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Review 1 of "Living with Warrants: Life Under the Sword of Damocles"

Published onMar 16, 2022
Review 1 of "Living with Warrants: Life Under the Sword of Damocles"
key-enterThis Pub is a Review of

Vote: Publish pending minor changes


[For votes to count, referees must reasonably explain why they voted as they did. Thus, please explain your vote. If you voted to publish pending minor changes, specify each change, why it is needed, and, possibly, how it should/could be done.]

  • The paper provides a valuable empirical account of the effect that warrants have on people’s lives.  There has been relatively little if any work addressing this specific question.  Goffman addressed the issue in a more general sort of way in On The Run, but the narrow focus on warrants here strikes me as novel and useful.

  • There are several changes that would make the paper clearer and more persuasive.  The changes are, to my mind, “minor” as defined above.  The changes in order of gravity are as follows:

    • 1. The account would benefit from a fuller characterization of different issues’ salience.  Throughout the paper only makes vague references to “respondents,” “some respondents,” “many respondents,” and so on.  The vagueness makes it difficult to gauge the relative salience of the different categories amongst those interviewed.  Were there some categories of experiences that were more broadly and intensively shared than others? The most transparent approach to this would be to simply identify the number of interviewees whose experience is captured by a given category.

    • 2. The discussion of “Escalation” on pp.18-19 could be refined.  It purports to identify how “the system responded” to bench warrants, but is actually a description of how an interviewee understood the system to have responded.  Interviewees’ perception of how the system responds to warrants is of course important, but it should not stand in as an account of what the system objectively did.  It’s important to keep the two separate, especially given the author’s recognition that some interviewees were confused about the nature of the warrants that they understood to be outstanding.

    • 3. I understood the paper to making a qualitative, empirical contribution.  The paper also describes a theoretical contribution (p.6 bottom) and related (I think) a “framework for future studies.”  I’m unsure of what the paper contributes on either front.  I don’t think it has to make any contribution beyond the empirical one to be of value, but it claims to have done more and I am having trouble seeing it. 

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