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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Brain science should be making prisons better, not trying to prove innocence

Arielle Baskin-Sommers
theconversaton.com
Originally posted November 1, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, when neuroscientific assessments are presented to the court, they can sway juries, regardless of their relevance. Using these techniques to produce expert evidence doesn’t bring the court any closer to truth or justice. And with a single brain scan costing thousands of dollars, plus expert interpretation and testimony, it’s an expensive tool out of reach for many defendants. Rather than helping untangle legal responsibility, neuroscience here causes an even deeper divide between the rich and the poor, based on pseudoscience.

While I remain skeptical about the use of neuroscience in the judicial process, there are a number of places where its findings could help corrections systems develop policies and practices based on evidence.

Solitary confinement harms more than helps

Take, for instance, the use within prisons of solitary confinement as a punishment for disciplinary infractions. In 2015, the Bureau of Justice reported that nearly 20 percent of federal and state prisoners and 18 percent of local jail inmates spent time in solitary.

Research consistently demonstrates that time spent in solitary increases the chances of persistent emotional trauma and distress. Solitary can lead to hallucinations, fantasies and paranoia; it can increase anxiety, depression and apathy as well as difficulties in thinking, concentrating, remembering, paying attention and controlling impulses. People placed in solitary are more likely to engage in self-mutilation as well as exhibit chronic rage, anger and irritability. The term “isolation syndrome” has even been coined to capture the severe and long-lasting effects of solitary.

The info is here.

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