Charles Dickens Use Of Capital Punishment

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Charles Dickens' observation at an 1849 execution remains relevant today: “[V]agabonds . . . flocked onto the ground, with every variety of offensive and foul behavior.” The history of capital punishment mirrors what Dickens observed: a search for the ultimate oxymoron – a killing the community could be proud of, painless to both the offender and spectators. But American history belies those adjectives. Reinforcing communal values has little to do with today's execution protocol. Once informing the general public, capital punishment has become invisible. The average citizen rarely knows what is being done when the government executes a criminal. If public hangings once made execution a community act, the procedures surrounding lethal injection today lessen pain, audience, and message. Now it is the government, not …show more content…

Ironically, now that lethal injection is the preferred method of killing, several courts have held the electric chair unconstitutional (“Electric Chair Banned as Cruel, Unusual Punishment”).The ultimate irony, however, is the fact that those most needing a deterrent miss the chance to receive that message, thanks to darkness, private places, and controlled admission. 2. For centuries, ethnocentric beliefs have shaped social relations across lines of what are now understood as class, race, gender, and sexuality. Today, when it is politically incorrect to hold bigoted views about “others” (e.g., racial minorities, women, gays), it is still acceptable to hold such views about “criminals.” So when public discourse dwells on offenders, what usually comes to mind are racially charged subtexts. For instance, while poor and black women became targets of the criminal justice system, middle- and upper-class women escaped scrutiny (). In other words, “crime” is more than the violation of a legalized social norm, and “justice” is more than the equal application of laws.

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