Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Prisoners' families-Social conditions, Sentences (Criminal procedure), Capital punishment, Extenuating circumstances, Death row inmates-Biography, Death row inmates-Family relationships, Social work with criminals, Sentence mitigation, Socio-cultural, Accused, Historians, Race, Narrative


This qualitative study employed a study of thirteen participants, including social workers, who interview the accused and their family members in death penalty cases, to discern what could be learned from seasoned sentence mitigation practitioners' experience of defendants and their family members as historians. Those interviewed in sentence mitigation investigations are asked to discuss sensitive information while in the midst of a legal process surrounding a violent crime and rendering the accused and their family members extremely vulnerable. The information interviewees provide may have direct bearing on sentencing of the accused. In capital cases, defendants are highly unlikely to avoid a death sentence absent presentation of a life history presentation that contextualizes the behaviors of the defendant. A finding of this study is practitioners experienced the accused and their family members as poor historians and oppressing socio-cultural factors influence their capacity as historians. Additional findings relate to practitioners experience of race in sentence mitigation practice and the accused and their family members' reflection on socio-cultural factors at various stages of the sentence mitigation process.




iii, 63 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 55-58)