Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime

By Scott, Elizabeth S.; Steinberg, Laurence | The Future of Children, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime


Scott, Elizabeth S., Steinberg, Laurence, The Future of Children


Summary

Elizabeth Scott and Laurence Steinberg explore the dramatic changes in the law's conception of young offenders between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. At the dawn of the juvenile court era, they note, most youths were tried and punished as if they were adults. Early juvenile court reformers argued strongly against such a view, believing that the justice system should offer young offenders treatment that would cure them of their antisocial ways. That rehabilitative model of juvenile justice held sway until a sharp upswing in youth violence at the end of the twentieth century led both public opinion and public policy toward a view that youths should be held to the same standard of criminal accountability as adults. Lawmakers seemed to lose sight of developmental differences between adolescents and adults.

But Scott and Steinberg note that lawmakers and the public appear now to be rethinking their views once more. A justice system that operates on the principle of "adult time for adult crime" now seems to many to take too little note of age and immaturity in calculating criminal punishment. In 2005 the United States Supreme Court abolished the juvenile death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, emphasizing that the immaturity of adolescents made them less culpable than adult criminals. In addition, state legislatures recently have repealed or moderated some of the punitive laws they recently enacted. Meanwhile, observe the authors, public anger has abated and attitudes toward young offenders have softened somewhat.

In response to these changes, Scott and Steinberg argue that it is appropriate to reexamine juvenile justice policy and to devise a new model for the twenty-first century. In this article, they propose what they call a developmental model. They observe that substantial new scientific evidence about adolescence and criminal activity by adolescents provides the building blocks for a new legal regime superior to today's policy. They put adolescent offenders into an intermediate legal category--neither children, as they were seen in the early juvenile court era, nor adults, as they often are seen today. They observe that such an approach is not only more compatible than the current regime with basic principles of fairness at the heart of the criminal law, but also more likely to promote social welfare by reducing the social cost of juvenile crime.

**********

During the closing decades of the twentieth century, juvenile justice policy underwent major change. In less than a generation, a justice system that had viewed most young lawbreakers as youngsters whose crimes were the product of immaturity was transformed into one that stands ready to hold many youths to the same standard of criminal accountability it imposes on adults. These changes took place through far-reaching legal and policy reforms in almost every state that have facilitated adult prosecution and punishment of juveniles and expanded the use of incarceration in the juvenile system. As the reforms proceeded, often in a frenzy of public fear and anger about violent juvenile crime, lawmakers appeared to assume that any differences between adolescents and adults were immaterial when it comes to devising youth crime policies.

Today, lawmakers and the public appear to be having second thoughts about a justice system in which age and immaturity often are ignored in calculating criminal punishment. In 2005, the United States Supreme Court, in Roper v. Simmons, abolished the juvenile death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment in an opinion that emphasized that the immaturity of adolescents made them less culpable than adult criminals. (1) Further, legislatures recently have repealed or moderated some of the punitive laws enacted with enthusiasm just a few years ago. Meanwhile, opinion polls show that public anger has abated and that more paternalistic attitudes toward young offenders have resurfaced. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.