In his new book, Vice Dean and Professor Eric S. Janus exposes the broad threat to civil liberties inherent in today’s aggressive “sexual predator” legislation.
Laws such as civil commitment and Megan’s law are reactions to sensationalistic crimes committed by predatory strangers, which are actually quite rare. Despite political and media hoopla, these aggressive laws are bad public policy and do little or nothing to reduce the majority of sexually violent crimes – committed by people known to the victim and family members.
The current sexual predator legislation also puts everyone’s civil liberties at risk by legitimatizing preventive detention and actuarial profiling. Janus warns that these laws may be early harbingers of a “preventive state,” in which government casts wide nets of surveillance and intervenes to curtail liberty before crimes of any type occur.
Instead of passing legislation that undermines everyone’s legal rights, Professor Janus advocates more successful ways of preventing sexual violence. Going beyond critique, he proposes serious alternatives to the status quo, through a combination of criminal sanctions, public education, and community treatment and supervision of previous offenders. He also discusses how to overcome political obstacles to achieving rational policy.
“Failure to Protect is a vitally important book that demonstrates how we have drastically undermined the protections of our Constitution by creating a class of citizens for whom these protections no longer apply. The book raises this question: if one class of citizens can be excluded from the Bill of Rights, what other classes can also be excluded later on? This book should be essential reading for lawyers, law students, and those who care about preserving our liberties.”
Review of Failure to Protect – Charles A. Reich, former professor of law at Yale University and author of The Greening of America (1970)