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Rehabilitation Versus Incarceration of Juvenile Offenders: Public Preferences in Four Models for Change States

January 1, 2008

Analyzes how American juvenile justice system policy has become increasingly punitive over the last few decades and examines citizens' willingness to pay for incarceration versus rehabilitation of youth offenders.

Adolescent Legal Competence in Court

September 1, 2006

This brief details findings from the first comprehensive assessment of juvenile capacities to participate in criminal proceedings using measures of both trial-related abilities and developmental maturity.

Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence

September 1, 2006

In 2005, in a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for offenders who were younger than 18 when they commited their crimes. The ruling centered on the issue of culpability, or criminal blameworthiness. Unlike competence, which concerns an individual's ability to serve as a defendant during trial or adjudication, culpability turns the offender's state of mind at the time of the offense, including factors that would mitigate, or lessen, the degree of responsibility. Should developmental immaturity be added to the list of mitigating factors? Should juveniles, in general, be treated more leniently than adults? A major study by the Research Network on Adolescent and Juvenile Justice now provides strong evidence that the answer is yes.

Creating Turning Points for Serious Adolescent Offenders: Research on Pathways to Desistance

September 1, 2006

This brief presents findings from several ongoing analyses of the Pathways data.

Assessing Juvenile Psychopathy: Developmental and Legal Implications

September 1, 2006

Psychopath. The word alone evokes powerful emotions and images. Attaching that label to a juvenile offender is a serious charge, and should be done so with caution, especially given that the standard assessment tools for psychopathy were originally developed for adults, not juveniles. As the MacArthur Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice has shown, and as the U.S. juvenile justice system recognizes, adolescent offenders are different from adults in important ways. Therefore, simply applying adult measures of psychopathy to juveniles may overlook important aspects of their developmental stage. The Network has supported research examining the course of psychopathy from adolescent into adulthood, asking in essence: Once a psychopath, always a psychopath?

The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to the Adult Criminal Court

September 1, 2006

Network researchers examine whether the prosecution of adolescents as adults reduces crime and recitivism. Their research capitalizes on unique conditions in the New York City region, where the laws of two states, New York State and New Jersey, span the border of a single metropolitan area. On the New York side of the border, juveniles as young as 13 are charged in adult court, while on the New Jersey side, nearly all cases of juvenile offenders below the age of 18 are processed in juvenile court. By comparing similar offenders in the two settings who were arrested and charged with the same felony offenses during the same time period, the researchers were able to determine whether treating juveniles as adults in the legal system is an effective deterrent to crime.

Adolescents' Competence to Stand Trial - MacArthur Juvenile Competence Study

August 1, 2002

Adolescents' adjudicative competence (competence to stand trial and make competent decisions as defendants) has been one of the major topics of study for the Network. Our concern about the need to investigate youths' capacities as trial defendants arose from a reform in juvenile law during the early 1990s. During that time, almost all states changed their laws pertaining to youthful offenders in two ways. They increased the frequency with which youths, at increasingly younger ages, were to be tried in adult criminal court, and penalties for youths in juvenile court were increased as well. In effect, the nation's approach to trying and sentencing youths placed them in much the same role as adults who were tried for similar charges. In 1997, the Network began planning a study that would provide the necessary information to guide U.S. law and policy toward a more rational, developmentally-sensitive perspective on youths' adjudicative competence. The study was funded by the Network, with additional support from the Open Society Institute, one of the Soros Foundations. The questions we posed were these: Compared to adults in the criminal justice system, do youths in the juvenile justice system more often manifest deficits in abilities related to adjudicative competence? If so, on what abilities are these differences most apparent, and how are those abilities related to development? If those differences exist, what types of youths are at greatest risk of adjudicative incompetence due to developmental immaturity? Might developmental immaturity interact with mental disorders to create increased risks of deficits in abilities related to adjudicative incompetence? Is there an age below which incompetence to stand trial should be presumed?