Friday, November 3, 2017

Surrency Prize to Adler

At the recently concluded Annual Meeting of the ASLH, the Society's Surrency Prize for 2017 was awarded to Jeffrey S. Adler, University of Florida, for “The Greatest Thrill I Get is When I Hear a Criminal Say, ‘Yes, I Did It’: Race and the Third Degree in New Orleans, 1920-1945," Law and History Review 34 (Number 1, 2016): 1-44.   The citation reads:
Adler draws on a rich array of sources, including coroner reports and other archival materials, to correct our understanding of the history of police interrogation practices, specifically the use of the “third-degree” interrogations designed to secure confessions. Even as law enforcement professionalized and foreswore coerced confessions, police chiefs continued to defend the practice as a crime fighting tool. In a local study of New Orleans, Adler shows how the use of third-degree interrogation practice shifted from whites accused of crimes to blacks, and came to play a role in enforcing Jim Crow.

This outstanding article contributes to a wide range of conversations: the birth of modern due process; evolving professional conceptions of policing; law enforcement and race; and the relation of professional and popular justice. Importantly, Adler’s argument suggests how racial hierarchy can change in form without necessarily improving the welfare or standing of minorities. As public authorities increasingly repudiate lynching, these forces of popular justice were then channeled into the enforcement of the criminal law.
The Surrency Prize Committee was chaired by Kenneth F. Ledford, Case Western Reserve University.  Its other members were Shaunnagh Dorsett, University of Technology, Sydney; Malick W. Ghachem, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Maribel Morey, Clemson University; and Reva Siegel, Yale University.