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Support for Raising the Age for Justice-Involved Youths

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Dated: May/June 2016 Pages: 20-21
Date Published
May 2016
2 pages
This article discusses a paper presented at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government's Executive Session on Community Corrections (ESCC), which argues for raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 21 years old, gradually reducing protections for young adults up to the age of 24 or 25.
The ESCC was convened to rethink community corrections policy, with a view toward recommending new policy and practice approaches based on current science. It was attended by 29 leaders from the public and private sectors, representing a variety of expertise. The current article discuses the first paper presented, which was entitled, "Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults," which focuses on significant recommendations for justice-involved young adults. Its recommendation for raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 21 is based on a consistently accumulating mass of neurological and behavioral scientific evidence across decades that suggests children and young adults, unlike mature adults, do not have fully developed brains, which limits their ability to fully appreciate the future consequences of their current behavior. The scientific evidence suggests that the human brain is not fully developed in young adults until about their mid-20s. Prior to this age, young adults generally do not have the capacity to curb impulsive behavior, resist peer pressure, and fully consider the long-term effects of their actions. The paper recommends that the developmental maturity of young adults should be accommodated not only in the court setting, but also system-wide at each stage of criminal processing, i.e., at pre-arrest, arrest, pretrial, community-based programs, incarceration, and collateral consequences. 6 notes

Date Published: May 1, 2016