Since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976, eleven women have been put to death for murder. Each case involves a personal story with unique tragic elements. Yet common themes reflect how the criminal justice system defines crimes committed by women in a particular gendered context. Wretched Sisters offers an analysis of the legal and popular cultural circumstances that determine why a small number of women are sentenced to death, and provides an empathetic account of how these eleven came to be subjected to the ultimate punishment.
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"Wretched Sisters is an extraordinary new benchmark in the field, deftly furthering our understanding both of the women executed during the last generation and of the legal system that killed them. Mary Welek Atwell tells the tragic stories of these eleven condemned women, folded into a sophisticated analysis of crime and the death penalty system as seen through the lens of feminist criminology. Drawn to agree that their lives and deaths were ‘shocking, unjust, and unacceptable,’ we then are challenged to seek law and societal reforms to prevent increases to the membership of this wretched club."Victor Streib, Ella and Ernest Fisher Professor of Law, Ohio Northern University College of Law"Wretched Sisters highlights the appalling reality as well as two of the many biases—gender and poverty—that permeate the criminal justice system. Mary Welek Atwell effectively captures the tragic elements in each of the eleven cases she studies. This book proves that the promise of ‘equal justice for all’ remains elusive. Justice is not blind; it sees gender, class, wealth, and race quite clearly. It decides punishment based on those standards rather than the evidence and circumstances of the crime itself. This book only serves to reinforce my belief that that the death penalty is unjust and must be abolished so that other women do not have the opportunity to become a ‘wretched sister’ just because they unfortunately were born a poor woman, or even worse, a poor black woman."David Elliot, Communications Director, National Coalition to Abolish the Death PenaltyAbout the Author:
The Author: Mary Welek Atwell holds a Ph.D. in history from Saint Louis University. She is Professor of Criminal Justice at Radford University in Virginia and the author of Equal Protection of the Law? Gender and Justice in the United States (Peter Lang, 2002) and Evolving Standards of Decency: Popular Culture and Capital Punishment (Peter Lang, 2004).
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