For more information on juvenile justice mitigation, please visit our companion website, www.crimefreefuture.com.


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with a Screening of the Documentary Film Resilience – Ann Pimentel-Kerr

Ann Pimentel-Kerr will be leading a screening and discussion of the film Resilience. The film delves into the science of the original study and encourages discussion about ACEs and Resilience by showing examples of communities that have piloted programs using trauma and ACEs informed therapy.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – Dr. Candice Jones

Dr. Candice Jones will discuss the science behind the study of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how understanding the relationship between childhood traumas and physical and mental health can assist in treatment and healing.

Why Your Client’s Early Childhood Matters – Dr. Sarah Vinson, M.D.

A discussion of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their long-term adverse outcomes.

Competency and Adolescent Brain Development – Dr. Randy Otto, Ph.D.

In this session, Dr. Randy Otto, Ph.D., ABPP, will discuss competence to proceed in juvenile delinquency proceedings. Topics will include constitutional requirements, Florida law, how adolescent brain development affects competency, the evaluation process, and how to read reports and question examiners.

Childhood Trauma: The Neurobiology of Adaption by Joanne Terrell, MSW, LCSW, PIP

Joanne Terrell, MSW, discusses the effects of personal and environmental violence on children, the effects of trauma on brain development, and the three ways trauma causes emotional and behavioral problems in children.

Mitigating with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – Judge Lynn Tepper, J.D.

Frustrated by juveniles entering the justice system repeatedly for various forms of violent offenses, indifferent to the consequences of their actions? Domestic violence, battery at school, battery on law enforcement, battery on school or detention staff? A violent youth on a spiraling path into the adult system or a child impacted by adversity in his home and neighborhood? This presentation will share the science of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that leads to toxic stress and alters brain structure. We have the opportunity to change the youth’s trajectory by seeking assessments and dispositions that heal past trauma and the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

The United States Supreme Court held in Graham v. Florida (2010) and Miller v. Alabama (2012) that children may not be sentenced to life without parole without taking in consideration the unique characteristics of youth. The outcomes in these cases were informed by the research in adolescent development suggesting that teens are not as culpable due to their impulsivity, vulnerability to peer pressure, and their capacity for change. In this training, Roseanne Eckert, the Coordinating Attorney for the Florida Juvenile Resentencing and Review Project at the Florida International University College of Law, explains on the brain science can inform reliable sentencing outcomes.

“How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime” by Nadine Burke Harris, TEDMED (2014)

Abstract: In this TED Talk, pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect, and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on. Watch the full TED Talk .

“Minor is Major: How Adolescent Brain and Behavior Development Can Affect Competency, Culpability and Other Determinations in Criminal Court” by Cathryn S. Crawford, NACDL 2016 Mid-Winter MeetingDownload the presentation.


Juvenile Life Without Parole: How the Supreme Court of Ohio Should Interpret Montgomery v. Louisiana

Grace O. Hurley, Juvenile Life without Parole: How the Supreme Court of Ohio Should Interpret Montgomery v. Louisiana, 68 Clev. St. L. Rev. 102 (2019).

Abstract: Regardless of the numerous differences between juveniles and adults, some states, including the State of Ohio, continue to impose upon juvenile homicide offenders one of the harshest forms of punishment: life without parole. In 2016, the United States Supreme Court decided Montgomery v. Louisiana, and in doing so, the Court reiterated its previous contention that a sentence of juvenile life without parole should only be imposed upon juvenile homicide offenders whose crimes reflect “irreparable corruption.” The Supreme Court of Ohio has yet to apply the Court’s Montgomery decision, but this Note suggests that if it does, the court should utilize the case as a way to end the imposition of this type of sentence on juveniles in Ohio.

Raising the Age of Juvenile Delinquency: What Science Says About the Age of Maturity and Legal Culpability

Brittany Cicirello, Raising the Age of Juvenile Delinquency: What Science Says About the Age of Maturity and Legal Culpability, 53 Prosecutor 4 (2019).


In Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S 551 (2005), the United States Supreme Court incorporated recent discoveries in developmental neuroscience to eliminate the death penalty for persons under the age of eighteen. Since that case, advocates have pointed to Roper to justify raising the age of juvenile delinquency and protect a newly created category of emerging adults (aged 18-35 years old). While psychology and developmental neuroscience have made significant progress in documenting the development changes of adolescents (ages 12-18), both lack concentrated attention on emerging adults. Each discipline also comes to a different conclusion concerning an individual’s maturity. Psychological studies, which focus on cognitive differences between adolescents and adults, recognize a person reaches maturity at age 16. So cognitively speaking, by age 16 a person has the same ability to logically reason as an adult. Behavioral, or psychosocial, studies document the non-cognitive factors that affect a person’s maturity. Those studies found maturity, that is a person’s ability to make pro-social decisions, peaks at age 19. Developmental neuroscience, however, shows brain development may well last until a person is 35 years old. Thus, developmental neuroscience may be the only scientific support for including emerging adults in the juvenile justice system. What proponents of developmental neuroscience, and of the psychological studies as well, fail to address is (1) how these differences in maturity affect a person’s pro-social decision-making and (2) how these differences are legally significant.
These scientific developments do have a place in informing policymakers’ decisions regarding treatment options, sentencing mitigators, or changes to expungement laws. To stretch the science to support wholesale reform of the juvenile justice system and raise the age of juvenile delinquency from eighteen to twenty-five years old is unwarranted. Such a change has far-reaching impacts from the potential increase in gang recruitment of younger members who may commit crimes knowing the consequences do not involve prison sentences or college students who will rape with impunity, to raising the age of emancipation and the ability of emerging adults to contract, vote, drink, marry, and drive. Raising the age of juvenile delinquency would have a profound societal impact that is not appropriate at this time. The science, rather than providing an independent basis to reform juvenile justice, reinforces the need for juvenile justice programs for the current age range.
This article first discusses the recent developments in adolescent brain science and summarizes the most common conclusions. It then confronts what developmental neuroscience does not say and why advocates seeking to raise the age of juvenile delinquency push the science beyond its limitations to reach unsupported conclusions. Finally, this article argues that the appropriate role for adolescent science is to inform the treatment of persons between the ages of 18 and 35 years old. The science may support the need to include age as a mitigating factor at sentencing as well as increase the expungement opportunities for crimes committed by the emerging adult group. Any change beyond that is not supported by the scientific findings at this time.

Teenage Brain Development: Its Impact on Criminal Activity and Trial Sentencing

Gretchen M. Colón-Fuentes, Teenage Brain Development: Its Impact on Criminal Activity and Trial Sentencing, 88 Rev. Jur. U.P.R. 1062 (2019).


THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CHILD’S BRAIN AND HOW IT AFFECTS A TEENAGER’S reasoning skills when making tough decisions and acting upon them seems to be a gray area in the legal community. Adolescence is a transitional period during which a child is becoming an adult. While there has been some limitations and restrictions to what children and teenagers can do–such as voting, legal alcohol drinking, enrolling in the military, among other limitations–when it comes to how to prosecute and sentence a minor, there are still circumstances where the legal system could demand to treat them as fully functioning adults. Why is this worrying? Mainly because recent discoveries in neuroscience have shown that “a teenager’s brain does not resemble an adult’s *1063 fully matured brain until they reach their early [twenties].”1 Basically, an adolescent brain is different from an adult brain. What this means is that the adolescent brain is constantly developing into an adult brain, and the “risks taken and mistakes made by [teenagers] may be … outside of their control ….”2 These risks and mistakes come from impulsive actions, poorly measured decisions, and the peer pressure that teenagers suffer from; proving that at that stage the brain is still very malleable.3 Thus, teenagers and their developing brains, act according to impulses, and lack of thought for the consequences of their actions, similar to acting in the heat of the moment. These scientific discoveries have helped the psychiatric and legal community understand why teenagers have a higher risk of committing crimes such as: shoplifting, assault, and even murder.4
According to Michael N. Tennison, minors “start out with little or no capacity for responsibility and gain it gradually but globally as they mature; if they engage in serious or adult-like crime, however, then they must be capable of experiencing adult-like consequences.”5 We are living in a period of time when people who are between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four–a range where the brain is at the peak of its development–commit many crimes yet most of which are treated as adult-like crimes, with adult-like punishments. While it is true that teenagers know right from wrong, and that they should be held responsible for their behavior when they violate the law, courts should analyze adequate punishments where teenagers are able to reform and rejoin society.
New findings in the field of juvenile developmental neuroscience have contributed in recent United States Supreme Court decisions regarding serious crimes made by teenagers.6 Below, I will explain in detail, the process of teenage *1064 brain development, the different ways this influences a teenager’s decision-making and how in many occasions this leads to criminal behavior, followed by how the United States Supreme Court has applied these neurobiological discoveries.

Cruel and Unusual: The Case Against Registering Kids as Sex Offenders

Nicole I. Pittman & Riya Saha Shah, Cruel and Unusual: The Case Against Registering Kids as Sex Offenders, 32-SUM Crim Just. 32 (2017).

Abstract: America’s kids have racked up some big wins in the nation’s most august court. The victory lap began in 2005 when the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for juveniles. (Roper v. Simons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).) In 2010, the Court barred mandatory life without parole for juveniles, except those convicted of murder. (Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010).) Two years later, the Court eliminated this exclusion, reasoning that a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release violates juveniles’ constitutional protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.” (Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).)

The justices’ decisions in these and other cases were based in large part on a body of research that has established important cognitive and other differences between children and adults, especially in the areas of reasoning and impulse control. (See, e.g., Kayla Pope et al., Developmental Neuroscience and the Courts: How Science Is Influencing the Disposition of Juvenile Offenders, 51 J. AM. ACAD. CHILD & ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY 341 (2012).) These studies provide a sound empirical basis for concluding that juveniles are less blameworthy for their criminal conduct than adults, and thus less deserving of the harshest punishments.
The decisions reflect the commonsense understanding, supported by science, that children are works in progress. In the decision regarding the application of the death penalty, the majority of justices reasoned that “[t]he reality that juveniles still struggle to define their identity means it is less supportable to conclude that even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is evidence of irretrievably depraved character.” (Roper, 543 U.S. at 570.) Collectively, these rulings confirm that laws must be calibrated to the reality that children are fundamentally different from adults, not miniature versions of *33 them.
Although the country has moved forward in understanding children’s culpability when it comes to sentencing juvenile offenders, it has moved in the opposite direction in responding to children who have engaged in sexual misconduct. The federal government along with 39 states register these children as sex offenders. Lists perceived as necessary to track dangerous people who preyed on children now include more than 200,000 people whose only offense was committed when they were children, some as young as eight years old. Many of their actions constitute normative or experiential behaviors, such as “playing doctor,” streaking, sexting, and teenage romances in which one or both parties are under the legal age of consent. Serious offenses are much less common and not predictive of future behavior.

A New Era in Juvenile Sentencing: Why Montgomery, Adolescent Neuroscience, and a Shift in the National Conversation Point Toward a Need for a Measure 11 Reform

Joshua Olmsted, A New Era in Juvenile Sentencing: Why Montgomery, Adolescent Neuroscience, and a Shift in the National Conversation Point Toward a Need for Measure 11 Reform, 23 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 465 (2019).

