under current state statute, is impermissible owing to racial bias. The Court cited a study showing that black capital defendants are 4.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death than their white counterparts.