National Center for Youth Law

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Reforming Juvenile Justice
Should teens who murder be treated as adults?

This report from CQ Researcher looks at efforts by youth advocates, seizing on bipartisan interest in criminal justice reform and historically low crime rates, to lobby states to lighten sentencing standards for juveniles.  But prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates say youths still must be held accountable for their crimes and judges should be able to refer repeat and violent offenders to adult court. Forming a backdrop to the debate is neuroscientific research on adolescent brain development that indicates juveniles’ reasoning abilities and impulse control are limited well into their 20s. The research also suggests that they can change their behavior, raising questions about youths’ culpability and likelihood of rehabilitation.

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