Abstract: In 1994, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 11, a mandatory minimum sentencing scheme that imposes long inflexible sentences for a plethora of serious crimes. In addition to establishing mandatory minimum sentences, Measure 11 dramatically re-shaped the landscape of the juvenile justice system by mandating transfer to adult court for youth between 15 and 17 years old, charged with any Measure 11 offense, even if they are eventually convicted of a lesser offense. In recent years, there has been a push to rethink the way that we evaluate and treat juvenile offenders. Evolving Supreme Court jurisprudence, along with new research into adolescent neuroscience have called into question the appropriateness of treating juvenile and adult offenders equally when dealing with lengthy criminal sentences. This Note examines the history and justifications behind Measure 11’s treatment of juvenile offenders and proposes two functional and realistic reforms that would make Measure 11 a fairer sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders. Part I outlines the history of Measure 11, the reforms it laid out for Oregon’s sentencing of juvenile offenders, and the system’s shortcomings. Part II examines the evaluation of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence regarding juvenile sentencing and how Measure 11’s structure clashes with the Court’s command that “children are different.” Part III outlines recent advances in adolescent neuroscience and how they relate to juvenile criminal culpability and Oregon’s juvenile sentencing practices. Part IV offers proposed reforms and how they fit within the existing provisions of Measure 11.

Kent Revisited: Aligning Judicial Waiver Criteria with More Than Fifty Years of Social Science Research

Amanda NeMoyer, Kent Revisited: Aligning Judicial Waiver Criteria With More Than Fifty Years of Social Science Research, 42 L. Rev. 441 (2018).

Abstract: Although some form of transfer–allowing certain youths’ cases to be tried in criminal court rather than in juvenile court–has existed since the early years of separated juvenile systems, the Supreme Court did not establish mandatory procedural protections for youth facing a transfer decision until 1966. In Kent v. United States, the Court held that judicial waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction decisions is “critically important,” and, therefore, youth facing such transfer determinations must receive an adversarial hearing, effective assistance of counsel, and a statement of reasons for the judge’s final decision. The Court declined to prescribe substantive considerations for juvenile court judges to consider when making waiver decisions; however, it did include, as an appendix to the decision, a list of eight factors in use by the Juvenile Court of the District of Columbia at the time of Morris Kent’s transfer decision. In the years following the Kent decision, many states adopted some or all of these criteria, often referred to as the “Kent factors,” as part of their judicial waiver statutes. However, given Kent‘s recent 50-year anniversary, these criteria should be re-evaluated in light of more than 50 years’ worth of social science research–often cited and endorsed by the Supreme Court– examining adolescents, their capabilities as defendants in the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and their relevant differences from adults.

Is Powell Still Valid? The Supreme Court’s Changing Stance on Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Maria Slater, Note, Is Powell Still Valid? The Supreme Court’s Changing Stance on Cruel and Unusual, 104 L. Rev. 547 (2018).

Abstract: In its seminal case Robinson v. California, the Supreme Court struck down a state statute criminalizing narcotics addiction. The Court held this statute, in criminalizing the disease of drug addiction, constituted cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Six years later in Powell v. Texas, the Court declined to extend this holding to encompass alcoholism, because alcoholism involves the act of drinking rather than the status of addiction. However, the Court’s modern Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has signaled a shift in its understanding of cruel and unusual punishment. The Court has begun to take into account brain development, and its relationship to culpability, for certain classes of offenders. Neurological findings regarding the brain development involved in chronic alcoholism necessitate a similar shift in the Court’s framework for analyzing the penalization of chronic alcoholism and given the Court’s changing stance, call into question the constitutionality of Virginia’s habitual drunkard statute. Rather than viewing alcoholism under the act-versus-status dichotomy, the Court’s Eighth Amendment proportionality analysis signals a shift towards understanding addictions such as chronic alcoholism under a non-binary framework that takes into account recent scientific understandings of addiction. Much like the Court’s shift in the juvenile and intellectual disability contexts, a similar shift should occur, this Note posits, in the Court’s proportionality analysis as applied to statutes involving chronic alcoholism. This Note concludes by calling into question the continued constitutionality of Virginia’s habitual drunkard statute under the Court’s changing jurisprudence.

The Age of Culpability: Children and the Nature of Criminal Responsibility

Gideon Yaffe, The Age of Culpability: Children and the Nature of Criminal Responsibility (2018).

Abstract: Why be lenient towards children who commit crimes? Reflection on the grounds for such leniency is the entry point into the development, in this book, of a theory of the nature of criminal responsibility and desert of punishment for crime. Gideon Yaffe argues that child criminals are owed lesser punishments than adults’ thanks not to their psychological, behavioral, or neural immaturity but, instead, because they are denied the vote. This conclusion is reached through accounts of the nature of criminal culpability, desert for wrongdoing, strength of legal reasons, and what it is to have a say over the law.

The centerpiece of this discussion is the theory of criminal culpability. To be criminally culpable is for one’s criminal act to manifest a failure to grant sufficient weight to the legal reasons to refrain. The stronger the legal reasons, then, the greater the criminal culpability. Those who lack a say over the law, it is argued, have weaker legal reasons to refrain from crime than those who have a say. They are therefore reduced in criminal culpability and deserve lesser punishment for their crimes. Children are owed leniency, then, because of the political meaning of age rather than because of its psychological meaning. This position has implications for criminal justice policy, with respect to, among other things, the interrogation of children suspected of crimes and the enfranchisement of adult felons.

Competence and Culpability: Delinquents in Juvenile Courts, Youths in Criminal Courts

Barry C. Feld, Competence and Culpability: Delinquents in Juvenile Courts, Youths in Criminal Courts, 102 Minn. L. Rev 473 (2017).

Abstract: ime policy. How should the legal system respond when the kid is a criminal, and the criminal is a kid? Since juvenile courts’ creation more than a century ago, they have evolved through four periods: the Progressive Era (1899–1960s), the Due Process Era
(1960s–’70s), the “Get Tough Era” (1980s–’90s), and the contemporary Children Are Different Era (2005–Present). In each period, juvenile justice policies have reflected different views about children and crime control and appropriate ways to address youths’ misconduct. With the U.S. Supreme Court recognizing again that children are not miniature adults, we have an opportunity to enact policies for a more just and effective justice system for youth.


Neuroimaging and Neurolaw: Drawing the Future of Aging

Vincenzo Tigano, Giuseppe Cascini, Cristina Sanchez-Castañeda, Patrice Péran & Umberto Sabatini, Neuroimaging and Neurolaw: Drawing the Future of Aging, Frontiers in Endocrinology (2019).

Abstract: Human brain-aging is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon. Knowledge of the numerous aspects that revolve around it is therefore essential if not only the medical issues, but also the social, psychological, and legal issues related to this phenomenon are to be managed correctly. In the coming decades, it will be necessary to find solutions to the management of the progressive aging of the population so as to increase the number of individuals that achieve successful aging. The aim of this article is to provide a current overview of the physiopathology of brain aging and of the role and perspectives of neuroimaging in this context. The progressive development of neuroimaging has opened new perspectives in clinical and basic research, and it has modified the concept of brain aging. Neuroimaging will play an increasingly important role in the definition of the individual’s brain aging in every phase of the physiological and pathological process. However, when the process involved in age-related brain cognitive diseases is being investigated, factors that might affect this process on a clinical and behavioral level (genetic susceptibility, risks factors, endocrine changes) cannot be ignored but must, on the contrary, be integrated into a neuroimaging evaluation to ensure a correct and global management, and they are therefore discussed in this article. Neuroimaging appears important to the correct management of age-related brain cognitive diseases not only within a medical perspective, but also legal, according to a wider approach based on development of relationship between neuroscience and law. The term neurolaw, the neologism born from the relationship between these two disciplines, is an emerging field of study, that deals with various issues in the impact of neurosciences on individual rights. Neuroimaging, enhancing the detection of physiological and pathological brain aging, could give an important contribution to the field of neurolaw in elderly where the full control of cognitive and volitional functions is necessary to maintain a whole series of rights linked to legal capacity. For this reason, in order to provide the clinician and researcher with a broad view of the brain-aging process, the role of neurolaw will be introduced into the brain-aging context.

Class in the Classroom: Poverty, Policies, and Practices Impeding Education

Christine Chambers Goodman, Class in the Classroom: Poverty, Policies, and Practices Impeding Education, 27 J. Gender, Soc. Pol’y & L. 95 (2019).

Abstract: Part I of this Article begins with social science evidence to justify the combination approach of “equally adequate” education. It describes the data on the impact of SES on brain development. Part I also addresses the impacts of one’s physical environment, including the levels of poverty, crime, educational opportunity, housing, upward mobility, and stress in neighborhoods on educational outcomes. It then considers some potential counterarguments and poses questions that can guide social scientists in further research. Part II describes the constitutional protections for education and the state court litigation around those issues, concurring with the conclusion of others who believe that the key point of the constitutional right is to provide an education sufficient to participate in democratic processes of the nation. This section addresses the constitutional arguments around education and adequacy versus equality, recent cases putting forth these arguments, and their status. Part III briefly addresses the federal legislation, namely the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which has subsequently been revised and renamed as the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA). To the extent data is available, this Article will examine how ESSA is working (relative to NCLB), as well as whether it is making progress for students in states who promote either equal or adequate education. Thus far, there is little data about application because the states only recently submitted their plans, and so this part focuses on the ESSA’s goals and shortfalls, and then looks at the plans put into place by several states. Part III will then highlight the adequacy and equality litigation currently and recently pending in selected states. The Article concludes with several proposals for future consideration by courts, policymakers, and legislatures.

Reckless Juveniles

Kimberly Thomas, Reckless Juveniles, 52 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1665 (2019).

Abstract: Modern doctrine and scholarship largely take it for granted that offenders should be criminally punished for reckless acts.1 Yet, developments in our understanding of human behavior can shed light on how we define and attribute criminal liability, or at least force us to grapple with the categories that have existed for so long.

This Article examines recklessness and related doctrines in light of the shifts in understanding of adolescent behavior and its biological roots, to see what insights we might attain, or what challenges these understandings pose to this foundational mens rea doctrine. Over the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that youth are categorically different for purposes of criminal sentencing, and that these categorical differences in maturity, ability to make reasoned decisions, resist outside pressure and influences and the like lead to objective lines being drawn between youth and adults. The Court’s distinctions have drawn on a significant body of research literature, including brain imaging scans that help us understand the maturation of the human brain over the course of adolescence.

This Article posits that these developments, when mapped onto existing criminal law, call into question holding youth responsible for offenses that require actual foresight of the consequences of their risky behavior. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent analyses of the categorical differences between youth and adults in the criminal realm,2 as well as the science and social science research underlying *1668 these differences, wears away– for this category of individuals–the basis for holding youth in juvenile or adult court accountable for crimes of “foresight” and express disregard for risk.

Adolescents’ Cognitive Capacity Reaches Adult Levels Prior to Their Psychosocial Maturity: Evidence for a “Maturity Gap” in a Multinational, Cross-Sectional Sample

Grace Icenogle, Laurence Steinberg, Natasha Duell, Jason Chein, Lei Chang, Nandita Chaudhary, Laura Di Giunta, Kenneth A. Dodge, Kostas A. Fanti, Jennifer E. Lansford, Paul Oburu, Concetta Pastorelli, Ann T. Skinner, Emma Sorbring, Sombat Tapanya, Liliana M. Uribe Tirado, Liane P. Alampay, Suha M. Al-Hassan, Hanan M.S. Takash & Dario Bacchini, Adolescents’ Cognitive Capacity Reaches Adult Levels Prior to their Psychosocial Maturity: Evidence for a “maturity gap” in a Multinational, Cross-Sectional Sample, 43(1) L. & Hum. Behav. (2019).

