Book Review: A Life for a Life, Life Imprisonment: America’s Other Death Penalty

Published date01 September 2005
Date01 September 2005
Subject MatterArticles
Using various tabular analytic methods and logistic regression, the author presents his
findings in chapters 6 and 7. From the tabular analyses, Urbina finds that the distribution of
death sentence outcomes indicate that minorities are less likely than Caucasians to be
removed from death row. Logistic regression analyses, taking into account a host of control
variables, prove to be particularly revealingfor Latinos—they are less likely than Caucasians
or African Americans to have their sentences or convictions overturned by the courts. How-
ever,a particularly interesting finding to emerge, one contrary to Urbina’s hypotheses, is that
neither African Americans nor Latinos were more likely to be executed than Caucasians.
In the end, the author argues that the findings provide only partial support for his hypothe-
ses. He conjectures that this may be due to methodological decisions involved in the coding;
historical issues associated with race and ethnicity, which may influence sentencedecisions;
and the exclusion of case-relevantfactors, such as race of victim, number of victims, and type
of counsel in the logistic regression models.
Although the author clearly concedes the apparent limitations in the study’s methodology
and the lack of definitive findings regarding the influence of race and ethnicity on death sen-
tence outcomes, he repeatedly articulates the importance of examining the diverse Latino
group experience in the United States. He encourages the reader to ponder how discrimina-
tory feelings toward Latino minority groups, continued neglect of research from the Latino
perspective, and the lack of recognition of majority privilege in social and economic spheres
influence judicial outcomes for Latino groups.
Urbina’s articulation of the experience of these Latino groups and the scholarly neglect to
consider these distinctions is compelling. Although there is growing literature on Latino
homicide offenders, Capital Punishment and Latino Offenders will provide interested read-
ers with a broad overview of important research in the capital punishment literature as well as
exposure to varying theoretical positions regarding the application of punishment in U.S.
society. In addition, the methodological challenges and decisions faced by Urbina can serve
as a guide and resource for further investigations in this area. Therefore, even with the book’s
limited focus on postsentencing experiences, Urbina’s work could be useful for students in
advanced course work and new scholars seeking to better understand the Latino experience
in the U.S. system of criminal justice.
Sondra J. Fogel
University of South Florida
A Life for a Life, Life Imprisonment: America’s Other Death Penalty, by James A. Paluch, Jr.
Los Angeles: Roxbury, 2004. pp. xxiii, 239.
DOI: 10.1177/0734016805284511
It is a basic tenet of penal systems in liberal democracies that individuals are sent to prison
as a punishment, not for a punishment. In other words, it is the loss of liberty inherent in a cus-
todial sentence that constitutes the punishment. The conditions and regime within the prison
are not supposed to intensify the suffering of an offender or inflict any pain beyond that
which is experienced through the deprivation of freedom. James A. Paluch, the author of this
book, is currently serving a life sentence for murder (a sentence that carries no possibility of
244 Criminal Justice Review

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