Sociology Research Led a US State to Abolish the Death Penalty
The Chronicle of Higher Education this week reported that when the Washington State Supreme Court abolished the death penalty this month, it was primarily because of the work of sociologist, Professor Katherine Beckett.
On Thursday, 11th October 2018 the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the death penalty violates the Washington State constitution‘s prohibition on ‘cruel punishment.’ In its ruling, the Court cited research by University of Washington Center for Human Rights Faculty Associate Prof. Katherine Beckett, and Lecturer Heather Evans, who conducted the first study regarding the impact of race on the application of the death penalty in Washington State, The Role of Race in Washington State Capital Sentencing, 1981-2014.
The report by Beckett and Evans found that black defendants were more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants. The court specifically cited this finding in its opinion, noting that from ‘December 1981 through May of 2014, special sentencing proceedings in Washington State involving Black defendants were between 3.5 and 4.6 times as likely to result in a death sentence as proceedings involving non-Black defendants.’
Katherine Beckett and Heather Evans have been congratulated for their extraordinary work and its transformative impact on the justice system in Washington State.
A recent article from Katherine Beckett, Lindsey Beach, Emily Knaphus, and Anna Reosti is published in the journal Law & Policy, US Criminal Justice Policy and Practice in the Twenty‐First Century: Toward the End of Mass Incarceration? now free to access until the end of the year.
Other articles by Katherine Beckett include:
- Beckett, K. and Harris, A. (2011), On cash and conviction. Criminology & Public Policy, 10: 509-537. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2011.00726.x
- Beckett, K. (2008), Drugs, Data, Race and Reaction: A Field Report. Antipode, 40: 442-447. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2008.00612.x
- Beckett, K. Nyrop, K. and Pfingst L. (2006), Race, Drugs, and Policing: Understanding Disparities in Drug Delivery Arrests. Criminology, 44: 105-137. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2006.00044.x