Abstract: All countries distinguish between minors and adults for various legal purposes. Recent U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning the legal status of juveniles have consulted psychological science to decide where to draw these boundaries. However, little is known about the robustness of the relevant research, because it has been conducted largely in the U.S. and other Western countries. To the extent that lawmakers look to research to guide their decisions, it is important to know how generalizable the scientific conclusions are. The present study examines 2 psychological phenomena relevant to legal questions about adolescent maturity: cognitive capacity, which undergirds logical thinking, and psychosocial maturity, which comprises individuals’ ability to restrain themselves in the face of emotional, exciting, or risky stimuli. Age patterns of these constructs were assessed in 5,227 individuals (50.7% female), ages 10-30 (M = 17.05, SD = 5.91) from 11 countries. Importantly, whereas cognitive capacity reached adult levels around age 16, psychosocial maturity reached adult levels beyond age 18, creating a “maturity gap” between cognitive and psychosocial development. Juveniles may be capable of deliberative decision making by age 16, but even young adults may demonstrate “immature” decision making in arousing situations. We argue it is therefore reasonable to have different age boundaries for different legal purposes: 1 for matters in which cognitive capacity predominates, and a later 1 for matters in which psychosocial maturity plays a substantial role. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

The Developing Brain: New Directions in Science, Policy, and Law

Susan Frelich Appleton, Deanna M. Barch & Anneliese M. Schaefer, The Developing Brain: New Directions in Science, Policy, and Law, 57 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 1 (2018).

Abstract: Scientific findings on brain development increasingly are influencing how we understand children’s social and emotional development and how we interpret their behavior. Such understandings and interpretations, in turn, can shape public policy and legal precedent. For example, brain imaging has complemented behavioral studies on cognitive development, with functional and structural imaging showing protracted maturation of the prefrontal cortex, a region that strongly contributes to higher order.
cognitive processing, often called “executive function.” Findings on this delayed maturation provided the basis for three separate rulings by the United States Supreme Court, setting aside certain sentences for criminal offenses committed by juveniles as “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. In each of these cases, a majority of the Justices determined that juvenile offenders must be treated differently from adults with respect to criminal sentencing for two reasons. First, based on the immature status of their brains, juveniles deserve more lenient sanctions than adult offenders. Second, time itself will allow adolescent brains to mature, reducing the need for punitive interventions to accomplish rehabilitation and reform.

The Ingredients of Health Brain and Child Development

Pat Levitt & Kathie L. Eagleson, The Ingredients of Healthy Brain and Child Development, 57 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 75 (2018).

Abstract: This review explains why “early” matters when it comes to brain and child development. Early is a critical concept that I and others have presented to policy makers and business leaders throughout the country. Early typically includes the prenatal and the first three years after birth. Here we focus on the early postnatal period. In addition, the adolescent period represents a distinct epoch of developmental changes. Positive development of children provides a strong foundation for healthy and competent adulthood, responsible citizenship, economic productivity, strong communities, and a just and fair society. Below, we discuss the foundational principles of brain development that underlie why this is the case.

Addressing the Psychosocial Risk Factors Affecting the Developing Brain of the High-Risk Infant

Cynthia Rogers, Addressing the Psychosocial Risk Factors Affecting the Developing Brain of the High-Risk Infant, 57 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 117 (2018).

Abstract: The psychological and socio-demographic characteristics of the caregiver, commonly referred to as psychosocial factors, are highly critical in shaping an infant’s brain development as they often influence the caregiver’s emotional state, stress responses, and overall mental health. Poverty is one of the most potent of these psychosocial factors. Poverty is associated with myriad other deleterious exposures and behaviors known to affect caregiver-infant interactions such as parental stress, psychiatric *118 illnesses, and substance abuse. These psychosocial stressors are experienced during both the prenatal and postnatal period and are often interconnected. When these stressors are experienced during pregnancy, they work together to impact the development of the fetal brain. After birth, the neonatal brain continues to mature and is further impacted by the postnatal environment, which often includes continued exposure to a caregiver with these same psychosocial risks. The goal of this Article is to examine how exposure to these prenatal and postnatal stressors can lead to impaired development in children and how changes in our support of young infants and their caregivers during this period could help mitigate the risk of these adverse outcomes.

Brain Development, Social Context, and Justice Policy

Elizabeth Scott, Natasha Duell & Laurence Steinberg, Brain Development, Social Context, and Justice Policy, 57 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 13 (2018).

Abstract: Justice policy reform in the past decade has been driven by research evidence indicating that brain development is ongoing through adolescence, and that neurological and psychological immaturity likely contributes in important ways to teenagers’ involvement in crime. But despite the power of this trend, skeptics point out that many (perhaps most) adolescents do not engage in serious criminal activity; on this basis, critics argue that normative biological and psychological factors associated with adolescence are unlikely to play the important role in juvenile offending that is posited by supporters of the reform trend. This Article explains that features associated with biological and psychological immaturity alone do not lead teenagers to engage in illegal conduct. Instead, the decision to offend, like much risk-taking behavior in adolescence, is the product of dynamic interaction between the still-maturing individual and her social context. The Article probes the mechanisms through which particular tendencies and traits linked to adolescent brain development interact with environmental influences to encourage antisocial or prosocial behavior.

Brain development in adolescence is associated with reward-seeking behavior and limited future orientation. Further, as compared to adults, adolescents are particularly sensitive to external social stimuli, easily aroused emotionally, and less able to regulate strong emotions. The Article shows how these tendencies may be manifested in different teenagers in different ways, depending on many factors in the social context. By analyzing this dynamic relationship, the Article clarifies how social environment influences adolescent choices in ways that incline or deter involvement in crime and other risky behavior. Thus, a teenager who lives in a high-crime neighborhood with many antisocial peers is more likely to *14 get involved in criminal activity than one in a neighborhood with few such peers, even though the two may not differ in their propensities for risk-taking.
A Role of Early Life Stress on Subsequent Brain and Behavioral Development

Damien A. Fair, Alice M. Graham & Brian Mills, A Role of Early Life Stress on Subsequent Brain and Behavioral Development, 57 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 89 (2018).

Abstract: The prevalence of pediatric neuropsychiatric disorders has risen dramatically during the past two decades. A study surveying the years 1997-2008 verified that one in six children have a developmental disability–a number on the rise. Along similar lines, studies show higher incidents of criminal activity, substance use disorders, and the emergence of psychopathologies in early adolescence and young adulthood, which are particularly sensitive periods of brain and behavioral maturation. While developmental trajectories that may lead to adverse outcomes in youth are the result of a mix of genetics and environmental exposure, it is becoming clearer that they do not start at the time of the diagnosis or problem behaviors; rather, these developmental trajectories start at the earliest periods of life. The ability of children to achieve their full physical, academic, and social potential is tightly related to early life events, some of which may occur even before birth. The science is now amassed with investigators and research targeting the role of Early Life Stress and its interaction with biological systems in impacting the development of the brain and complex behaviors across all stages development.

Punishing Kids in Juvenile and Criminal Courts

Barry C. Feld, Punishing Kids in Juvenile and Criminal Courts, Crime & Just. (Forthcoming 2018).

Abstract: During the 1980s and 1990s, state lawmakers shifted juvenile justice policies from a nominally offender-oriented rehabilitative approach toward a more punitive and criminalized one. Pretrial detention and delinquency dispositions had disproportionate adverse effects on minority youths. Despite juvenile courts’ convergence with criminal courts, states provided fewer and less adequate procedural safeguards to delinquents than to adults. Developmental psychologists and policy analysts contend that adolescents’ compromised ability to exercise rights requires greater procedural safeguards. States’ transfer laws sent more and younger youths to criminal courts for prosecution as adults, emphasized offense seriousness over offender characteristics, and shifted discretion from judges conducting waiver hearings to prosecutors making charging decisions. Judges in criminal courts sentence youths similarly to adult offenders. The Supreme Court, relying on developmental psychology and neuroscience research, in Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama, emphasized adolescents’ diminished responsibility and limited the harshest sentences. However, the court provided states limited guidance on how to implement its decisions. Judicial and legislative responses inadequately acknowledge that “children are different.”

How Developmental Science Influences Juvenile Justice Reform

Elizabeth Cauffman, Adam Fine, Alisa Mahler, & Cortney Simmons, How Developmental Science Influences Juvenile Justice Reform, 8 UC Irvine L. Rev. 21 (2018).

Excerpt: Youth who commit crimes challenge society to think deeply about the nature of both adolescent development and justice. On the one hand, behavioral and neurological evidence show that youth are still developing their ability to regulate their behavior, to consider the consequences of their actions, and to resist peer pressure. From this developmental perspective, it is unsurprising that adolescence is a time of heightened risk taking and that the vast majority of youth simply age–or more precisely, psychosocially mature– out of these types of behaviors. On the other hand, a central tenant of our justice system is the belief that individuals who break the law deserve to be punished. To put it simply, if you did the crime, you should do the time. The question thus becomes, what should we do with adolescents who commit crimes? Are adolescents different from adults in ways that require different treatment under the law? If so, what developmental factors should be considered?

Invisible Stripes: The Problem of Youth Criminal Records

Judith G. McMullen, Invisible Stripes: The Problem of Youth Criminal Records, 27 S. Cal. Rev. L. & Soc. Just. 1(2018).

Abstract: It is common knowledge that persons with criminal records will have a more difficult path to obtaining legitimate employment. Similarly, conventional wisdom acknowledges the unfortunate fact that young people, on average, are more prone to engage in risky, impulsive, and other ill-advised behavior that might result in brushes with law enforcement. This article addresses the difficult situation faced by people who obtained a disabling criminal record before reaching the age of twenty-one. Not only do such individuals face stigma and possible discrimination from potential employers, the efforts of today’s young people to “go straight” are hampered by nearly unlimited online access to records of even the briefest of encounters with law enforcement, even if those encounters did not result in conviction. This article examines the broad scope and troubling effects of the intersection between policies attempting to “reform” youthful offenders, and policies giving any curious citizen access to records about a person’s youthful indiscretions, no matter how minor. The article concludes that current practices are inconsistent with 1) what we know about the development of young people; 2) developing U.S. Supreme Court jurisdiction; and 3) the social goal of rehabilitating youthful offenders. I conclude by suggesting more restricted access to and use of information about contact between young people and the criminal justice system.

Raise the Age Legislation: Developmentally Tailored Justice

Stephanie Tabashneck, “Raise the Age” Legislation: Developmentally Tailored Justice, 32 Just. 13 (2018).

Excerpt: This article will explore developmentally tailored justice and raise the age legislative initiatives. The article will begin with a brief overview of juvenile crime and a discussion of the implications of placing youth in adult criminal justice systems. Next, a review of scholarly advances in adolescent brain development and relevant Supreme Court decisions will be discussed. Lastly, raise the age legislative successes in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, and North Carolina will be explored, followed by legislative “flops” in Texas, Michigan, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Adolescent Brain Science and Juvenile Justice Policymaking

Steinberg, L. (2017). Adolescent brain science and juvenile justice policymaking. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 23(4), 410-420. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/law0000128.

Abstract: The American legal system’s thinking about the criminal culpability of juveniles has been radically transformed over the past 12 years, largely as a result of the introduction of developmental science into the United States Supreme Court’s deliberations about the appropriate sentencing of adolescents who have been convicted of the most serious crimes. The author examines the role that developmental science, and, especially, developmental neuroscience, has played in this policy transformation. After a brief overview of the Court’s rulings in 4 landmark cases decided between 2005 and 2016, he summarizes the relevant psychological and neurobiological evidence that likely guided the Court’s rulings. The author concludes with suggestions for future research and policy analysis, including (a) the study of developmental differences between adolescents and adults that have implications for their differential treatment under criminal law, with a particular focus on the neural underpinnings of these differences; (b) the study of the impact of variations in juvenile justice policy and practice on outcomes other than recidivism; and (c) the study of the financial costs and benefits of juvenile justice policy alternatives.

The Problem with Inference for Juvenile Defendant

Carroll, Jenny E., The Problem with Inference for Juvenile Defendants (April 21, 2017). Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, Forthcoming.

