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How Should Justice Policy Treat Young Offenders?

5 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2017 Last revised: 26 Apr 2017

BJ Casey

Yale University - Department of Psychology

Richard J. Bonnie

University of Virginia - School of Law

Andre Davis

US Court of Appeals - Fourth Circuit

David L. Faigman

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Morris B. Hoffman

Second Judicial District Court Judge, State of Colorado

Owen D. Jones

Vanderbilt University - Law School & Dept. of Biological Sciences

Read Montague

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University - Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

Stephen Morse

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Marcus E. Raichle

Washington University School of Medicine

Jennifer A. Richeson

Yale University - Department of Psychology

Elizabeth S. Scott

Columbia University - Law School

Laurence Steinberg

Temple University

Kim A. Taylor-Thompson

New York University School of Law

Anthony D. Wagner

Stanford University - Psychology

Date Written: February 1, 2017

Abstract

The justice system in the United States has long recognized that juvenile offenders are not the same as adults, and has tried to incorporate those differences into law and policy. But only in recent decades have behavioral scientists and neuroscientists, along with policymakers, looked rigorously at developmental differences, seeking answers to two overarching questions: Are young offenders, purely by virtue of their immaturity, different from older individuals who commit crimes? And, if they are, how should justice policy take this into account?

A growing body of research on adolescent development now confirms that teenagers are indeed inherently different from adults, not only in their behaviors, but also (and of course relatedly) in the ways their brains function. These findings have influenced a series of Supreme Court decisions relating to the treatment of adolescents, and have led legislators and other policymakers across the country to adopt a range of developmentally informed justice policies.

New research is showing distinct changes in the brains of young adults, ages 18 to 21, suggesting that they too may be immature in ways that are relevant to justice policy. This knowledge brief from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience considers the implications of this new research.

Keywords: Juvenile justice, adolescent, children, minors, brain, brain imaging, neuroscience, law and neuroscience, neurolaw, neuroimaging, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, maturity, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, responsibility, culpability, mens rea, punishment, crime

JEL Classification: K14, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Casey, BJ and Bonnie, Richard J. and Davis, Andre and Faigman, David L. and Hoffman, Morris B. and Jones, Owen D. and Montague, Read and Morse, Stephen and Raichle, Marcus E. and Richeson, Jennifer A. and Scott, Elizabeth S. and Steinberg, Laurence and Taylor-Thompson, Kim A. and Wagner, Anthony D., How Should Justice Policy Treat Young Offenders? (February 1, 2017). MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, February 2017; Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 17-9; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 17-17; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-545. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2881607

BJ Casey

Yale University - Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

HOME PAGE: http://psychology.yale.edu/people/bj-casey

Richard J. Bonnie

University of Virginia - School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Andre Davis

US Court of Appeals - Fourth Circuit ( email )

United States

David L. Faigman

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Morris B. Hoffman

Second Judicial District Court Judge, State of Colorado ( email )

Denver, CO
United States

Owen D. Jones (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School & Dept. of Biological Sciences ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/bio/owen-jones

Read Montague

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University - Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute ( email )

2 Riverside Circle
Roanoke, VA 24016
United States
540-526-2000 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://research.vtc.vt.edu/employees/read-montague/

Stephen J. Morse

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Marcus E. Raichle

Washington University School of Medicine ( email )

United States

Jennifer A. Richeson

Yale University - Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

HOME PAGE: http://psychology.yale.edu/people/jennifer-richeson

Elizabeth S. Scott

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States
(212) 854-9758 (Phone)
(212) 854-7946 (Fax)

Laurence Steinberg

Temple University ( email )

Weiss Hall
1701 N. 13th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Kim A. Taylor-Thompson

New York University School of Law ( email )

245 Sullivan Street, 627
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
(212) 998-6396 (Phone)
(212) 995-4031 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/profile.cfm?personID=20328

Anthony D. Wagner

Stanford University - Psychology ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
(650) 723-4048 (Phone)
(650) 725-5699 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: https://psychology.stanford.edu/awagner

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