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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 206992 Find in a Library
Title: Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Juvenile Death Penalty: Adolescence, Brain Development and Legal Culpability
Author(s): Adam Ortiz
Corporate Author: American Bar Assoc
Juvenile Justice Ctr
United States of America
Date Published: January 2004
Page Count: 4
Sponsoring Agency: American Bar Assoc
Washington, DC 20005
Open Society Foundation
New York, NY 10019
Sale Source: American Bar Assoc
Juvenile Justice Ctr
740 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Document (Online)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Within the last 5 years, scientists have used new technologies to discover that adolescent brains are far less developed than previously believed, which confirms that adolescents are less morally culpable for their actions than competent adults and are also better candidates for change and rehabilitation.
Abstract: Scientists are now using advances in magnetic resonance imaging to create and study three-dimensional images of the brain without the use of radiation. This allows scientists to safely scan children over many years to track the development of their brains. The evidence is now strong that the brain does not reach its full development until the early 20's in those relevant parts that govern impulsivity, judgment, planning for the future, foresight of consequences, and other characteristics that make people morally culpable. In addition to their underdeveloped brains, adolescents also undergo dramatic hormonal and emotional changes that are associated with aggression and self-absorption. Children who have been abused have the additional handicap of maladaptive coping mechanisms that increase their risk for delinquent behavior and violence. In 1992, research by Dr. Chris Mallett found that two-thirds of all juveniles sentenced to death had backgrounds of abuse, psychological disorders, low IQ, indigence, and/or substance abuse. The scientific confirmation of the biological influences that increase juveniles' risk for impulsive, aggressive, and irresponsible behavior does not excuse juveniles from being accountable for their behavior, but it should lessen their culpability compared with adults. 32 notes
Main Term(s): Juvenile capital punishment
Index Term(s): Biological influences; Child abuse as delinquency factor; Criminal responsibility; Cruel and unusual punishment; Juvenile delinquency factors; Youth development
Note: Downloaded September 27, 2004.
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