Abstract: Much of criminal law relies on proof by inference. In criminal law, fact finders untangle not only what happened, but why it happened. It is answering the “why” question that places an act and its result on the legal spectrum of liability. To reach that answer, the fact finder must engage in an interpretive act, considering not only what can be seen or heard, but the significance of that testimony or physical evidence in real world contexts – the world in which they occurred but also the fact finder’s own world.

Recent developments in neuroscience suggest that in the context of juvenile defendants, this moment of interpretation is fraught with particular risks. The emergence of fMRI technology has provided significant insights into adolescent brain development and its effect on adolescent thought processes. As a result, scientists (and courts) recognize that adolescent actors are more likely to engage in risky behavior, fail to properly comprehend long term consequences and over value reward. In short, science has proven what most long suspected: kids think and react differently than do adults.

Although criminal law has long accounted for this difference procedurally – most evidently in the creation of an independent juvenile justice system – there has been little exploration of its significance in the realm of substantive criminal law. This Article argues that what is known of adolescent brain development suggests that adult fact finders are poorly positioned to accurately assess a juvenile defendant’s state of mind, because adults lack the perspective of those whose actions and words they seek to interpret – juvenile defendants. Rather than asking fact finders to perform the impossible task of placing themselves in the adolescent’s mind, substantive criminal law should instead acknowledge the difference in perspective and permit evidentiary presentation and jury instructions akin to defenses that rely on the defendant’s actual, as opposed to imagined, perspective.

Child Abuse – Nonaccidental Injury (NAI) and Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) – Medical Imaging: Issues and Controversies in the Era of Evidence-Based Medicine

Barnes, Patrick, Child Abuse – Nonaccidental Injury (NAI) and Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) – Medical Imaging: Issues and Controversies in the Era of Evidence-Based Medicine, 50 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 679 (2017).

Abstract: A look at nonaccidental injury and abusive head trauma in children with a focus on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Gender Differences in the Developmental Cascade from Harsh Parenting to Educational Attainment: An Evolutionary Perspective by Rochelle F. Hentges and Ming-Te Wang, Child Development (2017)

AbstractThis study utilized life history theory to test a developmental cascade model linking harsh parenting to low educational attainment. Multigroup models were examined to test for potential gender differences. The sample consisted of 1,482 adolescents followed up for 9 years starting in seventh grade (Mage = 12.74). Results supported indirect links between harsh parenting and low educational attainment through the development of extreme peer orientations, early sexual behavior, and delinquency. Among male adolescents, harsh parenting was related to the development of an extreme peer orientation, which further led to increased delinquency, and subsequently lower educational attainment. Among female adolescents, harsh parenting predicted extreme peer orientations, which increased both delinquency and early sexual behavior. Early sexual behavior further predicted lower educational attainment in female adolescents. Read the full article.

Prospects for Developmental Evidence in Juvenile Sentencing Based on Miller v. Alabama

Grisso, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Antoinette, Prospects for Developmental Evidence in Juvenile Sentencing Based on Miller v. Alabama, 22 Psychol., Pub. Pol’y, & L. 235 (2016).

Abstract: Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions barred mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide (Miller v. Alabama, 2012) and applied Miller retroactively (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 2016). Miller identified several developmental factors to consider in mitigation, but left many questions unanswered about their application. The authors offer several sentencing contexts to frame the types of developmental and clinical evidence that may be relevant for Miller hearings under various circumstances. Within these contexts, they explore types and sources of relevant developmental evidence and raise questions about quality and limitations. Their analysis identifies areas in which appellate court clarification is needed to determine how developmental evidence will be used in Miller  cases, and they alert developmental experts to prospects and cautions for providing relevant evidence, as well as areas in need of research.

Searching for Signatures of Brain Maturity: What Are We Searching For? by Leah H. Somerville, Neuroview (2016)

Abstract: Evidence of continued neurobiological maturation through adolescence is increasingly invoked in discussions of youth-focused policies. This should motivate neuroscientists to grapple with core issues such as the definition of brain maturation, how to quantify it, and how to precisely translate this knowledge to broader audiences. Read the article.

Applying the Science of Child Development in Child Welfare Systems by Steven D. Cohen, The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016)

Abstract: How can we use insights from cutting-edge science to improve the well-being and long-term life prospects of the most vulnerable children in our society? This is both a critical challenge and a powerful opportunity to affect the trajectories of millions of children in the United States and around the world. It is a question of particular importance to those who make or affect public policy. This paper shows how the science of child development can be leveraged to strengthen and improve the public child welfare system so that it can better support the children, families, and communities it serves.

The paper is intended for leaders in the public agencies responsible for child protection and related functions; in the private, non-profit agencies that provide many of the services in these systems; in the courts, which play a critical role in child welfare; in legislative committees that oversee child welfare and related services; and in the many other public systems, such as early childhood education, mental health, and juvenile justice, whose support is essential to success in child welfare. Read the full paper.

The Enduring Predictive Significance of Early Maternal Sensitivity: Social and Academic Competence Through Age 32 Years by K. Lee Raby, Glenn I. Roisman, R. Chris Fraley, and Jeffry A. Simpson, Child Development (2015)

Abstract: This study leveraged data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (N = 243) to investigate the predictive significance of maternal sensitivity during the first three years of life for social and academic competence through age 32 years. Structural model comparisons replicated previous findings that early maternal sensitivity predicts social skills and academic achievement through mid-adolescence in a manner consistent with an Enduring Effects model of development and extended these findings using heterotypic indicators of social (effectiveness of romantic engagement) and academic competence (educational attainment) during adulthood. Although early socioeconomic factors and child gender accounted for the predictive significance of maternal sensitivity for social competence, covariates did not fully account for associations between early sensitivity and academic outcomes. Read the full article.

Abnormal Amygdala Resting-State Functional Connectivity in Adolescent Depression by Kathryn R. Cullen, Melinda K. Westlund, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, Bryon A. Mueller, Alaa Houri, Lynn E. Eberly, and Kelvin O. Lim, JAMA Psychiatry (2014)

Importance: Major depressive disorder (MDD) frequently emerges during adolescence and can lead to persistent illness, disability, and suicide. The maturational changes that take place in the brain during adolescence underscore the importance of examining neurobiological mechanisms during this time of early illness. However, neural mechanisms of depression in adolescents have been understudied. Research has implicated the amygdala in emotion processing in mood disorders, and adult depression studies have suggested amygdala-frontal connectivity deficits. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging is an advanced tool that can be used to probe neural networks and identify brain-behavior relationships.

Objective: To examine amygdala resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) in adolescents with and without MDD using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging as well as how amygdala RSFC relates to a broad range of symptom dimensions.

Design, Setting, and Participants: A cross-sectional resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging study was conducted within a depression research program at an academic medical center. Participants included 41 adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 19 years with MDD and 29 healthy adolescents (frequency matched on age and sex) with no psychiatric diagnoses.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Using a whole-brain functional connectivity approach, we examined the correlation of spontaneous fluctuation of the blood oxygen level–dependent signal of each voxel in the whole brain with that of the amygdala.

Results: Adolescents with MDD showed lower positive RSFC between the amygdala and hippocampus, parahippocampus, and brainstem (z >2.3, corrected P < .05); this connectivity was inversely correlated with general depression (R = −.523, P = .01), dysphoria (R = −.455, P = .05), and lassitude (R = −.449, P = .05) and was positively correlated with well-being (R = .470, P = .03). Patients also demonstrated greater (positive) amygdala-precuneus RSFC (z >2.3, corrected P < .05) in contrast to negative amygdala-precuneus RSFC in the adolescents serving as controls.

Conclusions and Relevance: Impaired amygdala-hippocampal/brainstem and amygdala-precuneus RSFC have not previously been highlighted in depression and may be unique to adolescent MDD. These circuits are important for different aspects of memory and self-processing and for modulation of physiologic responses to emotion. The findings suggest potential mechanisms underlying both mood and vegetative symptoms, potentially via impaired processing of memories and visceral signals that spontaneously arise during rest, contributing to the persistent symptoms experienced by adolescents with depression. Read the full article.

Interaction of the ADRB2 Gene Polymorphism With Childhood Trauma in Predicting Adult Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Israel Liberzon, Anthony P. King, Kerry J. Ressler, Lynn M. Almli, Peng Zhang, Sean T. Ma, Gregory H. Cohen, Marijo B. Tamburrino, Joseph R. Calabrese, Sandro Galea, JAMA Psychiatry (2014)

Importance: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while highly prevalent (7.6% over a lifetime), develops only in a subset of trauma-exposed individuals. Genetic risk factors in interaction with trauma exposure have been implicated in PTSD vulnerability.

Objective: To examine the association of 3755 candidate gene single-nucleotide polymorphisms with PTSD development in interaction with a history of childhood trauma.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Genetic association study in an Ohio National Guard longitudinal cohort (n = 810) of predominantly male soldiers of European ancestry, with replication in an independent Grady Trauma Project (Atlanta, Georgia) cohort (n = 2083) of predominantly female African American civilians.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Continuous measures of PTSD severity, with a modified (interview) PTSD checklist in the discovery cohort and the PTSD Symptom Scale in the replication cohort.

Results: Controlling for the level of lifetime adult trauma exposure, we identified the novel association of a single-nucleotide polymorphism within the promoter region of the ADRB2 (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man 109690) gene with PTSD symptoms in interaction with childhood trauma (rs2400707, P = 1.02 × 10−5, significant after correction for multiple comparisons). The rs2400707 A allele was associated with relative resilience to childhood adversity. An rs2400707 × childhood trauma interaction predicting adult PTSD symptoms was replicated in the independent predominantly female African American cohort.

Conclusions and Relevance: Altered adrenergic and noradrenergic function has been long believed to have a key etiologic role in PTSD development; however, direct evidence of this link has been missing. The rs2400707 polymorphism has been linked to function of the adrenergic system, but, to our knowledge, this is the first study to date linking the ADRB2 gene to PTSD or any psychiatric disorders. These findings have important implications for PTSD etiology, chronic pain, and stress-related comorbidity, as well as for both primary prevention and treatment strategies. Read the full article.

Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Impaired Decision Making in Juvenile Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by Tobias U. Hauser, Reto Iannaccone, Juliane Ball, Christoph Mathys, Daniel Brandeis, Susanne Walitza, MD; Silvia Brem, JAMA Psychiatry (2014)

Importance: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been associated with deficient decision making and learning. Models of ADHD have suggested that these deficits could be caused by impaired reward prediction errors (RPEs). Reward prediction errors are signals that indicate violations of expectations and are known to be encoded by the dopaminergic system. However, the precise learning and decision-making deficits and their neurobiological correlates in ADHD are not well known.

Objective: To determine the impaired decision-making and learning mechanisms in juvenile ADHD using advanced computational models, as well as the related neural RPE processes using multimodal neuroimaging.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Twenty adolescents with ADHD and 20 healthy adolescents serving as controls (aged 12-16 years) were examined using a probabilistic reversal learning task while simultaneous functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalogram were recorded.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Learning and decision making were investigated by contrasting a hierarchical Bayesian model with an advanced reinforcement learning model and by comparing the model parameters. The neural correlates of RPEs were studied in functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalogram.

Results: Adolescents with ADHD showed more simplistic learning as reflected by the reinforcement learning model (exceedance probability, Px = .92) and had increased exploratory behavior compared with healthy controls (mean [SD] decision steepness parameter β: ADHD, 4.83 [2.97]; controls, 6.04 [2.53]; P = .02). The functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis revealed impaired RPE processing in the medial prefrontal cortex during cue as well as during outcome presentation (P < .05, family-wise error correction). The outcome-related impairment in the medial prefrontal cortex could be attributed to deficient processing at 200 to 400 milliseconds after feedback presentation as reflected by reduced feedback-related negativity (ADHD, 0.61 [3.90] μV; controls, −1.68 [2.52] μV; P = .04).

