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Path Dependence, Culture and State-Level Execution Policy: A Reply to David Garland

NCJ Number
Punishment & Society Volume: 7 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2005 Pages: 377-384
Franklin E. Zimring
Date Published
October 2005
8 pages
The author of this article (Franklin E. Zimring) answers David Garland's critique (See NCJ-212386) of his published work that links the persistence of capital punishment and its implementation in America to distinctively American "vigilante values."
Garland criticizes Zimring for tracing America's embrace of capital punishment to persistent cultural "vigilante values." Garland, on the other hand, argues that capital punishment in America is less related to unchanging cultural values than to institutionalized legal traditions and political influences. Zimring replies that he does not indicate in his publications that America has a common and persistent cultural tradition that fuels capital punishment, but rather a variable commitment to capital punishment linked to empirical data on the historical tradition and frequency of lynchings in a jurisdiction or region. Such "vigilante values," argues Zimring, apparently translate into support for the government to continue the tradition of killing those who break certain laws. Zimring, in turn, criticizes Garland for not giving more power to subcultural values in determining what citizens expect of their governments. He notes Garland's ignoring of his (Zimring's) showing of a close link between a history of lynching in a jurisdiction or region and the use of capital punishment. Zimring does acknowledge, however, the validity of one of Garland's criticisms, i.e., that Zimring fails to provide an empirical comparison of "vigilante values" in America with the presence or absence of similar values in countries that have abolished capital punishment. 12 references