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Kids In Trouble

What do you know about the juvenile justice system in Alabama?

Teenagers can do terrible things. While many kids and teenagers acts fall under misdemeanors or petty crimes, many more violent crimes can sentence a juvenile for life.

Juvenile advocates have long since embraced the belief that young criminals or juveniles are not mature enough to fully comprehend the ramifications of their actions. May advocates believe neuroscience research can play a role in abolishing life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. Several organizations submitted briefs to the court detailing the growing body of research showing that the brain’s development continues into at least the early twenties. Which may serve to explain why young people are more impulsive than adults, more readily swayed by their peers and less likely to consider the consequences of their actions.

Historically, the United States court systems has been lenient towards juveniles. However, violent crimes in the 1980’s and 1990’s created a backlash of tough justice. After several high profile cases, young offenders across the country were transferred from the juvenile courts to adult criminal courts.  Juvenile advocates have fought to reverse this trend.

The Supreme Court got its first taste of medical research in 2005 involving the adolescent brain. In the case Roper v. Simmon, a 17 year old child brutally murdered a women and threw her off a railway bridge. The Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for crimes committed by juveniles and Simmons is now serving life without parole.

Some researchers are uncomfortable with the way this research is being used in the criminal justice system. Strong evidence suggests there is a correlation between brain development and behavioral maturity.

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