Conclusions and Relevance: The combination of computational modeling of behavior and multimodal neuroimaging revealed that impaired decision making and learning mechanisms in adolescents with ADHD are driven by impaired RPE processing in the medial prefrontal cortex. This novel, combined approach furthers the understanding of the path mechanisms in ADHD and may advance treatment strategies. Read the full article.

The True Legacy of Atkins and Roper: The Unreliability Principle, Mentally Ill Defendants, and the Death Penalty’s Unraveling by Scott E. Sundby, University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-5 (2014)

In striking down the death penalty for intellectually disabled and juvenile defendants, Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons have been understandably heralded as important holdings under the Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence that has found the death penalty “disproportional” for certain types of defendants and crimes. This Article argues, however, that the cases have a far more revolutionary reach than their conventional understanding. In both cases the Court went one step beyond its usual two-step analysis of assessing whether imposing the death penalty violated “evolving standards of decency.” This extra step looked at why even though intellectual disability and youth were powerful mitigators, juries were not able to reliably use them in their decision making. The Court thus articulated expressly for the first time what this Article calls the “unreliability principle:” if too great a risk exists that constitutionally protected mitigation cannot be reliably assessed, the unreliability means that the death penalty cannot be constitutionally imposed. In recognizing the unreliability principle, the Court has called into serious question the death penalty for other offenders to whom the principle applies, such as mentally ill defendants. And, unlike with the “evolving standards” analysis, the unreliability principle does not depend on whether a national consensus exists against the practice. This Article identifies the six AtkinsRoper factors that bring the unreliability principle into play and shows why they make application of the death penalty to mentally ill defendants unconstitutional. The principle, which finds its constitutional home in the cases of Woodson v. North Carolina and Lockett v. Ohio, has profound implications for the death penalty, and if taken to its logical endpoint calls into question the Court’s core premise since Furman v. Georgia, that by providing individualized consideration of a defendant and his crime, the death penalty decision will be free of arbitrariness. Read the full paper.

Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2014)

Abstract: An “environment of relationships” is crucial for the development of a child’s brain architecture, which lays the foundation for later outcomes such as academic performance, mental health, and interpersonal skills. However, many of our nation’s policies fail to consider the importance of adult-child relationships for child well-being. This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains how these relationships shape child development, and identifies ways to strengthen policies that affect those relationships in the early childhood years. Read the full paper.

The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2012)

Abstract: Young children who experience severe deprivation or neglect can experience a range of negative consequences. Neglect can delay brain development, impair executive function skills, and disrupt the body’s stress response. This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child explains why neglect is so harmful in the earliest years of life, and why effective interventions can improve long-term outcomes in learning, health, and the parenting of the next generation. Read the full paper.

“‘I Ain’t Takin’ No Plea’: The Challenges in Counseling Young People Facing Serious Time” by Abbe Smith, Rutgers Law Review (2007)

Abstract: Criminal defendants daily entrust their liberty to the skill of their lawyers. The consequences of the lawyer’s decisions fall squarely upon the defendant. There is nothing untoward in this circumstance. To the contrary, the lawyer as the defendant’s representative is at the core of our adversary process. As practicing lawyers know, interviewing and counseling are at the heart of legal representation. This is what lawyers do, even trial lawyers: we talk with and advise clients. As criminal lawyers know, the decision whether to go to trial is “the most important single decision” a client faces, and requires wise counsel. When the decision is a close call—there is no great cost to going to trial, no clear benefit to accepting a plea, and no serious downside either way—it is easy to accede to a client’s wishes. But when there is no question that going to trial will be ruinous, and the client does not understand this, it is incumbent upon the lawyer to get through to the client. This is especially true when the client is developmentally immature and emotionally traumatized. Read the full article.

“Developmental Incompetence, Due Process, and Juvenile Justice Policy” by  Elizabeth S. Scott and Thomas Grisso, North Carolina Law Review (2005)

In this article, the authors discuss the legal, constitutional, and institutional challenges of developmental incompetence of juvenile offenders, especially in relation to the Due Process Clause. Read the full article.

Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004)

Abstract: This working paper from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child defines the concept of “toxic stress”—what happens when children experience severe, prolonged adversity without adult support. It discusses how significant adversity early in life can alter a child’s capacity to learn and adapt to stressful situations, as well as how sensitive and responsive caregiving can buffer the effects of such stress. The paper also suggests how to create policies that minimize the disruptive impacts of toxic stress on young children. Read the full paper.

“Brain Development During Childhood and Adolescence: A Longitudinal MRI Study” by Jay N. Giedd, Jonathan Blumenthal, Neal O. Jeffries, F. X. Castellanos, Hong Liu, Alex Zijdenbos, Tomás Paus, Alan C. Evans, and Judith L. Rapoport, Nature Neuroscience (1999)

Abstract: Pediatric neuroimaging studies up to now exclusively cross sectional, identify linear decreases in cortical gray matter and increases in white matter across ages 4 to 20. In this large-scale longitudinal pediatric neuroimaging study, we confirmed linear increases in white matter, but demonstrated nonlinear changes in cortical gray matter, with a preadolescent increase followed by a post adolescent decrease. These changes in cortical gray matter were regionally specific, with developmental curves for the frontal and parietal lobe peaking at about age 12 and for the temporal lobe at about age 16, whereas cortical gray matter continued to increase in the occipital lobe through age 20. Download the full article.

“Piecing Together Mother’s Stress and Baby’s Genetics to Understand Brain Development” by Jim Hudziak, The American Journal of Psychiatry (2015)

This article analyzes how the circumstances of pregnancy, especially stress levels for the mother, interacts with offspring genomic architecture to influence brain development. Read the full article.

The Juvenile Record Myth

Joy Radice, The Juvenile Record Myth, 106 L.J. 365 (2018).

Abstract: The proliferation of adult criminal records and their harmful impact on people with convictions has received growing attention from scholars, the media, and legislators from both sides of the political aisle. Much less attention has been given to the far-reaching impact of juvenile delinquency records, partly because many people believe that juvenile records are not public, especially after a juvenile turns eighteen. That common notion is a myth.

This Article addresses that myth and adds to both the juvenile justice and collateral consequences literature in four ways. First, The Juvenile Record Myth illuminates the variety of ways states treat juvenile records–revealing that state confidentiality, sealing, and expungement provisions often provide far less protection than those terms suggest. Although juvenile delinquency records are not as publicly accessible as adult records, their impact is felt well beyond a juvenile’s eighteenth birthday. No state completely seals juvenile delinquency records from public view or expunges them. Some states even publish juvenile records online, and almost all permit some degree of public access.

Second, this Article provides the first comprehensive analysis of the crucial role of nondisclosure provisions in eliminating the stigma of a juvenile record. Now that colleges, employers, state licensing agencies, and even landlords are increasingly asking about juvenile delinquency charges and adjudications, the confidentiality, sealing, and expungement protections that do exist will be significantly undermined unless states allow juveniles with records not to disclose them. Third, using recent literature on juvenile brain development and the recidivism research of criminologists, The Juvenile Record Myth presents new arguments for why juvenile delinquency records should not follow a juvenile into adulthood–and why the state’s obligation to help rehabilitate juveniles (an obligation typically recognized in a state’s juvenile code) should extend to restricting access to juvenile records. Finally, it argues for a comprehensive and uniform approach to removing the stigma of a juvenile record through a combination of robust confidentiality, expungement, sealing, and nondisclosure statutes to facilitate a juvenile’s reintegration.


How Courts in Criminal Cases Respond to Childhood Trauma

Deborah W. Denno, How Courts in Criminal Cases Respond to Childhood Trauma, 103 Marquette L. Rev. 301 (2019).

Abstract: Neurobiological and epidemiological research suggests that abuse and
adverse events experienced as a child can increase an adult’s risk of brain dysfunction associated with disorders related to criminality and violence. Much of this research is predictive, based on psychological evaluations of children; few studies have focused on whether or how criminal proceedings against adult defendants consider indicators of childhood trauma. This Article analyzes a subset of criminal cases pulled from an 800-case database created as part of an original, large-scale, empirical research project known as the Neuroscience Study. The 266 relevant cases are assessed to determine the extent to which, and the methods whereby, criminal courts weigh and respond to childhood trauma evidence. This Article first creates a systematic and detailed definition of what constitutes childhood trauma evidence based on 20 factors, including physical and verbal abuse, dysfunctional upbringing, brain damage or injury, and neglect and abandonment. These factors are then examined in the context of the often life-long conditions caused by or related to such trauma, ranging from mental illness and neurological disorders to poor intellectual functioning and behavioral problems. A review of courts’ responses indicates that childhood trauma evidence is primarily used for mitigation and can play a significant and persuasive role in claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, especially in death penalty cases. At the same time, findings suggest that courts may offer attorneys a troubling degree of deference by accepting their claims of “strategic” yet empirically unfounded decisions to omit childhood trauma evidence in certain circumstances. This Article provides real-world guidance for attorneys seeking to incorporate childhood trauma evidence into their arguments, emphasizing the value of drawing a distinct nexus between defendants’ childhood traumas and their adult criminal behavior. Attorneys who understand the long-term effects of childhood trauma will be better equipped to make such connections and effectively present this evidence in court.

Childhood Trauma’s Lurking Presence in the Juvenile Interrogation Room and the Need for a Trauma-Informed Voluntariness Test for Juvenile Confessions

Crane, Megan Glynn. Childhood Trauma’s Lurking Presence in the Juvenile Interrogation Room and the Need for a Trauma-Informed Voluntariness Test for Juvenile ConfessionsSouth Dakota Law Review.

Abstract: Childhood trauma is increasingly recognized as an all-too-common part of the childhood experience in our country. (1) Recent scholarship has highlighted this tragic reality and begun the work of identifying the myriad ways that childhood trauma is relevant to youths’ interactions with our criminal justice systems. On a parallel track, burgeoning social science and neuroscientific research make clear that the impact of childhood trauma is profound, tangible, and can endure into adulthood. Momentum is thus building for a research-based, trauma-informed approach to juveniles caught in the web of our juvenile and criminal justice systems.

While much has been written on how and why childhood trauma increases the likelihood that a youth will end up involved with the criminal justice system–and some has been written on how traumatized youth should be treated once their case is adjudicated and they are sentenced–comparably little has been said about how prior trauma actually impacts a youth’s interactions with the players of the criminal justice system and the likely outcomes. This article will focus narrowly on one aspect of a youth’s early interactions with the criminal justice system during a critical phase that is often outcome-determinative: the police interrogation.

“Developmental Trauma Disorder: Toward a Rational Diagnosis for Children with Complex Trauma Histories” by Bessel A. van der Kolk

Abstract: Childhood trauma, including abuse and neglect, is probably the nation’s single most important public health challenge, a challenge that has the potential to be largely resolved by appropriate prevention and intervention. Each year over 3,000,000 children are reported to the authorities for abuse and/or neglect in the United States of which about one million are substantiated. Many thousands more undergo traumatic medical and surgical procedures, and are victims of accidents and of community violence. However, most trauma begins at home: the vast majority of people (about 80 %) responsible for child maltreatment are children’s own parents. Read the full article.

