The Guilt Project

Rape, Morality, and Law

Publication Date: Mar 23, 2010

336 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 9781590517505


List Price US $25.95
ISBN: 9781590512647


List Price US $19.99
ISBN: 9781590513866

Now in paperback with a new introduction from the author, The Guilt Project examines the way in which the law has failed to anticipate the contemporary culture that creates, defines, and punishes rape

Rape is a crime. Crimes are culturally defined. We are all part of the culture that defines and creates rape. Today we try rape cases in the media and not in the courts.

Vanessa Place examines the ambiguity of rape law by presenting cases where guilt lies, but lies uneasily, and leads into larger ethical questions of what defines guilt, what is justice, and what is considered just punishment. Assuming a society can and must be judged by the way it treats its most despicable members, Place looks at the way the American legal system defines, prosecutes, and punishes sex offenders, how “hashtag” justice has transformed our conception of who is guilty and how they ought to be treated, and how this threatens to undo our deeper humanity.

Excerpt from The Guilt Project

I am a criminal defense appellate attorney. I represent indigent sex offenders and sexually violent predators, all on appeal from felony convictions in the State of California. I have also supervised or otherwise assisted a number of other attorneys representing indigent appellate defendants. All told, I’ve been involved in about a thousand felony cases. Most of my clients are factually guilty by virtue of their acts; all are legally guilty by virtue of their convictions. They are the very bad men, those who trigger the question, “How can you defend people like that, knowing that they’re guilty?” It’s an inevitable question, though the delay between meeting me and asking the question varies according to the questioner’s profile. The rich ask it sooner than the poor, the educated quicker than the unschooled. Other criminals usually don’t ask it at all. Fellow cons will be the first to volunteer to crack a baby-raper’s skull, but will never question the scumbag’s right to a defense.

“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