The Use of Brain Interventions in Offender Rehabilitation Programs: Should It Be Mandatory, Voluntary, or Prohibited?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Citations (Scopus)


As our understanding of the brain increases, it seems likely that new biomedical techniques for altering human behavior will be developed. One potential application of such techniques is within the context of the rehabilitation of offenders. This prospect may seem attractive, given the social and economic costs of crime and the limited effectiveness of traditional punishments at reducing reoffending (see, e.g., Ministry of Justice. Proven re-offending statistics, quarterly bulletin. October 2010–September 2011. England and Wales. Available at:, 2013). On the other hand, the fact that the brain is so intimately connected with an individual’s identity, personality, and capacity for making autonomous choices gives rise to distinct concerns about the use of directly interfering with brain functioning. This chapter begins by indicating a number of neuroenhancements that might be used in rehabilitation programs in the future, if sufficiently safe and effective. Secondly, it outlines and replies to some of the main arguments for prohibiting neuroenhancement of offenders altogether. Thirdly, it examines the opposite position – that neuroenhancement of offenders should be mandatory. Fourthly, it argues that the case for mandatory interventions is ultimately unpersuasive. Provided sufficiently safe and effective interventions are developed, the best policy would be to provide such interventions on a voluntary basis. The chapter ends by discussing some of the issues that need to be addressed to ensure that offenders’ consent to neurointerventions is truly voluntary.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Neuroethics
EditorsJens Clausen, Neil Levy
Place of PublicationDordrecht
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789400747074
ISBN (Print)9789400747067
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


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