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Equal Protection of the Law?

Gender and Justice in the United States

Mary Welek Atwell

This book, grounded in American women’s history, explores the ongoing process of taking gender into account in the U.S. justice system. Women came late to the making, applying, and enforcing of the law. How has the creation of the law by and for men affected women? How has increased participation of women in the justice system made a difference?
Equal Protection of the Law? Gender and Justice in the United States provides a readable account of the evolution of women’s constitutional status, as well as stories of their participation in the criminal justice system as workers, victims, and offenders. It focuses on how the experiences of prior generations can illuminate the continued challenges of gender and inequality.
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Evolving Standards of Decency

Popular Culture and Capital Punishment

Mary Welek Atwell

The Supreme Court has looked to «evolving standards of decency» in determining whether the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Evolving Standards of Decency examines the ways in which popular culture portrays the death penalty. By analyzing literature and film, Atwell argues that capital punishment becomes much more complex when both offenders and victims are presented as fully developed individuals.
Numerous books and films from the last several decades expose flaws in the criminal justice system and provide audiences with stories that raise questions about race, class, and actual innocence in the administration of the ultimate punishment. Although most people will not read legal briefs supporting or challenging the death penalty, many will see films or read novels that raise issues about its fairness. Themes and images gathered through popular culture may ultimately influence whether Americans continue to believe that capital punishment conforms to their evolving standards of decency and justice.
Those studying justice issues, corrections, or capital punishment will find this an accessible and provocative work that places the stories read in novels or seen in movies in the context of the legal system that has the power of life and death.
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Wretched Sisters

Examining Gender and Capital Punishmend


Mary Welek Atwell

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, fourteen women have been put to death in the United States. The criminal justice system defines crimes committed by women in a particularly gendered context. Wretched Sisters is unique in its analysis of the legal and cultural circumstances that determine why a small number of women are sentenced to death and provides a detailed account of how these fourteen women came to be subjected to the ultimate punishment.