Breakdown in the Language Zone: The Prevalence of Language Impairments among Juvenile and Adult Offenders and Why it Matters
US Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy, Forthcoming
89 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2010 Last revised: 12 Apr 2011
Date Written: August 23, 2010
For over eighty years, social scientists have known that poor language skills are closely associated with the constellation of emotional and behavioral disturbances routinely seen in juvenile and criminal court. These include conduct disorder, academic deficits, social incompetence, impulsivity, and even aggression. As we might expect, researchers have also found that language impairments are present at a high rate within juvenile and adult correctional institutions. So far however, the law has barely acknowledged even the existence of this body of social science, let alone its significance for the administration of justice, rehabilitation, and public safety. This article is an attempt to bring this phenomenon to light. It examines why widespread language deficits among so many juvenile and adult defendants should be a matter of great concern for the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and perhaps more importantly, what we can do about it.
Keywords: Language, Behavior, Juvenile Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Law & Procedure
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