Will Neuroscience Change The Way We Punish Criminals?

Australian law may be on the cusp of a brain-based revolution that will reshape the way we deal with criminals. Some researchers, such as neuroscientist David Eagleman, have argued that neuroscience should radically change our practices of punishment. According to Eagleman, the courts should give up on the notion of punishment altogether and instead focus on managing criminals and containing their behavior in order to keep the rest of us safe. Is this a good idea? And is this how Australian judges are responding to our increasing knowledge of the neurobiological bases of behaviour? Two Approaches There are two broad approaches to justifying punishing someone who commits a crime. The first is in terms of “moral culpability” or “just deserts”. Crudely, if someone has caused harm, they deserve to have…

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