skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 236700 Find in a Library
Title: Ritual of Capital Punishment
Journal: Criminal Justice Studies  Volume:24  Issue:3  Dated:September 2011  Pages:227-240
Author(s): Mark Davidson
Date Published: September 2011
Page Count: 14
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The purpose of this paper is to examine the ritualistic aspects of state killing as practiced in the United States.
Abstract: Canada officially abolished capital punishment in 1976. For the last few years, however, the Federal Government has been adopting increasingly harsher penal policies that resemble American law-and-order politics. As punishments increase in severity, there is pressure to add harsher penalties at the ‘top’ of the scale, that is, for heinous killing. Members of the Federal Government are almost exclusively pro-death penalty, so it seems the possibility for reinstatement is real. If the death penalty were proposed it would very likely follow on the heels of a shocking crime, and the discourse surrounding the debate will be one that exploits the emotionality of crime and punishment. In this vein, state killing will present not as a rational response to rule violation but as a necessary ritual to combat a metaphysical form of evil. The purpose of this paper is to examine the ritualistic aspects of state killing as practiced in the United States today, with a view to deepening ones understanding of the punishment’s popular appeal so that one can more effectively resist reinstitution or, where capital punishment exists, fight for its abolition. The paper focuses on three aspects of death penalty procedure – the detailed reporting of the offender’s final countdown and last meal, and the presence of clergy – to illustrate the connections between concrete practices of state killing and existing transcendental fixtures. (Published Abstract)
Main Term(s): Capital punishment
Index Term(s): Abolishment of capital punishment; Canada; Judicial decisions; Political influences
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.