In David Birks & Thomas Douglas (eds.), Treatment for Crime: Philosophical Essays on Neurointerventions in Criminal Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Crime-preventing neurointerventions (CPNs) are increasingly being used or advocated for crime prevention. There is increasing use of testosterone-lowering agents to prevent recidivism in sexual offenders, and strong political and scientific interest in developing pharmaceutical treatments for psychopathy and anti-social behaviour. Recent developments suggest that we may ultimately have at our disposal a range of drugs capable of suppressing violent aggression, and it is not difficult to imagine possible applications of such drugs in crime prevention. But should neurointerventions be used in crime prevention, and may the state ever permissibly impose CPNs as part of the criminal justice process? It is widely thought that preventing recidivism is one of the aims of criminal justice, yet existing means of pursuing this aim are often poorly effective, restrictive of basic freedoms, and harmful. Incarceration, for example, tends to be disruptive of personal relationships and careers, detrimental to physical and mental health, highly restrictive of freedom of movement and association, and rarely more than modestly effective at preventing recidivism. Neurointerventions hold the promise of preventing recidivism in ways that are more effective and more humane, but the use of CPNs in criminal justice raises several ethical concerns. CPNs could be highly intrusive and may threaten fundamental human values, such as bodily integrity and freedom of thought, and humanity has a track record of misguided, harmful, and unwarrantedly coercive use of neurotechnological ‘solutions’ to criminality. This collection brings together original contributions from emerging scholars and internationally renowned moral and political philosophers to address these issues.
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