Juvenile Justice: Raise the Age to 21 for non-capital crimes

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Raise the age of juvenile incarceration to 21!

The development of the frontal lobe of the brain does not complete until their mid-twenties. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for decision making and risk taking activities and critical thinking (Hutchison, 2017).  Also, juveniles are not permitted to purchase tobacco, alcohol, have a full privilege license and are unable to vote until the age of 18 ratifying the argument that an adolescent brain is still under construction (Ash, 2012).


Anatomically and psychologically, juveniles do not have the level of maturity or the full capabilities to regulate their impulses, moods, and behaviors the way a fully developed brain does. Not to mention that juveniles do not have the full capabilities to self-regulate and perceive the danger and consequences of their impulsive decisions (Lambie & Randell, 2013).

According to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, children who are exposed to violence are “more likely to fail in school and at work, suffer from mental health problems, experience serious medical problems, become future victims of violence, and be involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems” (OJJDP, 2014). These findings show a direct correlation of how minority racial/ethnic groups in America can be set up on a trajectory for the criminal system from when they are born.

Being incarcerated as a juvenile can have negative behavioral and psychological consequences, especially for those who are sent to adult prisons. Increases in aggressive behaviors have resulted in juvenile offenders possibly from the violence they are exposed to while incarcerated, as well as antisocial behaviors and abuse from victimization (Lambie & Randell, 2013). 

Multiple studies concluded that the majority of juvenile justice youth have a behavioral health problem with an estimated 65-75 percent with at least one behavioral health disorder, mental health or substance abuse (Kretschmar et. al., 2015). Not only do some juveniles enter into the system with preexisting mental health disorders, but the damaging effects incarceration can have on youth can trigger or exacerbate mental illness as well. These impacts from incarceration can limit positive rehabilitation, have lasting damaging effects on juveniles, and can contribute to recidivism (Lambie & Randell, 2013).

Although the death penalty was abolished in 2005, youths as young as 14 years old continue to endure cruel and unusual punishment as some youths still face the death penalty carried out on a local, state level (Rovner, 2016).

The United States has the highest incarceration rate of youths at nearly five times the rate of South Africa and eighty times more than Finland (Statistic Brain, 2016).



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