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The Future of Punishment$
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Thomas A. Nadelhoffer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199779208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199779208.001.0001

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Free Will, Responsibility, and the Punishment of Criminals

Free Will, Responsibility, and the Punishment of Criminals

Chapter:
(p.247) 12 Free Will, Responsibility, and the Punishment of Criminals
Source:
The Future of Punishment
Author(s):

Farah Focquaert

Andrea Glenn

Adrian Raine

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199779208.003.0012

In the past decades, the neurosciences have begun to challenge our common notions of free will and moral responsibility. The idea that individuals, whether criminals or law-abiding citizens, have little to no control over the many factors that shape their intentional mental states and behavior raises many questions for the criminal justice system. Does this mean that we should change the way the justice system works and prisons are run today? In this chapter, we provide a detailed overview of the recent neurobiological findings on psychopathy and discuss how these might bear on moral responsibility. For example, psychopaths may suffer from brain impairments in regions that underlie emotional processing—regions that are necessary for moral development in normal individuals. Next, we argue that a similar neurobiological approach might apply to other cases, such as individuals with antisocial personality disorder and those with substance abuse. Even if one is not willing to give up on the notion of truly voluntary behavior, and we might have every reason not to do so, there remains a wealth of scientific data that urges us to reconsider our current approach to crime and punishment. In the last section of this chapter, we argue for a different approach involving (a) the abandonment of massive incarceration as a solution to crime; (b) the guaranteed personal, physical, and mental well-being of incarcerated individuals; and (c) the integration of choice in terms of an offender's punishment and rehabilitation trajectory. Such changes reflect a more long-term approach to criminal behavior and recidivism and have the potential to change our society and the safety of all its members for the better.

Keywords:   psychopathy, neuroscience, punishment, rehabilitation

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