Some Youth Incompetent to Stand Trial Due to Cognitive Impairments and Immaturity
10/13/2011 8:20:38 AM
A study published in September's issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law found that many youth in the juvenile justice system are determined as incompetent to stand trial due to cognitive impairments and an inability to understand the long-term consequences of their actions.The authors attribute the high rate of incompetency to stand trial in adolescents, especially those under fourteen, to a "myopic temporal perspective" which leads them to misunderstand or underestimate the consequences of their actions.
The researchers used the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Criminal Adjudication (MacCAT-CA), the Judgement in Legal Contexts (JILC) instrument, the Welchsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) and the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Second Version (MAYSI-2) to evaluate competence, future orientation, intellectual ability and psychopathy in 453 detained youth and 474 youth in the community who were not involved in the juvenile justice system. They found that competency was strongly associated with both intelligence and age. Additionally, youth with psychiatric symptoms were less competent than youth without psychiatric symptoms.
The authors note the importance of these findings in the juvenile justice system, as not all states require a consideration of maturity in evaluating juvenile defendant's competence. Aaron Kivisto, the lead author of the article, states, "When we're teenagers, we're focused on short-term consequences. Teens think about what might happen later today if they do something. Because courts can impose consequences that can affect someone's life for years, it appears that adolescents approach these longer-term and very serious implications blindly."Gabriella Celeste
, Child Policy Director, spoke with Faculty Associate Patrick Kanary
and Marcia Egbert of the George Gund Foundation on October 11, 2011 about recent reforms to juvenile justice programs in Ohio. These reforms will result in more youth remaining in their communities in evidence-based programs who would have previously been incarcerated. Download the powerpoint of their talk.
A number of Schubert Center Faculty Associates study child development, including:
Tags: Adolescence, Children, Development, Juvenile Justice, Violence
Article Brings Insight to How Adolescent Brains Work
10/6/2011 8:18:50 AM
This month’s National Geographic Magazine highlights new scientific understanding of adolescent brain development and the neurological changes that occur with adolescence. Although the brain doesn’t grow much between the ages of 12 and 25, massive changes lead to a faster and more sophisticated brain by adulthood.
During adolescence, axons, the nerve fibers used to send signals between neurons, become insulated with a fatty substance, myelin, in order to boost the axon’s transmission speed. Heavily used synapses grow much stronger. At the same time the brain goes through a process known as synaptic pruning, whereby infrequently used synapses wither allowing the brain to become more efficient.
Studies of impulse control show that although teens at age 15 can perform as well as adults if motivated, they were less able than adults to use regions of the brain that help them resist impulses. Among those performing the test at age 20, these regions of the brain were as easily accessed as adults. However, adults shouldn’t look at adolescents as neurologically inferior.
The article also states that from an evolutionary perspective teen brains are “exquisitely sensitive, highly adaptable creature[s] wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of home into the complicated world outside.” Thrill-seeking behaviors by adolescents, which peak at age 15, leads teens to have an openness to new and exciting experiences. Changes during adolescence also lead teens to seek out people of their own age, building important relationships for success in adulthood.
On October 6, Dr. Laurence Steinberg of Temple University, whose research on adolescent risk-taking is described in the article, will be speaking at Baldwin Wallace College on adolescent brain development and risk taking. Learn more about his talk.
Schubert Center Faculty Associate Andrew Garner recently spoke at the County Commissioners Association of Ohio about adolescent brain development as part of a panel organized by Voices for Ohio’s Children. He was accompanied by Child Policy Director Gabriella Celeste. View their presentation. Gabriella Celeste will also be speaking at an upcoming Schubert Center event on Tuesday October 11 on her involvement in juvenile justice reform in Ohio. Learn more about this event.
Read the National Geographic article.
Little known fact: Schubert Center graduate assistant Sarah C. Miller is from Austin, Texas, where National Geographic photographer Kitra Cahana followed teens for a year in the photographs accompanying the story
Tags: Adolescence, Children, Development, Juvenile Justice
Sentencing Reform Bill Changes Youth Sentencing Laws
7/18/2011 9:04:55 PM
On June 29, 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 86 into law. In addition to sentencing changes for adult offenders, the bill contains changes for sentencing juvenile offenders.
Schubert Center Child Policy Director Gabriella Celeste played a key role in authoring the juvenile justice sections of the bill and supporting its passage. In April 2011, she provided testimony to Ohio’s House Finance Transportation Sub-Committee on the positive community and fiscal implications of reducing the number of youth in correctional facilities on the one hand, and increasing treatment- and community-based programs for delinquent youth on the other. In June 2011, Ms. Celeste provided further testimony to the Ohio Senate Judiciary/Criminal Justice Committee, in which she argued in support of the new sentencing reform bill. According to her testimony, HB 86 1) Promotes research-supported, outcome-based programs and practices that maximize results and provide greater public safety per dollar spent, 2) revises ineffective and costly sentencing schemes by permitting greater judicial discretion and addressing court procedural issues such as competency, and 3) reflects an overall recognition that being “smart on juvenile crime” requires developmentally-appropriate treatment and accountability measures.
The following is a summary of the juvenile justice provisions of Amended House Bill 86:
1. HB 86 promotes research-informed practices. Specifically, in reference to how RECLAIM dollars should be spent, it adds new language that states: “Research-supported, outcome-based programs and services, to the extent available, shall be encouraged.”
2. HB 86 extends juvenile court authority to allow for judicial release throughout a youth’s term of commitment. Currently, judges can only grant an early release during a youth’s minimum sentence time period, after which any release decision rests solely with the Department of Youth Services (DYS). Under this reform, judges maintain jurisdiction to consider early release opportunities throughout a youth’s commitment, including instances in which juveniles are serving mandatory sentences.
3. HB 86 revises sentencing specifications to allow for judicial discretion in instances involving a gun where the youth was not the main actor. Specifically, juvenile judges have more discretion in sentencing for youth accomplices under certain conditions where the youth did not possess, dispose of, or otherwise use the weapon.
4. HB 86 adopts a uniform juvenile competency code that applies to all delinquency proceedings using a juvenile-specific standard. A juvenile is incompetent if, “due to mental illness, intellectual disability, or developmental disability, or otherwise due to or a lack of mental capacity, the child is presently incapable of understanding the nature and objective of proceedings against the child or of assisting in the child’s defense.” A child who is 14 or older who is not otherwise found to be mentally ill, intellectually disabled, or developmentally disabled, is presumed to “not have a lack of mental capacity”.
5. HB 86 creates a reverse waiver provision for youth automatically transferred to adult court (mandatory bindover) that would permit transfer back to juvenile court. This reverse waiver procedure would only apply in those circumstances where a youth is convicted of an offense that would not have originally qualified as a mandatory bindover offense. In this instance, the case would go back to juvenile court for juvenile sentencing or an amenability hearing to determine whether the adult sentence should be invoked.
6. HB 86 creates an Interagency Mental Health Juvenile Justice Task Force to address the challenges of delinquent youth who “suffer from serious mentally illness or emotional and behavioral disorders.” The six month Task Force has representation from the state Supreme Court, the Governors office, the House, the Senate, ODYS, ODMH, juvenile judges, public defenders, prosecutors, academic institutions, and numerous other experts, such as NAMI. It must submit a report with findings and recommendations to the legislature by March 31, 2012.
Tags: Juvenile Justice, Mental Health