Women make up 1.5 % of capital punishment convictions
As of December 2007, 51 out of 3,263 people on death row were women,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center Web site.
In an effort to understand this gender disparity, the history, political
science and sociology departments are co-sponsoring "Wretched Sisters: The
Gendered Face of Capital Punishment," a presentation by Radford
University's department of criminal justice professor Mary Welek Atwell as
part of Women's History Month.
The event will be at 5 p.m. today in Bennett Auditorium. All faculty,
staff and students interested in the issue of capital punishment, national
politics and women's history are welcome.
Atwell is the author of three books on gender and criminal justice in the
United States. Her most recent book, with the same titled as the
presentation, focuses on 12 women who have been executed in the U.S. since
the Supreme Court reinstituted capital punishment in 1972, said Dr. David
Longfellow, associate professor of history.
"She is interested in what we can find in common about these women," he
said. "The book is an examination of female victims of capital punishment
and how the system works or how it doesn't work."
Dr. Byron Johnson, co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion
and professor of sociology, expressed an interest in the large difference
between the number of women on death row and the number of men.
"If you're going to do a story of women on death row, the story is why
they were convicted," he said.
Atwell's book will address the 1998 execution of Karla Faye Tucker, the
first woman to be executed in the state of Texas since the Civil War, and
the first woman in more than a decade to be executed in the U.S.
Since 1998, 2 other women, Betty Lou Beets and Frances Newton, have been
executed in Texas.
Atwell's presentation will be focused not only on the subset of women but
also on capital punishment as a whole.
"I think the majority of the general public supports the death penalty,"
He cited public opinion polls from the last 60 years as proof of the
support for capital punishment.
Longfellow expressed the need for increased capital punishment education.
"There are not more important issues than issues of life and death," he
said. "We all owe it to ourselves to think about this issue."
Longfellow said capital punishment is something that is done deliberately.
It's a process that involves deliberately taking the life of a person, and
most countries disapprove of capital punishment, he said.
"The U.S. finds itself in very unpleasant company in this," he said.
El Paso senior Sarah Viesca expressed an interest in capital punishment
and regarded it as an issue that deserves attention.
"It's the death penalty. I don't think we will ever find a solution for
it," said Viesca, who is taking a criminology course this semester. "It's
just good to get out and educate yourself and just find out as much about
the topic as you can so you can know where you stand."
(source: Baylor University)