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The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice among the Worst of the Worst Hardcover – 17 Dec 2013

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (17 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1137278560
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137278562
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.7 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,383,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"Robert Blecker is probably the most articulate death penalty supporter around, and easily the most honest. His argument is one that any death penalty supporter will identify with, but more importantly, it's one any opponent must answer. --David Dow, founder of Texas Innocence Network, author of Autobiography of an Execution

"A philosophically and legally sophisticated page-turner is a rare thing to behold, but Robert Blecker has produced just that. If you think you already know what you believe about the death penalty, think again and read this book. If you care deeply about questions of right and wrong, read it twice." --Laurence H. Tribe, University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School, and author of "The Invisible Constitution" and "American Constitutional Law"

"A remarkable book--eloquent, passionately argued, and disturbing in its clarion call for more punishment in prison and more pain in the death house. No one can read this book and not be deeply affected by it. Serious students of crime and punishment must face and respond
to Blecker's provocative and engaging work." --Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society, American University, Author of Death Work

"A fascinating tour behind the walls of prisons and through the minds of murderers. Along the way, Blecker demonstrates why life in prison is not enough punishment for the worst of the worst." --Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director, The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

"A seamless blend of the writings of the Ancients, modern law and practice, and rich personal insights, "The Death of Punishment" is a beautifully written, passionate, principled, and provocative exploration of issues that nestle at the heart of the meaning of justice. This important volume demands the attention of friends and foes of capital punishment alike, and of anyone willing to grapple seriously with questions that are at once timeless and timely." --James R. Acker, Distinguished Teac

"Arresting fusion of memoir and jeremiad, arguing for a punitive approach toward the worst perpetrators of social violence, amid a general overhaul of attitudes toward criminality... While many will dismiss his viewpoint, Blecker presents a strong case with legalistic rigor on some of the darkest questions facing society." --"Kirkus Reviews"

"A truly remarkable and deeply moral book -- an eloquent, unsparing, often counterintuitive, and sometimes painful meditation on why, whom, and how a decent society should decide to punish, and what those questions can teach us about universal truths of morality and justice. A philosophically and legally sophisticated page-turner is a rare thing to behold, but Robert Blecker has produced just that. If you think you already know what you believe about the death penalty, think again and read this book. If you care deeply about questions of right and wrong, read it twice." --Laurence H. Tribe, University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School, and author of "The Invisible Constitution" and "American Constitutional Law"

"Robert Blecker is probably the most articulate death penalty supporter around, and easily the most honest. His argument is one that any death penalty supporter will identify with, but more importantly, it's one any opponent must answer. --David Dow, founder of Texas Innocence Network, author of "Autobiography of an Execution"

"A seamless blend of the writings of the Ancients, modern law and practice, and rich personal insights, The Death of Punishment is a beautifully written, passionate, principled, and provocative exploration of issues that nestle at the heart of the meaning of justice. This important volume demands the attention of friends and foes of capital punishment alike, and of anyone willing to grapple seriously with questions that are at once timeless and timely." --James R. Acker, Distinguished Teaching Professor, University at Albany, Editor of "America's Experiment w

"Written in a breezy, conversational style, the [book] contains Blecker's commentary about the administration of punishment and his conversations with prisoners about it. This is a valuable addition to the literature, written for a popular audience."--"Library Journal"

"Arresting fusion of memoir and jeremiad, arguing for a punitive approach toward the worst perpetrators of social violence, amid a general overhaul of attitudes toward criminality... While many will dismiss his viewpoint, Blecker presents a strong case with legalistic rigor on some of the darkest questions facing society." --"Kirkus Reviews"

"A truly remarkable and deeply moral book -- an eloquent, unsparing, often counterintuitive, and sometimes painful meditation on why, whom, and how a decent society should decide to punish, and what those questions can teach us about universal truths of morality and justice. A philosophically and legally sophisticated page-turner is a rare thing to behold, but Robert Blecker has produced just that. If you think you already know what you believe about the death penalty, think again and read this book. If you care deeply about questions of right and wrong, read it twice." --Laurence H. Tribe, University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School, and author of "The Invisible Constitution" and "American Constitutional Law"

"Robert Blecker is probably the most articulate death penalty supporter around, and easily the most honest. His argument is one that any death penalty supporter will identify with, but more importantly, it's one any opponent must answer. --David Dow, founder of Texas Innocence Network, author of "Autobiography of an Execution"