“Trauma Changes Everything: Examining the Relationship Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Serious, Violent and Chronic Juvenile Offenders” by Bryanna Hahn Foxa, Nicholas Pereza, Elizabeth Cassa, Michael T. Bagliviob, and Nathan Epps, Child Abuse & Neglect (2015)

Abstract: Among juvenile offenders, those who commit the greatest number and the most violent offenses are referred to as serious, violent, and chronic (SVC) offenders. However, current practices typically identify SVC offenders only after they have committed their prolific and costly offenses. While several studies have examined risk factors of SVCs, no screening tool has been developed to identify children at risk of SVC offending. This study aims to examine how effective the adverse childhood experiences index, a childhood trauma-based screening tool developed in the medical field, is at identifying children at higher risk of SVC offending. Data on the history of childhood trauma, abuse, neglect, criminal behavior, and other criminological risk factors for offending among 22,575 delinquent youth referred to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice are analyzed, with results suggesting that each additional adverse experience a child experiences increases the risk of becoming a serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offender by 35, when controlling for other risk factors for criminal behavior. These findings suggest that the ACE score could be used by practitioners as a first-line screening tool to identify children at risk of SVC offending before significant downstream wreckage occurs. Read the full article.

“Incidence of Drug Problems in Young Adults Exposed to Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” by Philip L. Reed, James C. Anthony, and Naomi Breslau, Archives of General Psychiatry (2007)

Abstract: Most estimated associations of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with DSM-IV drug dependence and abuse are from cross-sectional studies or from prospective studies of adults that generally do not take into account suspected causal determinants measured in early childhood.

Multiwave longitudinal study of an epidemiologic sample of young adults first assessed at entry to first grade of primary school in the fall semesters of 1985 and 1986, with 2 young adult follow-up assessments. Young adults (n = 988; aged 19-24 years) free of clinical features of DSM-IV drug use disorders at the first young adult assessment and therefore at risk for newly incident drug use disorders during the 1-year follow-up period.

During the 12-month interval between the 2 young adult follow-up assessments, newly incident (1) DSM-IV drug abuse or dependence; (2) DSM-IV drug abuse; (3) DSM-IV drug dependence; and (4) emerging dependence problems (1 or 2 newly incident clinical features of DSM-IV drug dependence), among subjects with no prior clinical features of drug use disorders.

Prior PTSD (but not trauma only) was associated with excess risk for drug abuse or dependence (adjusted relative risk, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-15.2) and emerging dependence problems (adjusted relative risk, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-20.1) compared with the no-trauma group controlling for childhood factors. Subjects with PTSD also had a greater adjusted relative risk for drug abuse or dependence compared with subjects exposed to trauma only (adjusted relative risk, 2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-3.8) controlling for childhood factors.

Association of PTSD with subsequent incident drug use disorders remained substantial after statistical adjustment for early life experiences and predispositions reported in previous studies as carrying elevated risk for both disorders. Posttraumatic stress disorder might be a causal determinant of drug use disorders, possibly representing complications such as attempts to self-medicate troubling trauma-associated memories, nightmares, or painful hyperarousal symptoms. Read the full article.


Combined Effects of Peer Presence, Social Cues, and Rewards on Cognitive Control in Adolescents

Breiner, K., et al. Combined effects of peer presence, social cues, and rewards on cognitive control in adolescents (February 1, 2018). Developmental Psychobiology.

Abstract: Developmental scientists have examined the independent effects of peer presence, social cues, and rewards on adolescent decision-making and cognitive control. Yet, these contextual factors often co-occur in real world social situations. The current study examined the combined effects of all three factors on cognitive control, and its underlying neural circuitry, using a task to better capture adolescents’ real world social interactions. A sample of 176 participants ages 13-25, was scanned while performing an adapted go/no-go task alone or in the presence of a virtual peer. The task included brief positive social cues and sustained periods of positive arousal. Adolescents showed diminished cognitive control to positive social cues when anticipating a reward in the presence of peers relative to when alone, a pattern not observed in older participants. This behavioral pattern was paralleled by enhanced orbitofrontal activation. The results demonstrate the synergistic impact of social and reward influences on cognitive control in adolescents.

Kids Will Be Kids: Time for a “Reasonable Child” Standard for the Proof of Objective Mens Rea Elements

Christopher Northtrop & Kristina Rothley Rozan, Kids Will Be Kids: Time for a “Reasonable Child” Standard for the Proof of Objective Mens Rea Elements, 69 L. Rev. 109 (2017).

Abstract: Based on the goals of the juvenile system, significant advances in adolescent development research and recent Supreme Court holdings on juvenile culpability, we argue here that the juvenile code should be amended to explicitly refer to a reasonable child standard for any mens rea element that relies on a reasonable person as the measure for criminal culpability. In Part II, we provide an overview of mens rea, including why it is an element in crimes, how it is used and defined, what the courts have said about who the reasonable person is or can be, who the factfinder’s think the reasonable person is, and how reasonableness is proven or disproven. We also briefly summarize recent scientific research about the juvenile brain and how can we use this information to construct a “reasonable child” standard. In Part III, we discuss the Supreme Court’s holdings on juvenile culpability and argue why they should also apply to proof of the elements for the case in chief. In Part IV, we explain why a reasonable child standard supports of the goals of the juvenile justice system. In Part V, we consider options as to how to change the reasonable person standard to a reasonable child standard. In Part VI, we conclude that, from this point forward, a reasonable child standard should always be used as the reference for proof of objective mens rea elements for juveniles, and that legislative amendments to current criminal and juvenile statutes are the best way to achieve this.

Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Impaired Decision Making in Juvenile Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Hauser TU, Iannaccone R, Ball J, Mathys C, Brandeis D, Walitza S, Brem S. Role of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Impaired Decision Making in Juvenile Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(10):1165–1173. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1093

Abstract: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been associated with deficient decision making and learning. Models of ADHD have suggested that these deficits could be caused by impaired reward prediction errors (RPEs). Reward prediction errors are signals that indicate violations of expectations and are known to be encoded by the dopaminergic system. However, the precise learning and decision-making deficits and their neurobiological correlates in ADHD are not well known.

Twenty adolescents with ADHD and 20 healthy adolescents serving as controls (aged 12-16 years) were examined using a probabilistic reversal learning task while simultaneous functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalogram were recorded. Learning and decision making were investigated by contrasting a hierarchical Bayesian model with an advanced reinforcement learning model and by comparing the model parameters. The neural correlates of RPEs were studied in functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalogram.

Adolescents with ADHD showed more simplistic learning as reflected by the reinforcement learning model (exceedance probability, Px = .92) and had increased exploratory behavior compared with healthy controls (mean [SD] decision steepness parameter β: ADHD, 4.83 [2.97]; controls, 6.04 [2.53]; P = .02). The functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis revealed impaired RPE processing in the medial prefrontal cortex during cue as well as during outcome presentation (P < .05, family-wise error correction). The outcome-related impairment in the medial prefrontal cortex could be attributed to deficient processing at 200 to 400 milliseconds after feedback presentation as reflected by reduced feedback-related negativity (ADHD, 0.61 [3.90] μV; controls, −1.68 [2.52] μV; P = .04).

The combination of computational modeling of behavior and multimodal neuroimaging revealed that impaired decision making and learning mechanisms in adolescents with ADHD are driven by impaired RPE processing in the medial prefrontal cortex. This novel, combined approach furthers the understanding of the pathomechanisms in ADHD and may advance treatment strategies.

Maturity of Judgment in Adolescence: Psychosocial Factors in Adolescent Decision Making

Steinberg, L., & Cauffman, E. (1996). Maturity of judgment in adolescence: Psychosocial factors in adolescent decision making. Law and Human Behavior, 20(3), 249-272.

Abstract: To date, analyses of differences between adolescents’ and adults’ judgment have emphasized age differences in cognitive factors presumed to affect decision making. In contrast, this article examines research and theory on three psychosocial aspects of maturity of judgment: responsibility, temperance, and perspective. For several psychosocial dimensions of maturity that are likely to affect judgment, the existing evidence, while indirect and imperfect, indicates that the greatest differences are found in comparisons between early adolescents versus middle and late adolescents. Developmental research on maturity that focuses specifically on mid- and late adolescence, that simultaneously examines both cognitive and noncognitive factors, and that investigates the relation.

How Adolescents Approach Decisions: Changes over Grades Seven to Twelve and Policy Implications

Lewis, C. C. (1981). How adolescents approach decisions: Changes over Grades seven to twelve and policy implications. Child Development, 52(2), 538-544.

AbstractConsiderable controversy focuses on the ages at which adolescents are permitted to make legally regulated decisions—for example, consent to medical treatment, consent to experimentation, choice of custodial parent. The decision advice of 108 adolescents at three grade levels (grades 7-8, 10, and 12) was investigated in a simulated peer-counseling situation. In adolescents’ advice to their “peers,” there is a significant increase, with grade level, in mention of the potential risks and potential future consequences of decisions; in recognition and cautious treatment of “vested interests”; and in advice to solicit independent professional opinions. No differences between grade levels are found in the incorporation of negative information about a trusted adult or in recommendations that peers or parents be consulted about the decisions.

Brain Science and the Theory of Juvenile Mens Rea

Jenny E. Carroll, Brain Science and the Theory of Juvenile Mens Rea, 94 N.C. L. Rev. 539 (2016). Available at: http://scholarship.law.unc.edu/nclr/vol94/iss2/3.

Abstract: The law has long recognized the distinction between adults and children. A legally designated age determines who can vote, exercise reproductive rights, voluntarily discontinue their education, buy alcohol or tobacco, marry, drive a car, or obtain a tattoo. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld such age-based restrictions, most recently constructing an Eighth Amendment jurisprudence that bars the application of certain penalties to juvenile offenders and a Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that contemplates an adolescent-based standard of reasonableness for the Miranda v. Arizona custody analysis. In the cases of Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, Miller v. Alabama, and J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the Court’s jurisprudence of youth relies on emerging neuroscience to confirm what the parents of any teenager have long suspected: adolescents’ cognitive abilities and thought processes differ from their adult counterparts. Children are different than adults.

In the cases of Roper, Graham, and Miller, the Court recognized that brain development affects the legal construct of culpability and should accordingly affect punishment. In the Roper case line, the Court reasoned that without mature thought processes and cognitive abilities, adolescents as a class fail to achieve the requisite level of culpability demonstrated in adult offenders. As such, juveniles were categorically spared the death penalty and, in some instances, a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Likewise, in J.D.B., the Court concluded that the reasonableness of a juvenile defendant’s perception of custody under Miranda v. Arizona must be age appropriate. The Court concluded that as a class adolescents had a different understanding of custodial status than adults. Courts contemplating the validity of a perception of custody under Miranda had to account for this difference in their analysis.

To date, the Court has limited the application of this principle to punishment and consent analysis under Miranda. The logic of the Court’s decisions, however, applies just as strongly to the application of substantive criminal law. Likewise, scholars writing in the field have limited the application of neuroscience to either the territory staked out by the Court or to objective mens rea standards alone. The science, however, does not support such limitations. Just as modern neuroscience counsels against the imposition of certain penalties on juvenile offenders and an adjustment of Miranda’s reasonableness analysis, so it counsels toward a reconsideration of culpability as applied to juvenile offenders through the element of mens rea. The failure to extend this jurisprudence of youth to every mental state element undermines the very role of mens rea as a mechanism to determine guilt.

“Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence Developmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty” by Laurence Steinberg and Elizabeth S. Scott, American Psychologist (2003)

Steinberg, Laurence and Scott, Elizabeth S. Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence: Developmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty, 58 Am. Psychologist 1009, 1013 (2003).

Abstract: The authors use a developmental perspective to examine questions about the criminal culpability of juveniles and the juvenile death penalty. Under principles of criminal law, culpability is mitigated when the actor’s decision-making capacity is diminished, when the criminal act was coerced, or when the act was out of character. The authors argue that juveniles should not be held to the same standards of criminal responsibility as adults, because adolescents’ decision-making capacity is diminished, they are less able to resist coercive influence, and their character is still undergoing change. The uniqueness of immaturity as a mitigating condition argues for a commitment to a legal environment under which most youths are dealt with in a separate justice system and none are eligible for capital punishment.

