Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex) Police, race, punishment: New directions in Criminology
Fifty-six men of colour were sentenced to death by the courts of England and Wales in the twentieth century and were statistically less likely to receive mercy than white contemporaries. Though shocking, this is perhaps unsurprising considering institutional racism and unequal access to justice widely highlighted by criminologists since the 1970s. However, discourses of racial difference were frequently mobilised tactically in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England and Wales to support arguments for mercy and attempt to save prisoners from the gallows. Scholars have identified historically and culturally contingent narratives traditionally deployed to speak to notions of lesser culpability. I will identify the strategic mercy narratives told in twentieth-century England and Wales that called on contemporary tropes about defendants’ race. Though officially secret, analysis of Home Office decision-makers’ reasons to hang or reprieve reveal how they racialised practices of mercy and capital punishment by categorising and describing defendants and crimes. The narratives and cases I will explore suggest contemporary racism in the criminal justice system of England and Wales has a longer history than previously acknowledged.
Dates & times
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|31 Jan 2020||2:00pm - 3:00pm|
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