"A seamless blend of the writings of the Ancients, modern law and practice, and rich personal insights, The Death of Punishment is a beautifully written, passionate, principled, and provocative exploration of issues that nestle at the heart of the meaning of justice. This important volume dem

"An informative and often gripping read...Blecker's descriptions of life and leisure for brutal killers will move many to outrage." -"RealClearPolitics"

"Blecker's argument that prison needs to be more punishing is thought-provoking. Also fascinating is the way in which the author's interactions with prisoners force him to confront his own beliefs...Blecker has shown us that the problem of how a civilized society deals with monstrous behaviour is as difficult as ever." --"Asia Times"

"Written in a breezy, conversational style, the [book] contains Blecker's commentary about the administration of punishment and his conversations with prisoners about it. This is a valuable addition to the literature, written for a popular audience."--Library Journal

"Arresting fusion of memoir and jeremiad, arguing for a punitive approach toward the worst perpetrators of social violence, amid a general overhaul of attitudes toward criminality... While many will dismiss his viewpoint, Blecker presents a strong case with legalistic rigor on some of the darkest questions facing society." --Kirkus Reviews

"A truly remarkable and deeply moral book -- an eloquent, unsparing, often counterintuitive, and sometimes painful meditation on why, whom, and how a decent society should decide to punish, and what those questions can teach us about universal truths of morality and justice. A philosophically and legally sophisticated page-turner is a rare thing to behold, but Robert Blecker has produced just that. If you think you already know what you believe about the death penalty, think again and read this book. If you care deeply about questions of right and wrong, read it twice." --Laurence H. Tribe, University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School, and author of The Invisible Constitution and American Constitutional Law

"Robert Blecker is probably the most articulate death penalty supporter around, and easily the most honest. His argument is one that any death penalty supporter will identify with, but more importantly, it's one any opponent must answer. --David Dow, founder of Texas Innocence Network, author of Autobiography of an Execution

"A seamless blend of the writings of the Ancients, modern law and practice, and rich personal insights, The Death of Punishment is a beautifully written, passionate, principled, and provocative exploration of issues that nestle at the heart of the meaning of justice. This important volume demands the attention of friends and foes of capital punishment alike, and of anyone willing to grapple seriously with questions that are at once timeless and timely." --James R. Acker, Distinguished Teaching Professor, University at Albany, Editor of America's Experiment with Capital Punishment

"A fascinating tour behind the walls of prisons and through the minds of murderers. Along the way, Blecker demonstrates why life in prison is not enough punishment for the worst of the worst." --Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director, The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

"A remarkable book--eloquent, passionately argued, and disturbing in its clarion call for more punishment in prison and more pain in the death house. No one can read this book and not be deeply affected by it. Serious students of crime and punishment must face and respond
to Blecker's provocative and engaging work." --Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society, American University, Author of Death Work

"A refreshing source of intellectual honesty in his treatment of punishment in America, Blecker has performed a public service by forcing Americans to confront that for many of the most hardened offenders, hard time is anything but." --Michael Welner, M.D., Founder & Chairman, The Forensic Panel, Creator of the Depravity Scale
"Blecker is a fearless iconoclast, whose remarkable intellect has taken him places most avoid ever treading. This truly gripping and very personal journey to seek justice spans 3000 years of history and
philosophy. A fascinating journey that will challenge thinking readers to re-examine their concept of true justice." --Joshua Marquis, elected District Attorney of Astoria, Oregon, co-author of Debating the Death Penalty



A remarkable book--eloquent, passionately argued, and disturbing in its clarion call for more punishment in prison and more pain in the death house. No one can read this book and not be deeply affected by it. Serious students of crime and punishment must face and respond
to Blecker's provocative and engaging work.--Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society, American University, Author of Death Work

Blecker is a fearless iconoclast, whose remarkable intellect has taken him places most avoid ever treading. This truly gripping and very personal journey to seek justice spans 3000 years of history and philosophy. A fascinating journey that will challenge thinking readers to re-examine their concept of true justice.--Joshua Marquis, elected District Attorney of Astoria, Oregon, co-author of Debating the Death Penalty

A remarkable book eloquent, passionately argued, and disturbing in its clarion call for more punishment in prison and more pain in the death house. No one can read this book and not be deeply affected by it. Serious students of crime and punishment must face and respond
to Blecker s provocative and engaging work.--Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society, American University, Author of Death Work"

