The Genetic Imaginary: DNA in the Canadian Criminal Justice System

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University of Toronto Press, Jan 1, 2004 - Law - 253 pages

DNA testing and banking has become institutionalized in the Canadian criminal justice system. As accepted and widespread though the practice is, there has been little critique or debate of this practice in a broad public forum on the potential infringement of individual rights or civil liberties. Neil Gerlach's The Genetic Imaginary takes up this challenge, critically examining the social, legal, and criminal justice origins and effects of DNA testing and banking. Drawing on risk analysis, Gerlach explains why Canadians have accepted DNA technology with barely a ripple of public outcry.

Despite promises of better crime control and protections for existing privacy rights, Gerlach's examination of police practices, courtroom decisions, and the changing role of scientific expertise in legal decision-making reveals that DNA testing and banking have indeed led to a measurable erosion of individual rights. Biogovernance and the biotechnology of surveillance almost inevitably lead to the empowerment of state agent control and away from due process and legal protection. The Genetic Imaginary demonstrates that the overall effect of these changes to the criminal justice system has been to emphasize the importance of community security at the expense of individual rights. The privatization and politicization of biogovernance will certainly have profound future implications for all Canadians.


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About the author (2004)

Neil Gerlach is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University.

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