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Discussing the Future of Justice-Involved Young Adults

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2015
9 pages
This video and accompanying transcript cover a six-member panel presentation on recent scientific findings on brain development in young adults (18-25 years old) and the implications of these findings for how the criminal justice system manages offenders in this age group.
The panelists with expertise in recent findings in brain-development research advise that although cognitive brain development peaks at approximately 16 years old, the areas of the brain that govern behavioral and impulse control do not reach their full development until the mid and late twenties. This suggests that risk and impulse control continue to be a problem in the young adult years, i.e., from 19 years old until approximately age 25. Panelists who discuss the implications of these scientific findings for criminal justice policy address the extension of juvenile court jurisdiction to include young adulthood and the tailoring of treatment programs to the distinctive developmental needs of young adults, such as techniques of self-control; setting long-term goals; and preparation for adult responsibilities in the areas of education, employment, and social interactions. Panelists argue that ignoring these evidence-based developmental issues under a rigid assignment of criminal responsibility based on unscientific, age-related criteria for punishment and sentencing is likely to promote rather than reduce recidivism among young adults.

Date Published: September 1, 2015