The Limits of Neurolaw
19 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2011 Last revised: 14 Jun 2011
Date Written: June 4, 2011
This brief essay is a response to Professor Lamparello‘s ambitious article in the forthcoming symposium collection in the Houston Journal of Health Law and Policy. Professor Lamparello suggests that cognitive neuroscience might finally provide the criminal justice system with a reliable method of crime control. Unlike previous proposals under the fashionable neurolaw framework, Lamparello suggests that the value of the technology neuroscience brings to the table lies not in overturning the entrenched legal doctrine of mens rea or responsibility, but rather in its utilization to make predictions of future dangerousness. Those offenders who possess neurological abnormalities should be civilly committed after serving their prison sentences, according to Lamparello, just as many sexually violent predators are civilly committed today in light of the Kansas v. Hendricks and Kansas v. Crane. For reasons I discuss, I believe such policy prescriptions are unnecessary and unwise.
Keywords: neurolaw, criminal law, law and psychology, civil commitment
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