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The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law Hardcover – March 23, 2010
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“A California appellate attorney looks at crime and punishment under our sex laws… Place expands the notion of guilt, examining its other dimensions—factual, ethical, moral—and asks whether we’ve allowed dubious science, conflicting cultural messages and out-of-control political passions to distort our sex laws...Place detects something desperate in all this, and in richly allusive, frequently witty prose, she asks important questions about what it is exactly we want from our criminal laws. A sophisticated, brave look at a topic that too often provokes merely panic, prejudice and posturing.”—Kirkus Reviews
"A brilliant criminal defense attorney, Vanessa Place has produced a deeply personal yet meticulously researched argument that demands serious consideration by policy makers, journalists, social scientists, and informed citizens. For some, her book will inspire a thorough rethinking of how they understand rapists and their places in the criminal justice system. For others, the candid accounts and bold proposals in The Guilt Project will inspire mainly frustration or even anger. But no honest reader can deny the special insights she provides from her years of experience and careful reflection."—Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear and Professor of Sociology, University of Southern California
"Judging by The Guilt Project, Vanessa Place is one tough defense attorney, though her wicked prose implies at times the soul of an angry poet. Her thesis that injustice is routinely perpetrated on sex criminals will not be popular—which is why her book should be read by anyone interested in criminology, specifically including legislators, judges, attorneys and prosecutors." —Robert Mayer, author of The Dreams of Ada: A True Story of Murder, Obsession, and a Small Town
About the Author
Vanessa Place is a writer and criminal appellate attorney practicing in Los Angeles. She has worked on the appeals of more than a thousand indigent felons, specializing in sex offenders and sexually violent predators. She is the author of Dies: A Sentence, a fifty-thousand-word, one-sentence prose poem; the post-conceptual novel La Medusa; and, in collaboration with appropriation poet Robert Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms. Place is co-founder of Les Figues Press, described by critic Terry Castle as “an elegant vessel for experimental American writing of an extraordinarily
assured and ingenious sort.”
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Top Customer Reviews
If you can set aside your emotions as you read this--which is difficult, given the graphic accounts in this book--you may find your views on rape and its legal consequences somewhat altered. The Guilt Project is a fascinating if disturbing book, not only for its discussion of rape laws, but also for the personal disclosures the author makes. Her voice, dry and honest, occasionally impassioned, brings life to what could be a terminally grim subject.
Place seeks to move beyond knee-jerk reactions to rape and really question whether those convicted are receiving fair sentences. She covers everything from DNA evidence and how expert testimony can mislead juries to metrics used to assess the chances of a pedophile reoffending. She discusses sex offenders who have served their prison sentences and are then "diagnosed" with a mental illness (which then allows the government to place them in a mental hospital for the remainder of their lives). It is easy to feel some pity for the teenage boy who has consensual sex with an underage teen girl and must register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, and Place also makes some interesting points about sexual consent laws, particularly as they apply to women who are intoxicated.
I would not recommend this book to anyone faint-hearted (although the most horrible details of cases are relegated to an appendix you can choose to skip), but The Guilt Project does offer a provocative look at the way our justice system currently handles rape.
Not only was this book a page turner that I read in two sittings, it also had many delightful poetic passages and social insights about such subjects as To Catch a Predator, the permanent detention of many people convicted of sex crimes, and the many ways in which the definition of rape turns out to be surprisingly ambiguous.