U.S. Department of Justice

Because Kids are Different: Five Opportunities for Reforming the Juvenile Justice System

Publication year: 2014
"As broader acceptance of recent findings in the field of adolescent development has opened the way for change, juvenile justice policymakers, stakeholders, practitioners, and advocates across the country have not been slow to champion numerous innovations in policy and practice, generating remarkable momentum for reform. This momentum can be leveraged to change policy in five areas where current practice is fundamentally incompatible with healthy adolescent development … This document seeks to concisely frame these policies in light of the research on adolescent development, and thereby aid the juvenile justice reform field in taking strategic action to create a developmentally appropriate juvenile justice system that keeps everyone safer" (p. 4). Sections of this report cover: what we know about adolescent development and juvenile justice interventions—research findings showing that juveniles are different, fairness demands a new approach to youth offending, a developmental approach makes communities safer, and treating youth differently costs less; four recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings stating youth must be treated differently than adults; four lessons for juvenile justice policymakers from the National Research Council; five opportunities for developmentally appropriate policy change with descriptions of current practice, the developmental perspective, and the characteristics of a model system—prosecution of youth in the adult criminal system, solitary confinement, safeguarding confidentiality, registries for youth who commit sex offense, and courtroom shackling; and towards an age-appropriate justice system for young people.