Accepted Paper:

Making criminal brains secure: Bio-criminology, technology, and crime prevention - then and now  


Felix Schirmann

Paper long abstract:

Modern neuroscientific technologies allow for unprecedented access to offenders' bodies and brains. Brain imaging evidence features in court cases, studies on the neuroprediction of rearrest appear in distinguished scientific journals, and biomarkers for criminality putatively offer a scientific basis for crime prevention. Proponents of these developments suggest that technological means are (or will be) superior to established means of identifying offenders or recidivists. Moreover, they argue that the application and advancement of neuroscientific technology can aid in reducing crime and thus increasing safety in society at large. The underlying theories suggest susceptibility for crime rather than asserting that biology is destiny. Accordingly, modern bio-criminology makes use of elaborate statistical models, rendering individuals' dangerousness as probabilistic. The strategy to gather data, apply technology, and map susceptibility indicates a logic of risk management and an ideology of technological security. In this talk, I will analyze bio-criminologists' endeavor to research and control crime through technology in historical and contemporary perspective. Since the late nineteenth century a shift from deterministic biological theories of crime to modern probabilistic understandings occurred. This shift was accompanied by a change in policing criminals, from cases of eugenics and sterilization in the past to assessing neurobiological risk factors in the present. Technological diversification was an important driver of this transition. Against this historical backdrop, I will argue that current bio-criminology capitalizes on the perceived persuasiveness of modern neuroscience. Then, I will take a stance against the idea that neuroscientific technology is fit to prevent crime or improve security.

Panel I1
Understanding techno-security: On pre-emption, situational awareness and technological superiority