Ensuring Dignity As Public Safety

22 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2022 Last revised: 6 Jun 2022

See all articles by Ben A. McJunkin

Ben A. McJunkin

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: October 16, 2021


In his Distinguished Lecture for the Academy for Justice, Are Police the Key to Public Safety?: The Case of the Unhoused, Barry Friedman contends that America needs to rethink the meaning of “public safety.” Guaranteeing public safety is arguably the most foundational responsibility of government. Yet a too narrow understanding of what public safety requires may be at the root of our country’s overreliance on police to handle tasks for which they are ill suited. Through the lens of police interactions with the chronically homeless, Friedman suggests that a broader conception of public safety would include affirmatively providing for citizens and would better account for the safety trade-offs entailed in police deployments.

In this response to Friedman’s lecture, I connect Friedman’s more expansive definition of public safety to legal philosophies that elsewhere tend to speak in the language of ensuring human dignity. By highlighting the dignitarian strands in Friedman’s work on public safety, I hope to give Friedman’s account a richer theoretical grounding and more purchase in American constitutionalism. However, doing so also raises questions about whether Friedman’s legal prescriptions are fully consonant with the extremes of his theoretical commitments.

Keywords: criminal law, homelessness, human dignity, public safety, policing

Suggested Citation

McJunkin, Ben A., Ensuring Dignity As Public Safety (October 16, 2021). 59 American Criminal Law Review 1643 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4040312

Ben A. McJunkin (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

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