Restorative conferences for psychopaths

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Imagine putting an offender who has little ability to express empathy and a victim together to talk about the impact of the crime committed. I’m not sure about your initial reaction but mine was: “This runs a real risk of revictimisation.”

I was really interested therefore to watch a TED Talk by Daniel Reisel who studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice).  He asks a big question: instead of warehousing psychopathic criminals, shouldn’t we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? He argues that new research indicates that our brains can grow new neural pathways after an injury … could we help the brain re-grow morality?

This is any interesting question and one that until recently would have been seen as a no-brainer. However more recent research into brain development poses some interesting challenges to this notion.

What is psychopathy

The best-established measure of psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) was developed by Robert D. Hare from the University of British Columbia. Analyses of the PCL-R reveals that it comprises at least three overlapping, but separable, constellations of traits:

  • interpersonal deficits (such as grandiosity, arrogance and deceitfulness)
  • affective deficits (for example lack of guilt and empathy) and
  • impulsive and criminal behaviours (including sexual promiscuity and stealing)

For a much more in-depth read see what William Herstein reports on the Neuroscience of Psychopathy.

Published on Monday, June 9th, 2014, under Offender work

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