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Brain Development and Trauma

To Plead or Not to Plead: A Comparison of Juvenile and Adult True and False Plea Decisions

Author: Allison D Redlich and Reveka V Shteynberg

In a criminal justice system in which almost every adjudicated defendant, regardless of age, pleads guilty, it becomes important to understand the decision-making process underlying this choice. In the present research, we examined how age (juvenile vs. young adult), guilt versus innocence, and plea comprehension influenced the decision to plead guilty and the underlying plea rationale. We found that whereas age did not affect willingness to plead guilty when participants were asked to assume guilt in a hypothetical scenario, juveniles were more than twice as likely as young adults to plead guilty when asked to assume innocence. In addition, consistent with past research and developmental theory, juveniles were significantly less likely than adults to consider the short- and long-term consequences of the decision, and to understand and appreciate plea-related information. We also found that legal knowledge, after controlling for age, was positively (albeit weakly) related to plea decisions, but only for guilty participants. Implications for juveniles and adults involved in the criminal justice system, as well as wrongful convictions, are discussed.

A First Look at the Plea Deal Experiences of Juveniles Tried in Adult Court

Author: Tarika Daftary-Kapur

While there is a large body of research on the legal capacities of adolescents, this research largely has neglected the plea-deal context. To learn about adolescents’ understanding of the plea process and their appreciation of the short- and long-term consequences of accepting a plea deal, we conducted interviews with 40 juveniles who were offered plea deals in adult criminal court. Participants displayed limited understanding of the plea process, were not fully aware of their legal options and appeared to be overly influenced by the short-term benefits associated with accepting their plea deals. Limited contact with attorneys may have contributed to poor understanding. Although preliminary, our results suggest that these youth might be at increased risk for due-process rights violations. We use these data to point to several open research questions on the plea-deal process for youth charged as adults.

Report of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence

Author: Robert L. Listenbee, Jr.; Joe Torre; The Rev. Gregory Boyle, SJ; Sharon W. Cooper, MD; Sarah Deer; Deanne Tilton Durfee; Thea James, MD; Alicia Lieberman, PhD; Robert Macy, PhD; Steven Marans, PhD; Jim McDonnell; Georgina Mendoza; Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba

* Note information on reforming the JJ System starts on page 171

The vast majority of children involved in the juvenile justice system have survived exposure to violence and are living with the trauma of that experience. If we are to fulfill the goals of the juvenile justice system — to make communities and victims whole, to rehabilitate young offenders while holding them accountable, and to help children develop skills to be productive and succeed — we must rethink the way the juvenile justice system treats, assesses, and evaluates the children within it.

Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach

Author: Richard J. Bonnie, Robert L. Johnson, Betty M. Chemers, and Julie A. Schuck

This research illustrates on the development of adolescents and how this development can affect their criminal behavior, making them more prone to commit crimes at a young age but not once they mature. The book determines that adolescents are more sensitive to external influences such as peer pressure and immediate rewards. Adolescents are less able to regulate their own behavior in emotionally charged contexts. Adolescents show less ability to make judgments and decisions that require future orientation.

Programs that Promote Positive Development Can Help Young Offenders Grow up and Out of Crime

Organization: Models for Change Resource Center Partnership

This brief deals with issues concerning the impact of an adolescent's level of maturity on future offending are discussed. In particular, ways to help serious juvenile offenders acquire the skills they need to live crime-free in the community. This report explains why: serious juvenile offenders, like their non-offending counterparts, vary in their patterns of development; most serious juvenile offenders are not on the road to persistent adult offending; multiple components of maturity are related to reduced offending; and reducing offending means not simply restricting opportunities to offend but expanding opportunities to grow.

Because Kids are Different: Five Opportunities for Reforming the Juvenile Justice System

Organization: Models for Change Resource Center Partnership

This report focuses on the implicated alterations of policies that will improve the compatibility of healthy adolescent development. In addition, it depicts on certain interventions and approaches of youth offenders.

The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders

Author: Michael T. Baglivio, Nathan Epps, Kimberly Swartzi, Mona Sayedul Huq, Amey Sheer, and Nancy S. Hardt

This article focuses on the prevalence and impact ACEs has on juvenile offenders and aims to address the lack of knowledge about this. Researchers have identified also identified multiple types of abuse, parental separation and other gender differences as repercussions of this.

Give Adolescents the Time and Skills to Mature, Most will Stop

Organization: Models for Change Resource Center Partnership

This brief shows that dolescents, including serious juvenile offenders, naturally mature—psychologically, socially, and cognitively—over time; that the trend among serious adolescent offenders is toward reduced offending; relatively few consistently engage in serious adult crime; that even among serious offenders, there is a lot of variation in how, when, and at what rate individuals mature; that some people have wondered whether we can predict future offending based on the severity or frequency of offending during adolescence, and tha the answer is no. However, patterns of maturing do mirror patterns of future offending.