Ultimate Punishment

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Ultimate Punishment
Ultimate Punishment.jpg
AuthorScott Turow
CountryUnited States
PublisherFarrar Straus & Giroux
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages164 (paperback)
ISBN0-374-12873-1 (paperback)
345.73/0773 21
LC ClassKF9227.C2 T87 2003
Preceded by'Reversible Errors 
Followed by'Ordinary Heroes 

Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty or simply Ultimate Punishment is a series of autobiographical reflections regarding the death penalty. It is written by Scott Turow and marks his return to non-fiction for the first time since One L in 1977.

Turow bases his opinions on his experiences as a prosecutor and, in his years after leaving the United States Attorney's Office in Chicago, working on behalf of death-row inmates, as well as his two years on Illinois's Commission on Capital Punishment, charged by then-Gov. George Ryan with reviewing the state's death penalty system. Turow, a self-described "death penalty agnostic," presents both sides of the death penalty debate and admits that over time he seems to change sides, depending on the argument. Turow's reflections include:

  • Thoughts on victims' rights vs. community rights
  • Whether execution is a deterrent
  • The possible execution of an innocent person
  • If not the death penalty, what to do with the worst offenders

He also visits a maximum security prison and meets multiple-murderer Henry Brisbon, who, Turow says, "most closely resembles... Hannibal Lecter".


Ultimate Punishment received the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights 2004 Book award given annually to a novelist who "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy's purposes - his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity."[1]


  1. ^ . RFKcenter.org https://web.archive.org/web/20150619072045/http://rfkcenter.org/book-award?lang=en. Archived from the original on 2015-06-19. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)