The Road to Abolition?

The Future of Capital Punishment in the United States

384 pages

November, 2009

ISBN: 9780814762189



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Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and Executive Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. He is the author of All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education (WW Norton and Company, 2004) and Co-Author of From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State: Race and the Death Penalty in America.

All books by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College. Previous collaborations for NYU Press with Charles J. Ogletree include From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State: Race and the Death Penalty in America (2006), When Law Fails: Making Sense of Miscarraiges of Justice (2009), and The Road to Abolition? The Future of Capital Punishment in the United States (2010).

All books by Austin Sarat

At the start of the twenty-first century, America is in the midst of a profound national reconsideration of the death penalty. There has been a dramatic decline in the number of people being sentenced to death as well as executed, exonerations have become common, and the number of states abolishing the death penalty is on the rise. The essays featured in The Road to Abolition? track this shift in attitudes toward capital punishment, and consider whether or not the death penalty will ever be abolished in America.

The interdisciplinary group of experts gathered by Charles J. Ogletree Jr., and Austin Sarat ask and attempt to answer the hard questions that need to be addressed if the death penalty is to be abolished. Will the death penalty end only to be replaced with life in prison without parole? Will life without the possibility of parole become, in essence, the new death penalty? For abolitionists, might that be a pyrrhic victory? The contributors discuss how the death penalty might be abolished, with particular emphasis on the current debate over lethal injection as a case study on why and how the elimination of certain forms of execution might provide a model for the larger abolition of the death penalty.


  • “The essays, organized into three sections, are as compelling in their analyses as those in the first two collections.” 


  • "The Road to Abolition is a collection of work by some of the best researchers on capital punishment assessing the prospects of a future without the death penalty."

    —Aaron Lorenz, H-Humanitarian Rights

  • "Road to Abolition? makes a convincing case that there is a spreading consensus, both internationally and on our own soil, that the death penalty is an outmoded and barbaric practice."

    —Ben Pesta, The Daily Journal Corporation

  • “A thoughtful discussion that is timely, well written, and deeply relevant to current public policy and law.”

    Library Journal

  • “In this era of national rethinking of the death penalty, The Road to Abolition? makes a singular contribution. From start to finish this is a compelling book. Bringing together a series of insightful essays by distinguished scholars, Ogletree and Sarat help us take stock of the progress we’ve made and what remains to be done to end capital punishment. For death penalty scholars as well as activists and policy makers this is a must read.”

    —Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking

  • The Road to Abolition? may well become a history of the future, bringing together an impressive group of scholars who analyze the myriad social, legal, and political conditions that suggest that the end of the death penalty in America may be near. This collection of essays is provocative, creative, and deeply insightful, linking the problem of capital punishment to a series of larger debates of our time. It is a must read for anyone interested in the death penalty’s past, present, and future in the United States.”

    —Mona Lynch, author of Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment

  • “This timely book should be read by anyone who has a personal or professional interest in capital punishment. The chapters in this volume vividly capture both the current state and the future of the abolition movement in the United States.”

    —John Blume, Professor of Law, Director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project, Cornell Law School