Neuroscience, Criminal Sentencing, and Human Rights

Elizabeth Shaw* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This Article discusses ways in which neuroscience should inform criminal sentencing in the future. Specifically, it compares the ethical permissibility of traditional forms of punishment, such as incarceration, on the one hand, and rehabilitative “neurointerventions” on the other. Rehabilitative neurointerventions are interventions that aim directly to modify brain activity in order to reduce reoffending. Various jurisdictions are already using techniques that could be classed as neurointerventions, and research suggests that, potentially, an even wider range of rehabilitative neurointerventions may be developed. This Article examines the role of human rights (in particular, the moral right to mental integrity and the legal right against degrading treatment) as a constraint on the state’s use of neurointerventions. It also discusses the extent to which traditional forms of punishment, such as incarceration, interfere with the right to mental integrity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1443
Number of pages35
JournalWilliam & Mary Law Review
Early online date1 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022
EventImagining the Future of Law and Neuroscience: William and Mary Law Review Symposium - Williamsburg, United States
Duration: 19 Feb 202120 Feb 2021


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