The Death Penalty in Barbados: Reforming a Colonial Legacy
This article explores the death penalty in Barbados. Drawing on the historical context and the punishment’s colonial origins, we seek to make sense of its more recent history, particularly a 2018 landmark legal judgment that has finally forced reform of the sanction in Barbados. The article explores the bifurcated penological history of the death penalty; while laws enacted in London were extended to colonial nations such as Barbados, suggesting a continuation of norms, the tools of criminal justice were wielded for different purposes in the metropole compared with the periphery. We consider the trajectory of this colonial imposition and the retention of repressive punishments after independence, the Caribbean resistance to international abolitionist pressure from the 1990s and the recent reform. The role of the death penalty as a political and symbolic tool is examined, considering especially the colonial legacy of capital punishment in Barbados and the extent to which this factor has shaped contemporary public debates on punishment.
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