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America's Death PenaltyBetween Past and Present$
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David Garland, Randall McGowen, and Michael Meranze

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814732663

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814732663.001.0001

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The Convict’s Two Lives

The Convict’s Two Lives

Civil and Natural Death in the American Prison

(p.191) 7 The Convict’s Two Lives
America's Death Penalty

Rebecca Mclennan

NYU Press

This chapter examines the extent to which death has shaped life under imprisonment. It considers the rise of an elaborate machinery of civil death—comprised of laws, jurisprudence, institutional practices, and affective structures—in the course of the nineteenth century, coterminous with the rise of the penitentiary house and cellular prison. It argues that the rise of the prison did not replace the question of death, but merely transformed it. It explains how the original character of American prisons as enforcers of a novel species of involuntary servitude generated and sustained a jurisprudence of civil death that ultimately fixed the legal status of both prisoners and convicts. It also explores how civil death provided a boost to advocates of capital punishment, minimum mandatory sentencing, and three strikes laws. Finally, it looks at some of the buried structures of legal thought and practice that distinguished and delimited the convict's two lives.

Keywords:   imprisonment, civil death, prisons, jurisprudence, prisoners, convicts, capital punishment, minimum mandatory sentencing, three strikes laws

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