Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System

Please read Chapter 2: “Children are Different” (pp. 9-18) from the report “From Time Out to Hard Times: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System” by Michele Deitch, Amanda Barstow, Leslie Lukens, and Ryan Reyna and watch Inside the Teenage Brain and The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain which shows the stages of brain development in teenagers and how it highlights or explains the decision-making abilities of teens. In recent juvenile sentencing decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court looked at studies of behavioral and brain development and posited three characteristics that distinguish adolescents from adults:

immature and impetuous decision making with little regard for consequences

vulnerability to external coercion (particularly by peers) and

unformed character

These characteristics make it difficult to judge an adolescent’s crime as “irretrievably depraved.” What are your thoughts? Are our children different, and do these differences require mitigation of their criminal culpability?

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