Introduction: Geographies of Capital Punishment in the United States - The Execution of Troy Davis.
As of the writing of this introduction 3170 people currently are on "death row" in the United States (Equal Justice Initiative 2013). Despite the widespread public belief that equality under the law exists, the reality for death row inmates is quite different. A 2007 study by the American Bar Association found that over one-third of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania death row inmates would have received sentences of life in prison had they not been African American. More concerning is a 2007 study by Yale University Law School which found African American defendants were three times more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim of the crime was white (as quoted in Donohue 2011). Given the geographic realities of life in the United States these facts may be unsurprising to readers of ACME. However, what makes these facts interesting, and perhaps what makes the United States an interesting case -- some might say exceptional -- is that despite widespread international pressure to curtail or abolish the death penalty, the US is one of the last Western nations to continue to view executions as an acceptable form of punishment. At issue is how race and class and gender renders the death penalty an unequal form of punishment, a punishment that speaks to the role of geography in the US criminal justice system.
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