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Title: In the shadow of death : the normalization of life without parole and death penalty abolitionism in California
Author: Vannier, Marion
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 1068
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Since its introduction in 1978 as an alternative to the death penalty, there has been a dramatic increase and expansion of life without parole (LWOP), including beyond the scope of capital crimes for which it was originally devised. Despite this growth, there has been limited political and academic attention paid to this punishment and very few attempts made to narrow its scope or curtail its proliferation. Moreover, some inmates on death row find the prospect of awaiting death in prison so bleak that they have opposed reformative efforts that would commute their death sentence to LWOP. Emerging scholarship suggests the punishment has been 'normalized', in part because of how some death penalty abolitionists have framed and instrumentalized LWOP. By providing a more substantive and granular account, drawing upon a wide range of evidence, this thesis significantly deepens and extends this claim. 'Normalization' here is defined as a set of mechanisms through which the punishment has been made to seem normal, specifically: routinization, limited visibility, and denial. The concept does not propose a measure of severity. Rather, it offers a lens through which to explore how a punishment's severity can be shaped to fit either a punitive or moderate model of punishment. To discuss the extent to which some opponents to the death penalty may have facilitated, participated in, or perhaps even animated such normalizing mechanisms, this thesis privileges a 'Punishment and Society' multidisciplinary approach and focuses on three sites where abolitionists have lobbied, campaigned, pled and settled, for LWOP: Congress, the broader political sphere, and courtrooms. This dissertation then contrasts abolitionists' representation of LWOP's severity with prisoners' lived experience. The investigation is carried out between the early 1900s, when the punishment was first imagined, and 2012, when the SAFE Campaign was launched in California to replace capital punishment with LWOP. The thesis sheds light on how, in the shadow of the traditional death penalty, other extreme forms of punishment have been modelled to appear 'moderate'. Ultimately, the normalization of life without parole illustrates how extreme punitiveness can subsist in the guise of penal moderation.
Supervisor: Hoyle, Carolyn ; Bosworth, Mary Sponsor: Fondation Robert Abdesselam ; Green Templeton College ; Rothermere American Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available