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April 05, 2006


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I recall hearing Prof Harcourt give a talk on this topica couple of years ago at the University Club. I have to say I was a little disappointed when I referenced the current use of actuarials in at least 16 states to determine whether convicted sex offenders who had completed their prison sentences could be civilly committed under state "sexually violent" or "sexually dangerous" statutes.

Prof. Harcourt looked at me with bewilderment and said he hadn't heard of the modern application of his topic.

I am entirely supportive of the Law School, academia, etc., but I found his disconnect from the actual practice of what he was addressing a little problematic. It made me think of others' criticisms of the "Ivory Tower," which I usually disagree with. But Prof. Harcourt's decision to take on such a topic and not apply it to one of its most prominent applications in the current legal practice today makes his work seem somewhat less relevant.


in a msall correction, i do note after looking at his paper. that Prof Harcourt does mention sex offender civil commitment laws ... in a footnote. but again, while his discussion of risk assessment via actuarials for sentencing, racial profiling, etc. is interesting, to ignore (or relegate to a footnote) a daily court usage of the predictive tool seems improper.

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