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date: 28 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Mercy’s long association with the whims of emperors and monarchs altered with the emergence of republics and democracies in the modern era. Over the nineteenth century mercy became bureaucratized, and new administrative forms of discretionary justice—parole and tickets of leave—emerged in Anglo-American penal systems. However, the ancient prerogative of mercy persisted through the powers of executive elected officers and the Crown and its representatives. Parole, coupled with indeterminate sentencing, became a hallmark of modern justice, incorporating notions of individual reform and the managed reintegration of offenders; however, it faced widespread criticism by the late twentieth century, when faith in behavioral and social scientific eroded and concern over the uncertainties of discretionary release grew. The subsequent turn toward punitiveness and mandatory sentencing has, since the early 2000s, provoked calls to reactivate the pardon as a means to reduce harshness, felt most keenly by the poor and racially stigmatized communities.

Keywords: mercy, parole, pardon, discretion, punishment, death penalty

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