Genetic Justice

DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties

Sheldon Krimsky and Tania Simoncelli

Columbia University Press

Genetic Justice

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Pub Date: April 2012

ISBN: 9780231145213

448 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: November 2010

ISBN: 9780231145206

448 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $85.00£71.00

Pub Date: November 2010

ISBN: 9780231517805

448 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Genetic Justice

DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties

Sheldon Krimsky and Tania Simoncelli

Columbia University Press

National DNA databanks were initially established to catalogue the identities of violent criminals and sex offenders. However, since the mid-1990s, forensic DNA databanks have in some cases expanded to include people merely arrested, regardless of whether they've been charged or convicted of a crime. The public is largely unaware of these changes and the advances that biotechnology and forensic DNA science have made possible. Yet many citizens are beginning to realize that the unfettered collection of DNA profiles might compromise our basic freedoms and rights.

Two leading authors on medical ethics, science policy, and civil liberties take a hard look at how the United States has balanced the use of DNA technology, particularly the use of DNA databanks in criminal justice, with the privacy rights of its citizenry. Krimsky and Simoncelli analyze the constitutional, ethical, and sociopolitical implications of expanded DNA collection in the United States and compare these findings to trends in the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Germany, and Italy. They explore many controversial topics, including the legal precedent for taking DNA from juveniles, the search for possible family members of suspects in DNA databases, the launch of "DNA dragnets" among local populations, and the warrantless acquisition by police of so-called abandoned DNA in the search for suspects. Most intriguing, Krimsky and Simoncelli explode the myth that DNA profiling is infallible, which has profound implications for criminal justice.

Indispensible and timely--Genetic Justice is necessary for anyone trying to navigate the myths and the science of the genomic era and its impact on our criminal justice system.

Patricia Williams, Columbia Law School

In Genetic Justice, the authors provide a thorough discussion of the concerns they believe the DNA revolution and the use of DNA databases in law enforcement pose. While I do not agree with all of their policy conclusions, I commend the authors for their bold and uncompromising positions. Providing discussion of these sensitive criminal justice matters is critical for generating the best tools to serve society while maintaining those precious rights that we enjoy. I recommend the book to all who seek a better understanding of the impact of the genomic age on the criminal justice process.

Bruce Budowle, executive director, Institute of Investigative Genetics, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth

Essential reading for anyone concerned with balancing public safety and personal freedom. The proliferation of DNA databases is not simply 'all good' or 'all bad.' Genetic Justice admirably deconstructs opposing arguments and then erects an inspiring yet realistic vision of justice.

Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, codirectors of the Innocence Project

Genetic Justice provides a lucid assessment of forensic DNA data banking that counters our CSI-infatuated culture in which DNA testing is assumed to be infallible. The authors reveal the serious threats that misuses of modern genetic technology and DNA databases can pose to cherished constitutional rights. This book is essential reading for all who care about pursuing justice while ensuring fairness to our diverse citizenry and the protection of our individual right to privacy.

Nadine Strossen, New York Law School and former president, American Civil Liberties Union

Genetic Justice illuminates every important controversy in the way DNA has entered the criminal justice system: from arguments about a universal DNA databank to the efficacy of DNA dragnets, from whether the state has the right to search your 'abandoned DNA' to the pros and cons of familial searching. Moreover, it accomplishes this in an engaging style that requires no technical background. A vital reference work for the next decade.

Troy Duster, New York University

Sheldon Krimsky is one of the most intelligent and creative multidisciplinary scholars working in bioethics, genetics and society, science studies, and biotechnology. He always knows how to pick topics that are socially significant and require careful public attention.

Phil Brown, author of Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement

Firmly grounded in science, this inquiry proves that while DNA can be dramatic in its disclosures, it is not to be used lightly, as is so often depicted in crime stories.


A thoughtful and informative read

James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

For anyone concerned about DNA technology, evolving concepts of justice, or the erosion of the basic freedoms of our democracy, Genetic Justice is a book not to miss.

Doug Pet, Biopolitical Times

The book offers a lucid and accurate presentation of DNA forensic technology that will be useful to any nonspecialist.

Michael A. Goldman, Science

Genetic Justice constitutes the single most comprehensive articulation of the civil-liberties concerns associated with law-enforcement DNA databases and should, therefore, serve as a touchstone for debates about the spread of DNA profiling.

Simon A. Cole, American Scientist

Engaging and informative.

Charalambos P. Kyriacou, Times Higher Education

Thoroughly researched and well referenced, Genetic Justice distinguishes itself as an interesting and informative book on the history of the development of DNA testing, forensic DNA databanks, and the justice system's evolving approaches...

Ananda M. Chakrabarty, BioScience

required reading

Richard Lewontin, New York Review of Books

An important strength of this timely,engaging, and readable book—and what distinguishes it from some others—is the clarity with which it demonstrates how genomics findings in one discipline... are applied to others...

Lundy Braun, PsycCRITIQUES

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in and concerned about the balance between the protection of rights such as privacy and autonomy and public safely and criminal justice imperatives...

Wilhelm Peekhaus, Science and Society
Part I: DNA in Law Enforcement
1. Forensic DNA Analysis
2. The Network of U.S. DNA Data Banks
3. Community DNA Dragnets
4. Familial DNA Searches
5. Forensic DNA Phenotyping
6. Surreptitious Biological Sampling
7. Exonerations
8. The Illusory Appeal of a Universal DNA Data Bank
Part II: Comparative Systems
9. The United Kingdom
10. Japan's Forensic DNA Data Bank
11. Australia
12: Germany
13. Italy
Part III: Critical Perspectives
14. Privacy and Genetic Surveillance
15. Racial Disparities in DNA Data Banking
16. Fallibility in DNA Identification
17. The Efficacy of DNA Data Banks
18. Toward a Vision of Justice
Appendix: A Comparison of DNA Databases in Six Nations
Selected Readings
Web Features:

Independent Publisher Book Award (Gold Medal) for Current Events

About the Author

Sheldon Krimsky is professor of urban and environmental policy and planning and adjunct professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University. He is author or coeditor of eleven books, most recently Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture.

Tania Simoncelli worked for more than six years as the science advisor to the American Civil Liberties Union, where she guided the organization's responses to cutting-edge developments in science and technology that pose challenges for civil liberties. She currently works for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.