June 26, 2017

Strange on Pardon and Parole in Prohibition-Era New York

Carolyn Strange, Australian National University, is publishing Pardon and Parole in Prohibition-Era New York: Discretionary Justice in the Administrative State in volume 54 of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal. Here is the abstract.
Historians of early-modern England and British colonies have productively applied Douglas Hay’s germinal study of mercy. In contrast, historians of the U.S. have overlooked the utility of the conceptual tools Hay provided to prise open the mitigation of punishment across time and place. In the decade that followed the First World War, disputes over the proper role of mercy and administrative discretion were as heated as they were in Hanoverian England. In Jazz Age New York, fears of gangsterism, and concern over the apparent laxity of parole regulations put the proponents of Progressive penology on the defensive. To analyse this moment, this essay asks what drove opinion against discretionary justice in the form of the pardon and parole, and traces the conditions that give rise to judgments that discretionary justice was too frequent and injudicious. A new vision of order, fixated on penal certainty, came into sharp focus over the 1920s, when mandatory sentencing statutes were introduced. Yet gubernatorial clemency survived that crisis, and in 1930 parole was professionalized and placed under stricter management. This paper confirms that modernity proved no match for discretionary justice. In its personal and administrative forms, it penetrates penal justice, despite the earnest drive to certainty and the persistent demands to terrorize criminals.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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