“The Legal Construction of Adolescence” by Elizabeth S. Scott, Hofstra Law Review (2000)

Scott, Elizabeth S. (2000) “The Legal Construction of Adolescence,” Hofstra Law Review: Vol. 29: Iss. 2, Article 5. Available at: http://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/hlr/vol29/iss2/5.

Abstract: Two features of the legal regulation of childhood seem troublesome, but ultimately contribute to sensible policies in most contexts. First, the boundary between childhood and adulthood varies in different policy domains, through a regime of age grading under which elementary school students are deemed adults for some legal purposes, while, for other purposes, college students are children. Second, the transitional stage of adolescence is virtually invisible, because, for most purposes, law makers employ binary categories, classifying adolescents as either children or as adults. This framework—a series of legislative bright line rules, arrayed around a presumptive age of majority—generally promotes social welfare as well as the interests of youth. Although this approach sometimes distorts developmental reality, it accomplishes the transition from legal childhood to adulthood over time without incurring the costs associated with the creation of intermediate legal category. Indeed, the unsuccessful experience with abortion regulation (in which adolescents occupy a special category) confirms the benefits of binary classification.

In the context of juvenile justice policy, however, categorical assumptions that ignore the developmental stage of adolescence have harmful outcomes. In responding to youth crime, law makers have shifted the boundary of childhood dramatically during the 20th century. The Progressive architects of the traditional juvenile court described delinquent youths as innocent children, and constructed policies that presumed that the state’s sole purpose was to promote their welfare. Contemporary conservatives, in contrast, assume that young offenders are indistinguishable from adult criminals, and argue that public protection demands that they be subject to the same punishment. I argue that both of these accounts represent distortions and have been the basis of unsatisfactory policies – even in terms of the professed objectives of their adherents. A justice policy that treats adolescence as a distinct legal category not only will promote youth welfare but will also advance the utilitarian objectives of reducing the costs of youth crime.

“Evaluating Adolescent Decision Making in Legal Contexts” by Elizabeth S. Scott, N. Dickon Reppucci, and Jennifer L. Woolard,  (1995)

Scott, Elizabeth S., Repucci, N. Dickon, and Woolard, Jennifer L. Evaluating Adolescent Decision Making in Legal ContextsLaw and Human Behavior (1995).

AbstractChallenges the use by policy researchers of a model for comparing adolescent and adult decision making that is based on informed consent standards. An expanded decision-making framework designed to evaluate “judgment” in adults and adolescents can better test the empirical basis of paternalistic legal policies. The theoretical and empirical literature on the informed consent framework is critiqued and an alternative framework incorporating judgment factors is proposed. Three judgment factors—temporal perspective, attitude toward risk, and peer and parental influence—and their effects on decision making are explored. Finally, implications for future research are analyzed in several decision-making contexts.


The Intersection Between Young Adult Sentencing and Mass Incarceration

Josh Gupta-Kagan, The Intersection Between Young Adult Sentencing and Mass Incarceration, 2018 Wis. L. Rev. 669 (2018).

Abstract: This Article connects two growing categories of academic literature and policy reform: arguments for treating young adults in the criminal justice system less severely than older adults because of evidence showing brain development and maturation continue until the mid-twenties; and arguments calling for reducing mass incarceration and identifying various mechanisms to do so. These categories overlap, but research has not previously built in-depth connections between the two.

Connecting the two bodies of literature helps identify and strengthen arguments for reform. First, changing charging, detention, and sentencing practices for young adults is one important tool to reduce mass incarceration. Young adults commit a disproportionate number of crimes. Because so many offenders are young adults, treating young adults less severely could have significant impacts on the number of individuals incarcerated.

Second, focusing on young adults responds to retributive arguments in defense of existing sentencing policies, especially for violent offenses. The mass incarceration literature shows that sentences for violent offenses explain much, if not most, of recent decades’ prison growth. Young adult violent offenders deserve punishment, but their youth mitigates their culpability and thus offers a response to retributive calls for long sentences.

Third, considering mass incarceration can add both urgency and new ideas to the growing debate about reforming sentencing of young adults. Such reforms have thus far been tentative, following well-grounded desires to test different alternative interventions for young adults. The mass incarceration literature adds an important consideration–the status quo demands prompt and far-reaching reform–and new ideas, such as prosecutorial charging guidelines that encompass defendants’ age.

Emerging Adulthood and the Criminal Justice System: #BrainNotFullyCooked #Can’tAdultYet #YOLO

Christine E. Fitch, Note, Emerging Adulthood and the Criminal Justice System: #BrainNotFullyCooked #Can’tAdultYet #YOLO, 58 Santa Clara L. Rev. 325 (2018).

Abstract: Ah, young adulthood. The age where we often start college or enter the workforce; where we experience new things and meet new people; where most of us make incredibly stupid decisions, some of which leads to criminal prosecutions. For example, twenty-five-year-old Kathryn Knott, the daughter of the Pennsylvania Bucks County police chief, was convicted of simple assault, reckless endangerment, and conspiracy to commit simple assault after a violent attack on a gay couple in Philadelphia’s Center City. Knott tweeted the night of the incident that “the ppl we were just dancing with just turned and mafe out with eacth other #gay #ew” and “My cab driver starting shouting some jihad s[redacted] so I starting singing America the beautiful #merrica.”

In vivo Evidence of Neurophysiological Maturation of the Human Adolescent Striatum” by Elizabeth R. Sowell, Paul M. Thompson, Colin J. Holmes, Terry L. Jernigan, and Arthur W. Toga, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (2015).

Abstract: Maturation of the striatum has been posited to play a primary role in observed increases in adolescent sensation-seeking. However, evidence of neurophysiological maturation in the human adolescent striatum is limited. We applied T2*-weighted imaging, reflecting indices of tissue—iron concentration, to provide direct in vivo evidence of neurophysiological development of the human adolescent striatum. Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) of striatal T2*-weighted signal generated age predictions that accounted for over 60% of the sample variance in 10–25-year-olds, using both task-related and resting state fMRI. Dorsal and ventral striatum showed age related increases and decreases respectively of striatal neurophysiology suggesting qualitative differences in the maturation of limbic and executive striatal systems. In particular, the ventral striatum was found to show the greatest developmental differences and contribute most heavily to the multivariate age predictor. The relationship of the T2*-weighted signal to the striatal dopamine system is discussed. Together, results provide evidence for protracted maturation of the striatum through adolescence. Read the full article.

“Longitudinal Development of Human Brain Wiring Continues from Childhood into Adulthood” by Catherine Lebel and Christian Beaulieu, The Journal of Neuroscience (2011)

Abstract: Healthy human brain development is a complex process that continues during childhood and adolescence, as demonstrated by many cross-sectional and several longitudinal studies. However, whether these changes end in adolescence is not clear. We examined longitudinal white matter maturation using diffusion tensor tractography in 103 healthy subjects aged 5–32 years; each volunteer was scanned at least twice, with 221 total scans. Fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD), parameters indicative of factors including myelination and axon density, were assessed in 10 major white matter tracts. All tracts showed significant nonlinear development trajectories for FA and MD. Significant within-subject changes occurred in the vast majority of children and early adolescents, and these changes were mostly complete by late adolescence for projection and commissural tracts. However, association tracts demonstrated post adolescent within-subject maturation of both FA and MD. Diffusion parameter changes were due primarily to decreasing perpendicular diffusivity, although increasing parallel diffusivity contributed to the prolonged increases of FA in association tracts. Volume increased significantly with age for most tracts, and longitudinal measures also demonstrated post adolescent volume increases in several association tracts. As volume increases were not directly associated with either elevated FA or reduced MD between scans, the observed diffusion parameter changes likely reflect microstructural maturation of brain white matter tracts rather than just gross anatomy. Read the full article.


“Empirically Based Strategies for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency” by Dustin A. Pardini, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America (2016)

Abstract: Juvenile crime is a serious public health problem that results in significant emotional and financial costs for victims and society. Using etiologic models as a guide, multiple interventions have been developed to target risk factors thought to perpetuate the emergence and persistence of delinquent behavior. Evidence suggests that the most effective interventions tend to have well-defined treatment protocols, focus on therapeutic approaches as opposed to external control techniques, and use multimodal cognitive-behavioral treatment strategies. Moving forward, there is a need to develop effective policies and procedures that promote the widespread adoption of evidence-based delinquency prevention practices across multiple settings. Read to the full article.

Can At-Risk Youth be Diverted from Crime? A Meta-Analysis of Restorative Diversion Programs

Wong, Jennifer & Bouchard, Jessica & Gravel, Jason & Bouchard, Martin & Morselli, Carlo. (2016). Can At-Risk Youth Be Diverted From Crime?: A Meta-Analysis of Restorative Diversion Programs. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 43. 10.1177/0093854816640835.

Abstract: Existing reviews of the impact of restorative justice programs on juvenile recidivism have reached mixed conclusions. The present meta-analysis identified relevant studies through a systematic search of 20 databases over a 25-year period as well as the ancestry method. Application of inclusion criteria resulted in a set of 21 studies contributing 21 independent effect sizes. Programs were found to be overall effective at reducing recidivism, with a pooled odds ratio of 1.28. Subgroup analyses indicate strong evidence that study and treatment characteristics play a role in evaluation results, such as strength of research design and racial/ethnic mix of program participants. Overall quality of the literature is relatively weak, with the large majority of studies derived from non-peer-reviewed sources and a lack of detail presented on treatment characteristics. Limitations with respect to exclusion criteria, sample sizes, and between-study heterogeneity are discussed.

“Juvenile Pre-Arrest Diversion in Florida” by Florida TaxWatch (2016)

This briefing discusses the expansion of juvenile pre-arrest diversion programs (JPADs) in Florida. According to this source, such programs have resulted in reduced recidivism during both adolescence and adulthood and increased cost efficiency and return on investment. Florida, however, has also faced a number of issues in application, resulting in a juvenile justice system where “the level of punishment is a better reflection of Florida’s geography than the severity of the crime committed.” Read the full briefing.

“Sports Participation and Juvenile Delinquency: A Meta-Analytic Review” by Anouk Spruit, Eveline van Vugt, Claudia van der Put, Trudy van der Stouwe, and Geert-Jan Stams, The Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2016)

Abstract: Participation in sports activities is very popular among adolescents and is frequently encouraged among youth. Many psychosocial health benefits in youth are attributed to sports participation, but to what extent this positive influence holds for juvenile delinquency is still not clear on both the theoretical and empirical level. There is much controversy on whether sports participation should be perceived as a protective or a risk factor for the development of juvenile delinquency. A multilevel meta-analysis of 51 published and unpublished studies, with 48 independent samples containing 431 effect sizes and N = 132,366 adolescents, was conducted to examine the relationship between sports participation and juvenile delinquency and possible moderating factors of this association. The results showed that there is no overall significant association between sports participation and juvenile delinquency, indicating that adolescent athletes are neither more nor less delinquent than non-athletes. Some study, sample and sports characteristics significantly moderated the relationship between sports participation and juvenile delinquency. However, this moderating influence was modest. Implications for theory and practice concerning the use of sports to prevent juvenile delinquency are discussed. Read the full article.

“The Prevention of Detention” by David A. Brent, and Rolf Loeber, The American Journal of Psychiatry (2015)

This article discusses how intervention can be used to prevent detention in later life. In particular, the authors focus on the Fast Track prevention program, which has the goal of attenuating the “trajectory of disruptive behavior and associated sequela” in youths. Read the full article.

