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The Last GaspThe Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber$
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Scott Christianson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520255623

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520255623.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 20 May 2022

Clouds of Abolition

Clouds of Abolition

(p.174) (p.175) Chapter 9 Clouds of Abolition
The Last Gasp

Scott Christianson

University of California Press

The traumas of World War II had sensitized many nations to the need for international standards of human rights and the treatment of prisoners. Millions of prisoners of war and civilians had died or been murdered in captivity, both during the war and after. Britain's Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, appointed in May 1949, undertook what was to that point the most exhaustive study of capital punishment. Although its 500-page public report, issued in 1953, did not directly argue for abolition of the death penalty, it did question its underlying rationales, including the principle of deterrence, which was becoming so crucial in the nuclear arms race. Based on scientific review, the panel further concluded that executions by lethal gas, electrocution, or lethal injection were no more “humane” than killing by hanging. In the United States, serious consideration of abolition was slower in coming, for political reasons. Litanies involving gas chamber executions were not so readily invoked in cold war America.

Keywords:   Britain, capital punishment, death penalty, abolition, executions, lethal gas, gas chamber, United States

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