An informative and often gripping read Blecker's descriptions of life and leisure for brutal killers will move many to outrage. "RealClearPolitics"

Blecker's argument that prison needs to be more punishing is thought-provoking. Also fascinating is the way in which the author's interactions with prisoners force him to confront his own beliefs Blecker has shown us that the problem of how a civilized society deals with monstrous behaviour is as difficult as ever. "Asia Times"

Written in a breezy, conversational style, the [book] contains Blecker's commentary about the administration of punishment and his conversations with prisoners about it. This is a valuable addition to the literature, written for a popular audience. "Library Journal"

Arresting fusion of memoir and jeremiad, arguing for a punitive approach toward the worst perpetrators of social violence, amid a general overhaul of attitudes toward criminality... While many will dismiss his viewpoint, Blecker presents a strong case with legalistic rigor on some of the darkest questions facing society. "Kirkus Reviews"

A truly remarkable and deeply moral book -- an eloquent, unsparing, often counterintuitive, and sometimes painful meditation on why, whom, and how a decent society should decide to punish, and what those questions can teach us about universal truths of morality and justice. A philosophically and legally sophisticated page-turner is a rare thing to behold, but Robert Blecker has produced just that. If you think you already know what you believe about the death penalty, think again and read this book. If you care deeply about questions of right and wrong, read it twice. "Laurence H. Tribe, University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School, and author of The Invisible Constitution and American Constitutional Law"

Robert Blecker is probably the most articulate death penalty supporter around, and easily the most honest. His argument is one that any death penalty supporter will identify with, but more importantly, it's one any opponent must answer. "David Dow, founder of Texas Innocence Network, author of Autobiography of an Execution"

A seamless blend of the writings of the Ancients, modern law and practice, and rich personal insights, The Death of Punishment is a beautifully written, passionate, principled, and provocative exploration of issues that nestle at the heart of the meaning of justice. This important volume demands the attention of friends and foes of capital punishment alike, and of anyone willing to grapple seriously with questions that are at once timeless and timely. "James R. Acker, Distinguished Teaching Professor, University at Albany, Editor of America's Experiment with Capital Punishment"

A fascinating tour behind the walls of prisons and through the minds of murderers. Along the way, Blecker demonstrates why life in prison is not enough punishment for the worst of the worst. "Kent Scheidegger, Legal Director, The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation"

A remarkable book eloquent, passionately argued, and disturbing in its clarion call for more punishment in prison and more pain in the death house. No one can read this book and not be deeply affected by it. Serious students of crime and punishment must face and respond
to Blecker s provocative and engaging work. Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society, American University, Author of Death Work

A refreshing source of intellectual honesty in his treatment of punishment in America, Blecker has performed a public service by forcing Americans to confront that for many of the most hardened offenders, hard time is anything but. "Michael Welner, M.D., Founder & Chairman, The Forensic Panel, Creator of the Depravity Scale"

Blecker is a fearless iconoclast, whose remarkable intellect has taken him places most avoid ever treading. This truly gripping and very personal journey to seek justice spans 3000 years of history and philosophy. A fascinating journey that will challenge thinking readers to re-examine their concept of true justice. Joshua Marquis, elected District Attorney of Astoria, Oregon, co-author of Debating the Death Penalty"

Book Description

A passionate and counterintuitive defense of the death penalty that asks us to reconsider punishment as the key to reforming the judicial system

See all Product Description

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By Hande Z TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a semi autobiography of the author's legal career as counsel but attempting to seem deep and academic because he is now a law teacher. The author is in favour of not only capital punishment but he also believes that punishment must really hurt. He subscribes to natural law and Christianity. In Appendix A in his book he sought to rationalise how his position is compatible with Christian teachings and refute claims by abolitionists (of capital punishment). He says that 'Sometimes only by killing the worst killers can we achieve justice'.

That is the seat of the problem of this book. He does not explain how exceptions can be made in some cases but not others. Blecker's tries to persuade the reader by saying that some crimes are so horrid that only a painful death suffices as punishment. He does not explain the basis and what he thinks 'justice' means.

Instead, he says that the Old Testament commandment 'Thou shall not kill' was a misinterpretation for 'Thou shall not commit murder'. Many (Christian) scholars will disagree with him. Further, he clearly ignores other injunctions in the Bible such as, `turning the other cheek'; `let he who is without sin cast the first stone'; and, `forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us'.

