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For twelve years Robert Blecker, a criminal law professor at New York Law School, wandered freely inside Lorton Central Prison, armed only with cigarettes and a tape recorder.The Death of Punishment tests legal philosophy against the reality and wisdom of street criminals and their guards. Some killers' poignant circumstances should lead us to mercy; others show clearly why they should die. After thousands of hours over twenty-five years inside maximum security prisons and on death rows in seven states, Professor Blecker exposes the perversity of justice: Inside prison, ironically, it's nobody's job to punish. Thus the worst criminals often live the best lives.

The Death of Punishment challenges the reader to refine deeply held beliefs on life and death as punishment that flare up with every news story of a heinous crime. It argues that society must redesign life and death in prison to make the punishment more nearly fit the crime. It closes with the final irony: If we make prison the punishment it should be, we may well abolish the very death penalty justice now requires.

From THE DEATH OF PUNISHMENT: SEARCHING FOR JUSTICE AMONG THE WORST OF THE WORST © 2013 by Robert Blecker. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press. All Rights Reserved.



Publication Date



Palgrave MacMillan


New York


death penalty, punishment, justice, philosophy, society, legal system, history, prison, murder, justice system


Arts and Humanities | Law | Social and Behavioral Sciences

The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice among the Worst of the Worst