Preventing recidivism is one of the aims of criminal justice, yet existing means of pursuing this aim are often poorly effective, highly restrictive of basic freedoms, and significantly harmful. Incarceration, for example, tends to be disruptive of personal relationships and careers, detrimental to physical and mental health, restrictive of freedom of movement, and rarely more than modestly effective at preventing recidivism. Crime-preventing neurointerventions
(CPNs) are increasingly being advocated, and there is a growing 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. Future neuroscientific advances
could yield further CPNs; we could 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.
Neurointerventions hold out the promise of preventing recidivism in ways that are both more effective, and more humane. But should neurointerventions be used in crime prevention? And may the state ever permissibly impose CPNs as part of the criminal justice process, either unconditionally, or as a condition of parole or early release? The use of CPNs raises several ethical concerns, as they could be highly intrusive and may threaten fundamental human values, such as bodily integrity
and freedom of thought. In the first book-length treatment of this topic, Treatment for Crime, brings together original contributions from internationally renowned moral and political philosophers to address these questions and consider the possible issues, recognizing how humanity has a track record of
misguided, harmful and unwarrantedly coercive use of neurotechnological 'solutions' to criminality.
The Engaging Philosophy series is a new forum for collective philosophical engagement with controversial issues in contemporary society.
David Birks is a Departmental Lecturer in Political Theory at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, and an Early Career Research Fellow at the Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford. He was previously a Junior Research Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, University of Kiel. His research focuses on issues such as paternalism,
perfectionism, punishment, and public reason.
Thomas Douglas is a Senior Research Fellow in the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Practical Ethics.