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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77932 Find in a Library
Title: Politics of Dangerousness
Author(s): M Petrunik
Corporate Author: Canada Solicitor General
Research Division
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 42
Sponsoring Agency: Canada Solicitor General
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OP8, Canada
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: The origins, persistence, and recent resurgence of special legal controls for dangerous persons are discussed, based on a cross-jurisdictional study of legal controls for dangerous persons in Europe and North America conducted for the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada.
Abstract: The ideological underpinnings of the notion of dangerousness, the claims made about its assessment, and the uses to which it is put in the formulation of social control measures are examined. The influence of social control ideologies, interest-group pressures, popular perceptions, media reports, and pragmatic political adaptations to these factors in the development of dangerous offender legislation are then considered. The inability of psychiatrists to predict accurately violent and sexual offenses based on assessments of dangerousness is continually argued in the literature, and indeterminate sentencing or commitment on the grounds of dangerousness is being challenged as unjust in criminal justice and mental health circles. Despite these trends, the dangerousness concept is increasingly being incorporated into civil mental health codes in North America and advocated in model criminal codes and government policy documents in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. Such legislation is more responsive to political pressures than to empirical evidence of its actual or potential effectiveness. It serves primarily as a symbolic indication of the governmental concern and response to public fears about 'dangerous' mentally disordered sexual and violent offenders. Particular consideration is given to the Canadian Dangerous Offender legislation enacted in 1977 and some of the factors apparently behind its inclusion in the Canadian Government's Peace and Security Program against violent crime. Seventeen footnotes and about 200 bibliographic listings are provided.
Index Term(s): Canada; Crime prediction; Criminal codes; Dangerousness; Europe; Mentally ill offenders; North America; Sex offenders; Violent offenders
Note: Revised version of a paper presented at the Society for the Study of Social Problems meetings, Boston, Massachusetts, August, 1979.
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