“Delinquent Behavior, the Transition to Adulthood, and the Likelihood of Military Enlistment” by Jay Teachman and Lucky Tedrow, Social Science Research (2014)

Abstract: Using data taken from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth we examine the relationship between delinquency and enlistment in the military. We argue that delinquent behavior is positively related to enlistment because military service is an attractive alternative for delinquents to mark their transition to adulthood and their desistance from delinquent behavior. We also argue, however, that this relationship is not linear, with higher levels of delinquent behavior actually acting to reduce the likelihood of enlistment. We further suggest that the relationship between delinquency and enlistment is similar for men and women. We test and find support for our hypotheses using data taken from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Read the full article.

“How to Turn Around Troubled Teens” by Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lillenfeld, Scientific American (2014)

This article discusses a number of ineffective get-tough treatments for delinquent juveniles, including boot camp, Scared Straight programs, and juvenile transfer laws. Read the full article.

“The Effect of Youth Diversion Programs on Recidivism: A Meta-Analytic Review” by Holly A. Wilson and Robert D. Hodge, Criminal Justice and Behavior (2013)

Abstract: Pre- and post-charge diversion programs have been used as a formal intervention strategy for youth offenders since the 1970s. This meta-analysis was conducted to shed some light on whether diversion reduces recidivism at a greater rate than traditional justice system processing and to explore aspects of diversion programs associated with greater reductions in recidivism. Forty-five diversion evaluation studies reporting on 73 programs were included in the meta-analysis. The results indicated that diversion is more effective in reducing recidivism than conventional judicial interventions. Moderator analysis revealed that both study- and program-level variables influenced program effectiveness. Of particular note was the relationship between program-level variables (e.g., referral level) and the risk level targeted by programs (e.g., low or medium/high). Further research is required implementing strong research designs and exploring the role of risk level on youth diversion effectiveness. Read the full article.

“What Doesn’t Work in Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency” by James C. Howell, Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework (2003)

Abstract: Thanks to the voluminous increase in the number of program evaluations in the past couple of decades, evidence is accumulating that some prevention and intervention strategies and programs simply do not work with juvenile offenders. I address many of the strategies and programs that do not work in the first two main sections of this chapter, and then discuss the evidence to date on many others for which the research findings are unclear, contradictory, or nonexistent. I discuss two particular ineffective strategies in some detail in later chapters: In Chapter 8, I address the failed policy of transferring juveniles to the criminal justice system, and in Chapter 11, I review some of the ineffective “collaboration” strategies that have been used in some jurisdictions for dealing with juvenile delinquency. Read the full chapter.

“Scared Straight and Other Juvenile Awareness Programs for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency: A Systematic Review of the Randomized Experimental Evidence” by Anthony Petrosino, Carolyn Turner-Petrosino, and John Buehler, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2003)

Abstract: Scared Straight and other programs involve organized visits to prison facilities by juvenile delinquents or at-risk kids to deter them from delinquency. Despite several research studies and reviews questioning their effectiveness, they remain in use and have now been tried in at least six nations. The authors report here on the results of a systematic review of randomized experimental tests of this program. Studies that tested any program involving the organized visits of delinquents or at-risk children to penal institutions were included. Each study had to have a no-treatment control condition with at least one outcome measure of “post visit” criminal behavior. Using extensive search methods, the authors located nine randomized trials meeting eligibility criteria. After describing the studies and appraising their methodological quality, the authors present the narrative findings from each evaluation. A meta-analysis of prevalence rates indicates that the intervention on average is more harmful to juveniles than doing nothing. The authors conclude that governments should institute rigorous programs of research to ensure that well-intentioned treatments do not cause harm to the citizens they pledge to protect. Read the full article.

Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons by the National Collaboration for Youth (2016)

Abstract: Beyond Bars advocates for communities and systems to close youth prisons by developing a vast array of services and supports that can hold youth accountable in the community while also meeting their needs and building on strengths. It offers a blueprint for systems and communities to establish guiding principles, core services and an organizing tool to shift from a facility-based juvenile justice system to a community-based youth justice system. Some of guiding principles include focusing on need and not slots; building on restoring a sense of relatedness by building on strengths, competency and autonomy; asset mapping communities that are often characterized only by their deficits and implementing culturally competent programs. While every community is different, the report also focuses on core services that should comprise the bedrock of any continuum of care, along with key strategies to create a robust array of community support and services for young people in need. Read the report.


“How Does Incarcerating Young People Affect Their Adult Health Outcomes? by Elizabeth S. Barnert, Rebecca Dudovitz, Bergen B. Nelson, Tumaini R. Coker, Christopher Biely, Ning Li, Paul J. Chung, Pediatrics (2017)

Abstract: Despite the widespread epidemic of mass incarceration in the US, relatively little literature exists examining the longitudinal relationship between youth incarceration and adult health outcomes. We sought to quantify the association of youth incarceration with subsequent adult health outcomes.

We analyzed data from 14 344 adult participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. We used weighted multivariate logistic regressions to investigate the relationship between cumulative incarceration duration (none, <1 month, 1–12 months, and >1 year) before Wave IV (ages 24–34 years) and subsequent adult health outcomes (general health, functional limitations, depressive symptoms, and suicidal thoughts). Models controlled for Wave I (grades 7–12) baseline health, sociodemographic, and covariates associated with incarceration and health.

A total of 14.0% of adults reported being incarcerated between Waves I and IV. Of these, 50.3% reported a cumulative incarceration duration of <1 month, 34.8% reported 1 to 12 months, and 15.0% reported >1 year. Compared with no incarceration, incarceration duration of < 1 month predicted subsequent adult depressive symptoms (odds ratio [OR] = 1.41; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11–1.80; P = .005). A duration of 1 to 12 months predicted worse subsequent adult general health (OR = 1.48; 95% CI, 1.12–1.96; P = .007). A duration of >1 year predicted subsequent adult functional limitations (OR = 2.92; 95% CI, 1.51–5.64; P = .002), adult depressive symptoms (OR = 4.18; 95% CI, 2.48–7.06; P < .001), and adult suicidal thoughts (OR = 2.34; 95% CI, 1.09–5.01; P = .029).

Cumulative incarceration duration during adolescence and early adulthood is independently associated with worse physical and mental health later in adulthood. Potential mechanisms merit exploration. Read the full study.

“51 – Jurisdiction Survey of Juvenile Solitary Confinement Rules in Juvenile Justice Systems” by Natalie J. Kraner, Naomi D. Barrowclough, Catherine Weiss, and Jacob Fisch, Lowenstein Center for Public Interest (2016)

This report discusses the results of a nationwide survey of the laws and policies governing the use of solitary confinement in juvenile justice facilities. The report details how each state imposes solitary confinement, for what purposes, for what length of time, with which conditions, and whether there are due-process protections in place. Read the full report.

“Protecting America’s Children: Why an Executive Order Banning Juvenile Solitary Confinement Is Not Enough” by Carina Muir, Pepperdine Law Review (2016)

Abstract: Despite its devastating psychological, physical, and developmental effects on juveniles, solitary confinement is used in juvenile correctional facilities across the United States. This Comment posits that such treatment violates the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It likewise argues that that President Obama’s recent Executive Order banning juvenile solitary confinement is simply not a powerful enough remedy and discusses why it must be paired with Congressional legislation or Supreme Court jurisprudence if it is to have any lasting effect. Read the full article.

“Labeling Effects of First Juvenile Arrests: Secondary Deviance and Secondary Sanctioning” by Akiva M. Liberman, David S. Kirk, and KiDeuk Kim, Criminology (2014)

Abstract: A growing literature suggests that juvenile arrests perpetuate offending and increase the likelihood of future arrests. The effect on subsequent arrests is generally regarded to be a product of the perpetuation of criminal offending. However, increased rearrest may also reflect differential law enforcement behavior. Using longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) together with official arrest records, the current study estimates the effects of first arrests on both reoffending and rearrest. Propensity score methods were used to control differences between arrestees and non-arrestees and minimize selection bias. Among 1,249 PHDCN youth, 58 were first arrested during the study period; 43 of these arrestees were successfully matched to 126 control cases who were equivalent on a broad set of individual, family, peer, and neighborhood factors. We find that first arrests increased both the likelihood of subsequent offending and of subsequent arrest, through separate processes. The effects on rearrest are substantially larger and largely independent of the effects on reoffending, suggesting that labels trigger “secondary sanctioning” processes distinct from secondary deviance processes. Attempts to ameliorate deleterious labeling effects should include efforts to dampen their escalating punitive effects on societal responses. Read the full article.

“Alone and Afraid: Children Held in Solitary Confinement and Isolation in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities” by the American Civil Liberties Union (2014)

Abstract: This report by the American Civil Liberties Union examines the negative impact on children held in solitary confinement and isolation while incarcerated in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. Solitary confinement involves the physical and social isolation in a cell for 22 to 24 hours per day and is the most extreme form of isolation. Research has shown that the use of solitary confinement and other forms of isolation in juvenile justice facilities can have serious negative consequences for incarcerated youth. Youth subjected to this treatment can suffer serious psychological, physical, and developmental harm, resulting in persistent mental health problems or even suicide. These problems are often magnified for incarcerated youth with histories of trauma and abuse or for those with disabilities. This report discusses the consequences resulting from the use of solitary confinement and isolation in juvenile detention and correctional facilities, explores why children are subjected to these conditions, and examines how solitary confinement and other isolation practices are currently regulated at the State and Federal levels. The report also provides information on U.S. and human rights laws that offer specific protections for young people involved with the criminal justice system and suggests steps that should be taken to stop the use of solitary confinement for incarcerated youth. Read the full report.

“Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood” by David S. Kirk and Robert J. Sampson, American Sociological Association (2013)

Abstract: Official sanctioning of students by the criminal justice system is a long-hypothesized source of educational disadvantage, but its explanatory status remains unresolved. Few studies of the educational consequences of a criminal record account for alternative explanations such as low self-control, lack of parental supervision, deviant peers, and neighborhood disadvantage. Moreover, virtually no research on the effect of a criminal record has examined the ‘‘black box’’ of mediating mechanisms or the consequence of arrest for postsecondary educational attainment. Analyzing longitudinal data with multiple and independent assessments of theoretically relevant domains, the authors estimate the direct effect of arrest on later high school dropout and college enrollment for adolescents with otherwise equivalent neighborhood, school, family, peer, and individual characteristics as well as similar frequency of criminal offending. The authors present evidence that arrest has a substantively large and robust impact on dropping out of high school among Chicago public school students. They also find a significant gap in four-year college enrollment between arrested and otherwise similar youth without a criminal record. The authors also assess intervening mechanisms hypothesized to explain the process by which arrest disrupts the schooling process and, in turn, produces collateral educational damage. The results imply that institutional responses and disruptions in students’ educational trajectories, rather than social-psychological factors, are responsible for the arrest–education link. Read the full article.

“Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States” by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (2012)

Abstract: Every day in jails and prisons across the United States, large numbers of young people under age 18 are held in solitary confinement. They spend 22 or more hours each day physically and socially isolated in a small cell, often for weeks or even months on end. Adolescents in solitary confinement are routinely denied access to needed treatment, services, and programming. The practice is serious and widespread.

The solitary confinement of adults can cause severe pain and suffering and can violate international human rights and US constitutional law. But the potential damage to young people, who do not have the maturity of an adult and are at a particularly vulnerable stage of life, is much greater. Yet, solitary confinement of young people is not necessary; there are alternative ways to address the problems that officials cite as justifications for using solitary confinement.

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call on US federal and state governments to prohibit the solitary confinement of young people under age 18; prohibit the housing of adolescents with adults or in adult jails and prisons; strictly limit and regulate all forms of segregation and isolation; and monitor and report on the segregation and isolation of young people, whenever they are deprived of their liberty. Read the full report.