On the federal level, judicial education in sentencing has been focused primarily on preparing judges to calculate and apply the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. But in an advisory guidelines context, making individualized assessments in drug cases requires education in the science of addictions, the drivers of behavior, and the prospects for behavior change when substances are involved. Neuroscience and the sciences of human behavior provide clarifying insight into substance-driven behaviors and cognitions that are routinely encountered in federal drug cases. These disciplines support individualized sentencing by shedding new light on the nature of inhibitory control, the reasonable expectations for relapse, and the distinctions that can be drawn based on science between different treatment interventions. In this Article, we report on the Workshop on Science-Informed Decision Making, an education initiative in the federal judiciary. Since 2016, it has provided education in neuroscience and behavioral science, as well as skills training in individualizing sentences using insights from that science, to U.S. district judges, magistrate judges, and pretrial services and probation officers in thirty-two federal districts. We describe the case-study-based instructional approach of the workshop, including some of the misconceptions about addiction behavior it addresses, and explain why we believe that this kind of education helps federal judges, and pretrial services and probation officers, craft more responsive sentencing decisions and recommendations.
Supporting Responsive Federal Drug Sentencing Through Education in the Workshop on Science-Informed Decision Making
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Hon. Nancy Gertner, Dr. Judith Edersheim, Dr. Robert Kinscherff, Cassandra Snyder; Supporting Responsive Federal Drug Sentencing Through Education in the Workshop on Science-Informed Decision Making. Federal Sentencing Reporter 1 October 2021; 34 (1): 12–22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fsr.2021.34.1.12
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