Building Authentic Power: A Study of the Campaign to Repeal Connecticut's Death Penalty

Khalilah Brown-Dean, Benjamin Jones

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Persistent public support for capital punishment and constraints on political elites in the US breed skepticism over grassroots campaigns’ ability to have much impact on this policy. Andrew Hammel advances this point in his study of successful efforts in Europe to repeal the death penalty and the lack of success in the US, where opportunities for repeal seem minimal. We challenge this view by offering the 2012 campaign to repeal Connecticut's death penalty as a counterexample. Drawing on legislative, campaign, and media source documents, we provide a case study of this campaign. Particularly important in the Connecticut campaign was the participation of murder victims’ families and communities of color, who exercised what we term authentic power: the extent that a group harmed by a policy can get policy-makers and other government officials to acknowledge this harm and, ultimately, to change the policy to the group's benefit. Elites face limits in their ability to end the death penalty and enact criminal justice reforms, but the Connecticut example suggests a greater role than previously imagined for authentic power in overcoming these limits.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)321-342
    Number of pages22
    JournalPolitics, Groups, and Identities
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 2017


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