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General Issue

Lessons from History in Dealing with Our Most Dangerous

Author

Harry Hobbs and Andrew Trotter

The conundrum of dealing with dangerous sexual offenders is one that has never been too far from the public and legislative consciousness. Striking an appropriate balance between community protection and the human rights of the offender is a difficult task and one weighed down by many competing considerations. In this article, we survey historical and contemporary punishment of dangerous sexual offenders in order to inform that debate. Measures adopted or employed by political communities to respond to such offenders should be chosen with an eye to history. This article argues that such measures are often adopted as a cure for public fear, and as such, they risk being overzealous, imprecise, disproportionate, and unjust. Reflecting on this history, we provide three points that should guide legislative and executive responses when dealing with our most dangerous.

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