Friday, May 6, 2016

Don't Treat Young Adults as Teenagers
"Over the past dozen years, the Supreme Court has issued several landmark decisions affirming that adolescents and adults are fundamentally different in ways that justify treating minors less harshly when they violate the criminal law. The court, drawing on psychological and brain science indicating that people under age 18 are not yet fully capable of controlling their behavior, abolished the juvenile death penalty and greatly restricted life without parole sentences for crimes by juveniles. As scientists and legal scholars who specialize in these issues, we have welcomed these changes with enthusiasm.

But in recent months, a number of advocates have sought to extend the developmental immaturity argument to young adults, proposing that the age of juvenile court jurisdiction be raised to 21 from 18, where it now stands in almost all states. This idea has gained some real-world traction....

Such reform, though well intended, is premature at best. While considerable scientific evidence supports the distinction that the Supreme Court endorsed between adolescents under age 18 and adults, research on the maturity of young adults (i.e., those between 18 and 21) is at an early stage. We know that brain maturation continues past age 18, but it is not clear that the brains of 20-year-olds are so immature that they should be treated as if they are teenagers."

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