This book reeks of self-righteousness and contains little academic learning. It is only recommended for those who would like to see how a pro-capital punishment lawyer thinks.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 33 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling voice applied to an important and controversial subject 3 Dec. 2013
By Samuel A. Forman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The book is an extended exposition of the death penalty in the form of a memoir. Robert Blecker, a professor of Constitutional and criminal law at New York Law School, traces his decades long quest to understand his retributivist beliefs concerning convicted perpetrators of vicious, often multiple murders. For prospective readers like me, I needed to be reminded that retributivism is an approach to crime and punishment aspiring to make the punishment fit the crime, up to and including a painful if quick death for "the worst of the worst" murderers.
Billy Crystal, the popular comedic actor and promoter of liberal Democratic causes, states in his new memoir that aging has influenced him to become more politically conservative. He is almost apologetic in describing his revulsion at the thought of remorseless serial killer Richard Speck partying in prison as his punishment for the systematic torture, rape, and murders of eight student nurses in Chicago. Speck died of natural causes in prison, famously mocking his victims and society in a widely viewed video. Crystal takes affront at the thought of society coddling such a monstrous person for so long. And the affront has apparently worn on Crystal. Speck passed away in 1991. Boston's popular and unabashedly liberal mayor Thomas Menino has gone on the record as supporting the death penalty for the Marathon bombers. Such an approach would have to be in a federal jurisdiction, for Menino and many Massachusetts citizens have abolished the death penalty in their own state. While an entertainer and a politician only express such retributivist views under self-mocking cover of senility or as a lame-duck politician, maybe it is high time to examine seriously the arguments put forth by retributivists in favor of the death penalty. Robert Blecker does just that in "The Death of Punishment."
I found the memoir format compelling for a topic of this seriousness and complexity. While this could have devolved into an exercise in self-absorption for a relatively rare species amongst the legal profession in recent years - a tireless advocate in favor of the death penalty - Blecker's obsessive quest to understand his own beliefs, and to seek out their historical and philosophical roots, and test them in extensive travels among notorious Death Rows and in deep interviews with hardened and scary convicts, combine to invite the reader into a little known world. You will explore your own beliefs in following Robert Blecker's decades long quest for justice for "the worst of the worst."
I found Blecker's voice compelling. He is adept at infusing drama and interest into a topic that is often characterized by sloganeering, political stereotyping, or dry legal discourse. And Blecker is an excellent writer. I have gotten to know him personally in unrelated contexts of American Revolutionary history and playwriting. In these and this new book on capital punishment, his genuineness, meticulousness, and intelligence are on full display. The memoir renders subtleties of this topic accessible to a very broad audience, while a legalistic approach could have drained the subject of its inherent emotionality and consigned it to a narrow audience of lawyers.
I suspect that law students and those opposed to the death penalty will also find much of interest and value. An Appendix provides a crib sheet of the chief arguments for and against the death penalty. Another indexes landmark court cases that have shaped an increasingly abolitionist approach to the death penalty in the U.S.
It is worth mentioning a few things the reader will not find in this book. Statistical analyses on either side of this issue are conspicuously absent, keeping in line with the memoir and anecdotal nature of most of its content. It is not (thank goodness for the general reader) a tome full of legalisms and dryly reported court cases and legal pronouncements. You will not find eloquent expositions in favor of abolishing the death penalty. In fact, Blecker's book is intended as a counterpoint to abolitionism.
Blecker believes that "crud deserves crud" among his rogues' gallery of convicted capital murderers. I was surprised that Sigmund Freund was not among numerous authorities and philosophers from whom a younger Blecker sought to anchor his beliefs. The finding of Hershey candy bars among the many Death Row inmate privileges that Blecker finds offensive, had me wondering about the author's psycho-social development. Just why did that brown chocolate bar induce Blecker to feel dirty and defiled? In any case, Blecker's quest for justice exceeds the "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" of literal biblical retribution. Reading in between the lines, the author seems to feel personally defiled, and society as a whole besmirched, by the continued life of incorrigible criminals who have committed unspeakable crimes.
Blecker is not a uni-dimensional advocate in favor of the death penalty. He argues at length that mandatory felony capital murder convictions for unwitting accomplices to unintended murders, in robberies gone awry for example, is too severe a punishment and is over-used. "Let the punishment fit the crime' mantra of retributivism can mean lesser penalties in some situations.
This self-proclaimed volunteer executioner reports compellingly on real, current conditions on Death Rows in a number of states, versus hollow polemics falsely declaring them a living hell, and seeks out and empathizes with several high profile extreme murderers. Some of this information is not readily available anywhere else.
Presenting this material as memoir may be an emerging sub-genre. Susannah Sheffer's "Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys" [Vanderbilt University Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-8265-1911-5] presents anecdotal interviews with a score of anti-death penalty lawyers, focusing on their social and emotional challenges. Unlike Blecker's memoir, identities of the subjects are masked, perhaps limiting Sheffer's potential value as quasi-academic source for changing opinions about capital punishment over time. While Blecker's approach on the other end of the spectrum of opinion is also anecdotal, people, places, and footnotes are faithfully recorded and invite independent evaluation.
Overall "The Death of Punishment" is a compelling read on several levels - as retributivist exposition, personal memoir, legal overview, and reporting on current Death Row conditions. You will love Robert Blecker, hate him, or be left scratching you head after reading his latest book. Any way you consider it, his is a compelling voice applied to an important and controversial subject. Highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read That Makes You Challenge Long-Held Assumptions 28 Nov. 2013
By Steve Cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert Blecker makes you think. And he makes you challenge long-held assumptions. Among the most widespread and erroneous misperceptions is that prison is a “living hell” for criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes. It is not, according to the extensive first-hand research Blecker has conducted over the past 25 years.

