Adolescent offenders should not be tried as adults

The Hartford Courant, May 15, 2013

As most parents are acutely aware, and scientists have proved, the brains of adolescents are not fully developed. That’s why youngsters are often impulsive, reckless and blissfully unaware of the consequences of their actions.

It’s also why adolescents should be treated differently than adults in the criminal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged this, and the Connecticut General Assembly should as well. Two bills before the legislature would limit the application of adult sentencing rules for those who committed serious crimes as adolescents. Both bills are humane, sensible and science-based, and should pass.

In three decisions since 2005, the Supreme Court has held that young people under 18 who commit crimes cannot be sentenced to death or to life without possibility of parole, and that many young offenders get a “second look” at some point in their sentences. The court stressed that because their brains are still developing, young people are less culpable for crimes than adults and more likely to rehabilitate themselves.

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