A new approach to the complex area of sex offender laws and policies
Shaming the Constitution
The Detrimental Results of Sexual Violent Predator Legislation
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Michael L. Perlin and Heather Ellis Cucolo
Convicted sexually violent predators are more vilified, more subject to media misrepresentation, and more likely to be denied basic human rights than any other population. Shaming the Constitution authors Michael Perlin and Heather Cucolo question the intentions of sex offender laws, offering new approaches to this most complex (and controversial) area of law and social policy.
The authors assert that sex offender laws and policies are unconstitutional and counter-productive. The legislation largely fails to add to public safety-even ruining lives for what are, in some cases, trivial infractions. Shaming the Constitution draws on law, behavioral sciences, and other disciplines to show that many of the "solutions" to penalizing sexually violent predators are "wrong," as they create the most repressive and useless laws.
In addition to tracing the history of sex offender laws, the authors address the case of Jesse Timmendequas, whose crime begat "Megan's Law;" the media's role in creating a "moral panic;" recidivism statistics and treatments, as well as international human rights laws. Ultimately, they call attention to the flaws in the system so we can find solutions that contribute to public safety in ways that do not mock Constitutional principles.
"In Shaming the Constitution, Perlin and Cucolo offer an unflinching, comprehensive view of sex offenders in America. With encyclopedic knowledge of international case law and policy, they provide readers at all levels with shocking details of how sex offenders have effectively been blocked from constitutional protections. They identify a confluence of social attitudes, media hype, public hysteria, knee-jerk legislation, and anxious judges marginalizing a heterogeneous group of offenders and offer therapeutic jurisprudence as a way out. I applaud their courage, scholarship, and optimism."
"In so many ways, Shaming the Constitution contributes remarkably to the literature on 'sexual violent predator legislation.' Bringing together, in one well-written volume, virtually all the issues that have plagued this area of law and practice, this book shows how we have failed to properly tackle each issue: risk prediction, effective treatment, the media frenzy that fuels the development of the laws and the judicial fear of calling out their unconstitutionality, the woeful inadequacy of counsel, and more. Co-authored by two distinguished scholars who have represented numerous clients caught in this maze, Shaming the Constitution gives rare insight into this area of legal scholarship. Perlin and Cucolo should be congratulated for a superb, nuanced, and practical effort."
Michael L. Perlin is Professor Emeritus of Law at New York Law School, where he was Founding Director of the International Mental Disability Law Reform Project, and is Co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates.
Heather Ellis Cucolo is an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School and Co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates.