With the world in shock over the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last week, rather than questioning the morality of capital punishment, we should reevaluate America’s prison system as a whole. With an ever-growing population of inmates, America’s prisons are operating under the arcane notion that punishment deters crimes, while ignoring a growing body of scientific work that could be used to understand why people commit violent crimes and how to reinstate criminals into society successfully. On the question of what causes people to commit horrible crimes, we know that damage to the frontal lobes of the brain (the areas responsible for impulse-control, reasoning, foresight and other “higher” cognitive functions) can cause severe behavioral problems and violent outbursts.
The idea that "If determinism is true, then no one is responsible for anything" doesn't have to be true: a person acting criminally is still the most proximal cause of the bad behavior and should be held accountable; the Big Bang isn't to blame for his criminality. Moreover, by this reasoning, everyone who commits crimes is not responsible because their brains made them do it: if determinism is true, they also had no choice but to 'sin'. So why should a seemingly healthy offender go to jail (where he doesn't get rehabilitated and doesn't learn to not repeat his offenses), while one with a brain tumor or schizophrenia should be treated medically and perhaps even reinstated into society?