Friday, August 23, 2013

Juveniles Deserve Juvenile Justice

This tab has been sitting open for a long time. It's an MPR interview with Laurence Steinberg, an adolescent brain development expert at Temple University. I happened to hear parts of it twice, and both times it made me so upset I didn't know what to do.

Steinberg applies his research on adolescents and their brains to teenagers involved in our criminal justice system, and he finds our current practices completely unacceptable.

The simple-minded, get-tough-on-crime mindset of the 1980s and '90s not only led to huge increases in prison populations and miscarriages of justice through three-strikes and minimum sentencing; it also encouraged the practice of trying way too many juveniles as adults. Steinberg says, "We need to go back to an earlier point in our history where we had a separate juvenile justice system that didn't have such a porous border with the adult system."

There are several callers on the show, mothers whose teenage sons were horribly mistreated by the system, and those are the parts of the show that were the most upsetting. The waste of their sons' lives because of a stupid mistake they made when they were under 18 is unacceptable.

Remember this: Ninety percent of kids who break the law during adolescence don't become adult criminals. Steinberg says, "A lot of the misbehavior that adolescents engage in is transient. It happens during adolescence partly as a function of the immaturity that is characteristic of the period and then it goes away without any intervention whatsoever."

6 facts about crime and the adolescent brain.

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