June 1, 2011

Pre-Empting Crimes and Civil Rights In Fact and Fiction

Mark Niles, Seattle University School of Law, has published Preempting Justice: 'Precrime' in Fiction and in Fact, in volume 9 of the Seattle Journal for Social Justice (2010). Here is the abstract.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks, the United States government took a significant turn in the focus of its domestic law enforcement and international security policy from investigating crimes and pursuing criminals to preventing potential criminal acts. This focus on preventing future acts raises serious practical, legal and moral questions: What mechanism will government officials use to make these predictions of future threats and what will ensure the reliability of these predictions? What punishment or sanction, if any, is appropriate when it is determined that someone would have committed a harmful act but is apprehended (or otherwise derailed) before they have the chance to do so?

Dean Niles' lecture addresses these and other questions with an analysis of Philip K. Dick's 1956 science fiction short story "The Minority Report," and Steven Spielberg's 2002 film "Minority Report," in which a near future law enforcement agency relies on predictions to incarcerate potential criminals before they are able to commit their crimes. The analysis of these stories, of the assumptions involved in both, and of some very different structures and conclusions in the two texts suggests something about the authors and the different times when they were produced. It will cast light on the current societal response to ongoing pre-emptive incarcerations in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere and provide a basis for discussion of the proper role, if any, that "pre-emptive justice" can play in this or any society.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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