What should we do with teenagers who commit crimes? Are they children whose offenses are the result of immaturity and circumstances, or are they in fact criminals?
“Adult time for adult crime” has been the justice system’s mantra for the last twenty years. But locking up so many young people puts a strain on state budgets—and ironically, the evidence suggests it ultimately increases crime.
In this bold book, two leading scholars in law and adolescent development offer a comprehensive and pragmatic way forward. They argue that juvenile justice should be grounded in the best available psychological science, which shows that adolescence is a distinctive state of cognitive and emotional development. Although adolescents are not children, they are also not fully responsible adults.
Elizabeth Scott and Laurence Steinberg outline a new developmental model of juvenile justice that recognizes adolescents’ immaturity but also holds them accountable. Developmentally based laws and policies would make it possible for young people who have committed crimes to grow into responsible adults, rather than career criminals, and would lighten the present burden on the legal and prison systems. In the end, this model would better serve the interests of justice, and it would also be less wasteful of money and lives than the harsh and ineffective policies of the last generation.
America's justice system has become increasingly punitive toward our teenagers during past 25 years. Terrifying terms like "super predator," "zero tolerance" and "vicious youth gangs" are part of our everyday speech. But as Scott and Steinberg show, new neuroscientific and psychological evidence challenges the punitive approach. The book combines rigorous science and impeccable legal scholarship, with forceful prose, to argue for a wholesale reform of the juvenile justice system.
Scott and Steinberg, leading figures in juvenile law and adolescent developmental psychology, have joined forces to argue that now is the moment to reconstitute, in a completely original way, how America deals with juvenile crime and juvenile offenders. At once deeply learned and altogether pragmatic, Rethinking Juvenile Justice is one of the most transformative books this field has seen in the past 20 years.
The subject of juvenile justice breeds extreme responses. The academic sensibility is extremely lenient, seeing misguided kids who need understanding and help more than punishment. The legal system is mindlessly punitive: juvenile defendants in the US are treated more harshly than adults elsewhere in the Western world. In the midst of this crazy conversation, Scott and Steinberg are voices of sanity. Their wholly novel approach to juvenile crime will make equal sense to judges, juvenile advocates, and urban police forces. This book is a terrific example of what speaking truth to power, effectively, looks like.
This multidisciplinary book is exactly what policy makers should consult when thinking about ways to change a system that is in dire need of repair.
What distinguishes this book from other writings in the field are not the proposals made, which are relatively modest, but rather the developmental sophistication with which they are defended. And in the end, the hard questions the book raises are not about juvenile justice policy, but rather about the interrelationship between law and science. Offering us the gold standard in legal-developmental collaboration, it presses us to consider the role the developmental sciences should play in shaping the law affecting children...What makes the book so valuable is that it can be relied upon by judges, legislatures, lawyers, and policymakers to enhance the sophistication with which they consider the very issues that they are currently being called on to decide. In this sense, Rethinking Juvenile Justice is a complete success. Lawmakers already look to Scott and Steinberg's earlier work when they address how the law should respond to juvenile crime, and this book should only enhance the sophistication of those lawmaking efforts...Rethinking Juvenile Justice promises to enhance the sophistication of those addressing juvenile justice policy on a broad range of issues.
[Scott and Steinberg] believe that new juvenile justice reforms that publicize available scientific developmental data and empirical data demonstrating savings in recidivism and costs due to keeping kids in the juvenile system will be successful. They believe that we can avoid the demolition of the courts or at least staunch the loss of so many young offenders from the courts' jurisdiction...This book is one of the very few works that provides legal and developmental analyses and offers politically savvy advice about implementing a successful legislative strategy...This is a book that everyone should read.
- 2010, Winner of the SRA Social Policy Publication Awards
- 384 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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