"The Pathways to Desistance study is a multi-site, longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders as they transition from adolescence into early adulthood … [It] looks at the factors that led these youths to commit serious crimes and to continue or stop offending. Sections of this brief explain that: adolescents, including serious juvenile offenders, naturally mature psychologically, socially, and cognitively over time; 9% of persistent juvenile offenders continue criminal behavior as adults; there is a lot of variation in how juvenile offenders mature; prediction about future offending should be based on maturity patterns not offending severity or frequency; and serious juvenile offenders need help learning the psychosocial skills they need for a law-abiding adult life.
"Understanding why most juvenile offenders desist from antisocial activity as a part of the normative transition into adulthood may provide important insights into the design of interventions aimed at encouraging desistance … This study explores the processes through which juvenile offenders desist from crime and delinquency" (p. 2). Sections of this bulletin include: theories of psychosocial maturation process; models of psychosocial maturity; measuring the components of psychosocial maturity--temperance, perspective, and responsibility; measuring antisocial behavior; identifying trajectories of antisocial behavior; patterns of change in psychosocial maturity over time; psychosocial maturation and patterns of offending; and summary. This bulletin "provides evidence that, just as immaturity is an important contributor to the emergence of much adolescent misbehavior, maturity is an important contributor to its cessation. This observation provides an important complement to models of desistance from crime that emphasize individuals’ entrance into adult roles and the fact that the demands of these roles are incompatible with a criminal lifestyle … Perhaps the most important lesson learned from these analyses is that the vast majority of juvenile offenders grow out of antisocial activity as they make the transition to adulthood; most juvenile offending is, in fact, limited to adolescence (i.e., these offenders do not persist into adulthood) (p. 9).
“In the past decade, the Supreme Court has transformed the constitutional landscape of juvenile crime regulation. In three strongly worded opinions, the Court held that imposing harsh criminal sentences on juvenile offenders violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In combination, these cases create a special status for juveniles under Eighth Amendment doctrine as a category of offenders whose culpability is mitigated by their youth and immaturity, even for the most serious offenses. The Court also emphasized that juveniles are more likely to reform than adult offenders, and that most should be given a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that they have done so. In short, because of young offenders’ developmental immaturity, harsh sentences that may be suitable for adult criminals are seldom appropriate for juveniles. These opinions announce a powerful constitutional principle—that “children are different” for purposes of criminal punishment … This report addresses the key issues facing courts and legislatures under this new constitutional regime, and provides guidance based on the Supreme Court’s Eighth Amendment analysis and on the principles the Court has articulated” (p. 1). The accompanying briefs to the report are: “Overview Brief: The U.S. Supreme Court and the Transformation of Juvenile Sentencing”, “Juvenile Sentencing in A Developmental Framework: The Role of the Courts”, and “Practitioner Brief: Applying a Developmental Framework to Juvenile Sentencing—What Forensic Experts and Attorneys Should Know” all three by Scott, Grisso, Levick, and Steinberg.