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Criminal Law and Justice

This Cluster aims to explore the theoretical and practical relevance of the cognitive sciences for the criminal law and justice system. Currently our focus is on two main pillars: substantive criminal law and sentencing. Regarding substantive criminal law, this Cluster welcomes and supports research ideas on how certain scientific insights and related philosophies of mind may inform and transform the foundations, doctrines and practices of criminal responsibility. Topics of interest include: neuro-challenges to free will and human agency; the relevance of the cognitive sciences for explaining, critiquing, or changing criminal law doctrine, such as actus reusmens rea, or the criteria for the insanity defence; how neuroscientific techniques could be used as a diagnostic tool to evidence mental states and disorders in court.  

Regarding sentencing, this Cluster also aims to build and connect knowledge about the transformative impact of the cognitive sciences on how criminal justice systems respond to people who offend. For instance, groundbreaking neuroscientific insights into the adverse effects of the prison environment for the brain and the ‘neuroprediction’ of antisocial conduct, raise significant challenges for both dominant penological theories and sentencing practices. These challenges range from calling into question the thresholds of what constitutes ‘legitimate’ punishment under domestic and international standards to shifting paradigms of justice from retribution and neutralization to accountability and restoration. This Cluster welcomes and supports research ideas and initiatives tackling these very issues.  

Interested in getting involved? If so, please contact: 

David Roef:  

Federica Coppola –