News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Advancing Use of Risk Assessment in Juvenile Probation

By Laura S. Guy, Gina M. Vincent, Thomas Grisso, and Rachael Perrault | National Criminal Justice Reference Service | September 2015

Abstract:

Juvenile probation officers at three sites in two States (Mississippi and Connecticut) were trained to use the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY; Borum, Bartel & Forth, 2006) and the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Second Version (MAYSI-2; Grisso & Barnum, 2000, 2006). Also included in the use of these instruments was a decisionmaking model for case planning that integrated information about behavioral health variables and risk for reoffending. A standardized implementation process was used to assist sites in the selection of tools, development of policies, categorization of available services and interventions, as well as the development or modification of existing case plans. Results indicate that probation staff can be trained to complete violence risk assessment using the structured professional judgment approach. This produced a high degree of inter-rater agreement, and case management decisions can take into account a youth’s risk for future offending. The study advises that in order for risk assessment to impact youths’ cases and individual outcomes, risk assessment must occur early in the judicial process. Risk assessment should be conducted before making decisions about disposition, placement, and the services to be provided. It is also recommended that States use a structured, empirically validated approach to risk assessment. A variety of inconsistencies were found in probation staffs’ use of the MAYSI-2, despite efforts to train staff to use this assessment tool. Reasons for this inconsistent use of MAYSI-2 are suggested, and recommendations are offered to address it. Study limitations and future research are discussed.

Read the full study here.

CLBB Faculty Members on Psychology and Juvenile Justice

CLBB Faculty Members Robert Kinscherff and Gina Vincent contributed to the new American Psychological Association Handbook of Psychology and Juvenile Justice. The handbook “consolidates and advances the knowledge about the legal, scientific, and applied foundations of the juvenile justice system”, and includes sections on relevant law, human development, risk factors for and patterns of offending, forensic assessment, interventions, training, and ethics. Dr. Kinscherff wrote a chapter entitled, “Distinguishing and Assessing Treatment Needs and Amenability to Rehabilitation”, and co-authored a chapter around ethical issues in psychology and juvenile justice with Gerald P. Koocher. Dr. Vincent co-authored the chapter entitled, “Juvenile Psychopathy: Appropriate and Inappropriate Uses in Legal Proceedings”.

Order the APA Handbook of Psychology and Juvenile Justice today!

Working group to tackle juvenile brain & justice system

Beginning in summer 2014, as part of a venture into juvenile justice as an ongoing program area, CLBB convened a faculty juvenile justice working group to bring together experts in the adolescent brain and criminal justice to respond to key ethical and legal issues at their intersections. The groups, drawing from the Harvard Law and Medical Schools and Harvard University Psychology Faculty, will convene for ongoing expert faculty meetings, academic publications, and a public seminar event. The group is supported by the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. View the initial announcement here.

CLBB Faculty and working group members include adolescent brain researchers Leah Somerville, PhD and Margaret Sheridan, PhD, adolescent psychiatrist Gene Beresin, MD, and juvenile offender evaluation and juvenile justice policy experts Thomas Grisso, PhD, Robert Kinscherff, PhD, Esq., and Gina Vincent, PhD.

The group will culminate its first year with a public Symposium on Juvenile Justice on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The Symposium will take place at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center of Harvard Medical School. View event details and RSVP.

 

CLBB to lead Pain, Juvenile Justice Interdisciplinary Working Groups

Our understanding of the neuroscientific underpinnings of the human brain is evolving at a rapid rate. This ongoing development presents many challenges for its timely, successful translation into law and policy. In 2014-2015, the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, through the support of the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, will convene faculty working groups to incite scholarship into two translational gaps in neuroscience and law: pain and suffering, and the juvenile brain. The groups, drawing from the Harvard Law and Medical Schools and Harvard University Psychology Faculty, will convene for ongoing expert faculty meetings, academic publications, and a public seminar event. The groups represent CLBB’s initial ventures into pain and juvenile justice as ongoing program areas. Continue reading »

Predictive accuracy in the neuroprediction of rearrest

By E. Aharoni, J. Mallet, G. Vincent, C. L. Harenski, V. D. Calhoun, W. Sinnott-Armstrong, M. S. Gazzaniga, and K. A. Kiehl | Social Neuroscience | 10 April 2014

Abstract

A recently published study by the present authors reported evidence that functional changes in the anterior cingulate cortex within a sample of 96 criminal offenders who were engaged in a Go/No-Go impulse control task significantly predicted their rearrest following release from prison. In an extended analysis, we use discrimination and calibration techniques to test the accuracy of these predictions relative to more traditional models and their ability to generalize to new observations in both full and reduced models. Modest to strong discrimination and calibration accuracy were found, providing additional support for the utility of neurobiological measures in predicting rearrest.

Read the full paper here.