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The Dog that Stopped Barking: Mass Legal Executions in 21st Century America
Laws 2014, 3(2), 208-219; doi:10.3390/laws3020208

Death House Desiderata: A Hunger for Justice, Unsated

1,* , 1
1 Department of Justice, Law and Criminology, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC 20016, USA 2 New England College, 98 Bridge St, Henniker, NH 03242, USA 3 McGill University, 845 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC H3A 0G4, Canada
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 March 2014 / Revised: 22 April 2014 / Accepted: 23 April 2014 / Published: 25 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Death Penalty in the 21st Century)
Download PDF [1439 KB, uploaded 25 April 2014]


The death penalty lives on in America, with some 1350 prisoners put to death since 1976, when the modern American death penalty was reborn. Most prisoners get a last meal of their choice, though that choice is constrained by cost and, often, the stock in the prison kitchen. Last meals can be thought of as brief moments of autonomy in a relentlessly dehumanizing execution process. They also entail a distinctive cruelty. At their lowest point, prisoners seek comfort food but are never comforted. This meal is no entre to a relationship, but instead a recipe for abandonment. Dignity is nowhere to be found on the death house menu. Yet hope lingers, even here; human beings, it seems, cannot live or die without hope. Justice, the most profound human hunger, goes unsated by design.
Keywords: last meals; death house; executions; photography last meals; death house; executions; photography
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Johnson, R.; Kelly, A.M.; Bousquet, S.; Nagelson, S.; Mavaddat, C. Death House Desiderata: A Hunger for Justice, Unsated. Laws 2014, 3, 208-219.

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