Failure to Protect: America's Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State
Eric S. Janus
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Eric Janus, FAILURE TO PROTECT: AMERICA'S SEXUAL PREDATOR LAWS AND THE RISE OF THE PREVENTIVE STATE, Cornell University Press, 2006
William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 51
This posting contains the introduction and one chapter from my new book 'Failure to Protect: America's Sexual Predator Laws and the Rise of the Preventive State' (Cornell University Press 2006).
Most crimes of sexual violence are committed by people known to the victim - acquaintances and family members. Yet politicians and the media overemphasize predatory strangers when legislating against and reporting on sexual violence. In this book, I seek to look beyond sensational headlines to expose the reality of the laws designed to prevent sexual crimes. I show that sexual predatory laws, which have intense public and political support, are counterproductive. I contend that measures such as civil commitment and Megan's law, which are designed to restrain sex offenders before they commit another crime, are bad policy and do little to reduce sexual violence. Further, these new laws make use of approaches such as preventative detention and actuarial profiling that violate important principles of liberty.
I argue that to prevent sexual violence, policymakers must address the deep-seated societal problems that allow it to flourish. In addition to criminal sanctions, I endorse the specific efforts of some advocates, organizations, and social scientists to stop sexual violence by, for example, taking steps to change the attitudes and behaviors of school-age children and adolescents, improving public education and promoting community treatment and supervision of previous offenders.
I also warn that the principles underlying the predator laws may be the harbingers of a preventive state in which the government casts nets of surveillance and intervenes to curtail liberty before crimes occur. I also show that the architecture of sexual violence that these new legal approaches nurture is at odds with the advances promoted by feminist thinkers during the last several decades.
More than a critique of the status quo, this book discusses alternatives and how best to overcome the political obstacles to achieving rational policy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: sexual violence, sexual predators, actuarial risk assessment, risk, science, forensic psychology
Date posted: October 12, 2006