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Other titles in the Critical Issues in Crime and Society series:
Life After Death Row: Exonerees' Search for Community and Identity (Critical Issues in Crime and Society)by Saundra D. Westervelt
Synopses & Reviews
More than just a study of legal history, Shifting the Blame looks at the "abuse excuse" defense as an indicator of broad social change in cultural understandings of victimization, responsibility, and womanhood. The introduction of victimization as an exculpatory condition within the context of a criminal defense tells the story of a society that has accepted victimization as a new way of explaining and excusing misbehavior.
Through case law analysis, the book documents the initial development of the strategy in three different types of cases in the 1970s - "rotten social background", brainwashing, and battered women's self-defense cases. Since its initial acceptance in battered women's cases in the early 1980s, the use of the strategy has expanded to a variety of offenders in different types of relationships arguing different defenses. In lively, readable prose, Westervelt examines each form of expansion, revealing that while the expansion of the strategy has been fairly extensive, it has also been limited in some important ways. Her research shows readers that only certain types of "victims," particularly victims of physical abuse, have successfully used this defense. Shifting the Blame exposes the ways in which the acceptance of this new defense strategy illuminates a cultural shift in understandings of individual responsibility and shows how the law plays a role in defining who can be an acceptable victim.
Saundra D. Westervelt is an assistant professor in the Sociology Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Life after Death Row examines the post-incarceration struggles of individuals who have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes, sentenced to death, and subsequently exonerated. Drawing upon research on trauma, recovery, coping, and stigma, the authors weave a nuanced fabric of grief, loss, resilience, hope, despair, and meaning to provide the richest account to date of the struggles faced by people striving to reclaim their lives in contemporary American society after years of wrongful incarceration.
In The Forgotten Men, criminologist Margaret E. Leigey provides an insightful account of a group of inmates sentenced to life without parole. Imprisoned for at least twenty years, with virtually no chance of release, these men make up one of the most marginalized segments of the U.S. prison population. Drawing on in-depth interviews with twenty-five such prisoners, Leigey describes how they struggle to construct meaningful lives and provides a much-needed analysis of the policies behind life-without-parole sentencing.and#160;
Drawing on repeated interviews with forty-nine women newly released from prison, Leverentz explores the conflicting messages these women receive about who they are and who they should beandmdash;from prison staff, workers at halfway houses and drug treatment programs, family members, and friends.and#160; These messages, she shows, shape the narratives the women create to explain their past records and guide their future behavior.
When a woman leaves prison, she enters a world of competing messages and conflicting advice.and#160; Staff from prison, friends, family members, workers at halfway houses and treatment programs all have something to say about who she is, who she should be, and what she should do.and#160; The Ex-Prisonerandrsquo;s Dilemma offers an in-depth, firsthand look at how the former prisoner manages messages about returning to the community.and#160;
Over the course of a year, Andrea Leverentz conducted repeated interviews with forty-nine women as they adjusted to life outside of prison and worked to construct new ideas of themselves as former prisoners and as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students, and workers.and#160; Listening to these women, along with their family members, friends, and co-workers, Leverentz pieces together the narratives they have created to explain their past records and guide their future behavior.and#160; She traces where these narratives came from and how they were shaped by factors such as gender, race, maternal status, age, and experiences in prison, halfway houses, and twelve-step programsandmdash;factors that in turn shaped the womenandrsquo;s expectations for themselves, and othersandrsquo; expectations of them.and#160; The womenandrsquo;s stories form a powerful picture of the complex, complicated human experience behind dry statistics and policy statements regarding prisoner reentry into society for women, how the experience is different for men and the influence society plays.
With its unique view of how societyandrsquo;s mixed messages play out in ex-prisonersandrsquo; lived realities, The Ex-Prisonerandrsquo;s Dilemma shows the complexity of these womenandrsquo;s experiences within the broad context of the war on drugs and mass incarceration in America. It offers invaluable lessons for helping such women successfully rejoin society.
Today there are approximately fifty thousand prisoners in American prisons serving life without parole, having been found guilty of crimes ranging from murder and rape to burglary, carjacking, and drug offences. In The Forgotten Men, criminologist Margaret E. Leigey provides an insightful account of a group of aging inmates imprisoned for at least twenty years, with virtually no chance of release.
These men make up one of the most marginalized segments of the contemporary U.S. prison population. Considered too dangerous for rehabilitation, ignored by prison administrators, and overlooked by courts disinclined to review such sentences, these prisoners grow increasingly cut off from family and the outside world. Drawing on in-depth interviews with twenty-five such prisoners, Leigey gives voice to these extremely marginalized inmates and offers a look at how they struggle to cope. She reveals, for instance, that the men believe that permanent incarceration is as inhumane as capital punishment, calling life without parole andldquo;the hard death penalty.andrdquo; Indeed, after serving two decades in prison, some wished that they had received the death penalty instead. Leigey also recounts the ways in which the prisoners attempt to construct meaningful lives inside the bleak environment where they will almost certainly live out their lives.and#160;
Every state in the union (except Alaska) has the life-without-parole sentencing option, despite its controversial nature and its staggering cost to the taxpayer. The Forgotten Men provides a much-needed analysis of the policies behind life-without-parole sentencing, arguing that such sentences are overused and lead to serious financial and ethical dilemmas.
About the Author
SAUNDRA D. WESTERVELT is an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is the coeditor of Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice (Rutgers University Press).
and#160;KIMBERLY J. COOK is a professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is the author of Divided Passions: Public Opinions on Abortion and the Death Penalty.
Table of Contents
Part I: Becoming an Ex-Offender
1. The Mercy Home and the Discourse of Reentry and Desistance
2. Introducing the Women and Their Pathways to Offending
3. A Year in the Life: Evolving Perspectives on Reentry and Desistance
Part II: The Social Context of Reentry
4. Family Dynamics in Reentry and Desistance
5. Women's Chosen Relationships and Their Role in Self-Redefinition
6. Education, Employment, and a House of One's Own: Conventional Markers of Success
Appendix A: Respondent Characteristics
Appendix B: Research Methods
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