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

Dr. Robert Kinscherff Answers: Should We Ever Sentence Juveniles as Adults? (VIDEO)

CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Robert Kinscherff spoke on Tuesday, May 10, at Harvard Law School about juvenile justice and the treatment of adolescents versus adults within the criminal justice system. The event, hosted by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, was free and open to the public. About the event:

Nearly a quarter of a million youth are tried, sentenced, or imprisoned as adults every year across the United States. On any given day, ten thousand youth are detained or incarcerated in adult jails and prisons.

Putting a human face to these sobering statistics, Boy With A Knife tells the story of Karter Kane Reed, who, at the age of sixteen, was sentenced to life in an adult prison for a murder he committed in 1993 in a high school classroom. Twenty years later, in 2013, he became one of the few men in Massachusetts to sue the Parole Board and win his freedom.

The emotional and devastating narrative takes us step by step through Karter’s crime, trial, punishment, and survival in prison, as well as his readjustment into regular society. In addition to being a powerful portrayal of one boy trying to come to terms with the consequences of his tragic actions, Boy With A Knife is also a searing critique of the practice of sentencing youth to adult prisons, providing a wake-up call on how we must change the laws in this country that allow children to be sentenced as adults. Continue reading »

WATCH — Boys to Men to Boys

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Click poster to enlarge.

Approximately 2,000 youth sentenced to life without parole are now serving unconstitutional sentences in US prisons. What is the role for psychology and neuroscience in re-sentencing and parole after Miller and Montgomery?

Join two experts in forensic psychology, law and juvenile justice policy, for a discussion of the dilemmas posed after the Supreme Court’s recent decision to ban mandatory life without possibility of parole for juvenile homicides (Miller v. Alabama, 2012) and then this year to retroactively apply this decision to some 2,000 incarcerated individuals (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016).

The event will be held at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, April 13, in Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C (2036) at Harvard Law School (1585 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA).

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served.

Continue reading »

Did the Man I Sentenced to 18 Years Deserve It?

By Stefan R. Underhill | The New York Times | January 23, 2016

In 2006, I sentenced a man to 18 years in prison. I have been wrestling with that decision ever since.

As a federal district judge, I’ve sentenced hundreds of people, but I’ve rarely agonized as much as I did over this man’s fate. Continue reading »

Judge Nancy Gertner Reflects On Mandatory Minimums

CLBB Facugertner_150x150lty Member Nancy Gertner appeared on WBUR to discuss her efforts to fix the system of mass incarceration that forced her to put hundreds of men and women behind bars, during her 17-year judicial career. In conversation with host Meghna Chakrabarti, Judge Gertner notes:

“The irony is, I’m going through all my sentences — hundreds of men, largely men that I sentenced — and I’m mostly dealing with mandatory minimums, because, candidly…I went as low as I could go in all of these cases. And now we’re dealing with people who just got stuck in, really, a nightmare sentencing structure.”

Listen to WBUR’s radio broadcast from November 13, 2015 here.

Death Row Prisoners Have Plenty of Time to Find God, But Few Find Mercy

By Daniel LaChance | The New Republic | November 3, 2015

Strapped to the execution gurney in Huntsville, Texas, Michael Hall told those assembled to watch him die that he was not the same man who had shot a 19-year-old woman to death 13 years earlier.

“The old is gone,” he said. “That person is dead.”

Stories of condemned inmates who find God and goodness while they await execution are nothing new. But in recent decades, they have become a lot more plausible. A century ago, the condemned counted their time on death row in months. Now they count it in years—and sometimes decades. Those executed in 2011, the year Hall was put to death, had spent an average of 16.5 years on death row.

As a historian of the modern American death penalty, I have argued that the extraordinary amount of time that now elapses between sentencing and execution has changed the public’s perception of capital punishment. It has also changed the condemned. Continue reading »