- Published: November 14, 2012
The Juvenile Justice System is frequently a hotly contested issue as there are bright lines where circumstance cannot be taken into account. We know that though a child may be physically 15, she might have the mental capacity of a much older adult -- and vice versa. This is one of the many things that is not well accounted for the juvenile justice system. With a now better understanding of neuroscience (with still far more progress to be made), it is evident that adolescent brains are simply not the same as adult brains. The U.S. Department of Justice has considered a large reform of the juvenile justice system, taking into account holding youth offenders accountable, preventing recidivism, and treating youth justly. "What we're trying to come up with is a juvenile justice system that has accountability without criminalization," said Bonnie, vice chairman of the Committee on Assessing Juvenile Justice Reform, which produced the report. It's important that kids be held accountable. "But the same tools of accountability that are used for adults are not a good fit for adolescents because they interfere with successful development, rather than promoting it" . There is always the fear that accusing an adolescent of a crime unfairly will in the end create the monster that previously didn't exist.
That being said there is a large controversy around the idea of pre-screening children to detect for potential criminality. One of the biggest issues with this is that putting a label on a child may hinder its social development and subsequently create what could have been prevented. This in addition to the fact that there is no set criteria for potential criminal behavior poses challenged to making such wild claims as being able to scan to see if your baby will end up a serial killer. The issue is that we are in this situation, dehumanizing these children and creating some sort of normative idea of what a criminal must be -- i.e. a criminal must be identifiably damaged. Then how does this account for pschopaths whose traits are likely not apparent at a young age and could easily be mistaken for 'normal' child behavior. There are already treatments being developed for such children, even though it cannot be sure that they will become criminals. Epigenetics is the complex combination of genes and environment to make a person who they are, and there are many factors for what could make a child a crimial and more importantly -- a recidivating criminal.