Rethinking the Criminalization of Youth: Behavioral Scientists Address Juvenile Justice

Article excerpt

Asymposium, "Rethinking the Criminalization of Youth," brought scholars from around the nation to talk specifically to Cornell undergraduates in November 2003. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, a Cornell alumna and a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 University Professor, was the featured speaker.

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The gathering of experts was organized by Joan Jacobs Brumberg, a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and Cornell professor of human development and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, and Jane Levine Powers, senior research associate at Cornell's Family Life Development Center. The program focused on behavioral sciences research into crime and punishment for youthful offenders. The symposium was designed to reflect issues in the news. It addressed the case of teenager Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the Washington, D.C., Beltway sniper murders of 2002, for which he was later arrested. (In December 2003, Malvo was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for one of the killings.)

Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D. '77, Distinguished University Professor at Temple University, gave a plenary talk, "Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence." Steinberg is a driving force behind the MacArthur Network, a group of developmental psychologists, criminologists, and lawyers who are mapping best practices for how the law should deal with youthful offenders. A panel discussion explored the treatment of violent youth. Panelists included Steven A. Drizin, associate clinical professor of law, Northwestern University School of Law; Jeffrey Fagan, director of the Center for Violence Research and Prevention at Columbia University; and David Kaczynski of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty. James Garbarino, the E. L. Vincent Professor of Human Development in the College of Human Ecology, gave summary comments.

A presentation on the past and future of juvenile executions was given by Victor L. Streib, professor and former dean of Ohio Northern University Law School and author of The Juvenile Death Penalty in America. …