Blecker is a professor at New York Law School – and former Special Prosecutor –who has spent hundreds of hours inside America’s most notorious prisons. He has been given access to death rows and cell-blocks where the “worst-of-the-worst” have regular access to private television sets, craft rooms, rock-and-roll studios, and air conditioned gyms. And perhaps most surprisingly, many of the convicted killers-and-rapists have opened up to him. So have their guards and prison wardens.

This is a fascinating story well told. Blecker, who was the subject of a 2009 documentary entitled, “Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead” is widely recognized as the nation’s most thoughtful, articulate “retributivist” – and proponent of the death penalty.

It is clear as one reads this book Blecker is not trying to be provocative for the sake of being provocative. The story is far more philosophical than political. And it is dramatic. The stories Blecker relates – from prisoners, prison officials, and what he has seen first-hand – are fascinating and well-told.

I suspect Blecker’s objective is only partly to get people to agree with him. His willingness to engage the leading “abolitionists” – those opposed to the death penalty for any reason – is well documented. Instead, I’m convinced Blecker wants his readers to think. And to that end, Bleckers succeeds admirably.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! 30 Nov. 2013
By Elizabeth Schechter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is not a genre that I usually read, but I did and have to say that I was thoroughly engaged. The substance is fascinating, the writing riveting. It brought me inside the heads of criminals- some detestable and some less so- and made me understand the failure of our criminal justice system as it applies to the punishment, or rather lack thereof, of our worst offenders. It is a clarion call for change, and I encourage everyone to read it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, deeply engaging work 2 Dec. 2013
By Alan Leland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Professor Robert Blecker's unique style combines decades of real-world anecdotes with compelling logic, theory and evidence. Blecker challenges the core arguments of his fiercest critics. Most importantly, while the author leaves no doubt as to his own views, Blecker re-opens the dialogue on a topic too often glossed over.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very unique perspective on capital punishment 7 Aug. 2014
By William E. Liberatore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Blecker is in favor of the death penalty. This book is about an opportunity he had to visit death rows in several different prisons and meet and speak with some death row inmates to actually see the people he feels should be put to death. It provided a really unique and interesting perspective on the realities of death row in America. In book reviews I typically shy away from talking directly about the content of the book, I wouldn't want to read a review that is essentially a cliff's notes version of the book, but in this case I want to provide a couple of teasers. Mr. Blecker found that the death row inmates actually have it fairly "easy" in terms of prison life. In a lot of cases they have more privileges than the regular inmates. The guards/wardens often feel that it is not their job to "punish" the courts handle that, it's just their job to see to it that the rights of the inmates are protected and that everyone is safe at the end of the shift. A happy inmate is much less likely to attack/harm a guard. His profiles of different inmates are also very interesting. One in particular, he found himself paradoxically liking and yet at the same time feeling that this person does deserve to die for the crime that he committed. I feel that this book could be an interesting read whichever side of the fence you fall on with the capital punishment issue. If you buy it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and thanks for taking the time to read my review.
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