Do You Purport That There Is a Strong Sense of Validity in Explaining Juvenile Delinquency and Behaviors Through Development and Neuroscience?
A significant part of the argument for these decisions included an understanding of adolescent brain development. While society’s attitudes will ultimately dictate the shape of law, science can be used to confirm and dispel common ideas about teenage behavior to forge a more scientifically sound and financially viable system for adolescent reform. Scientists know that the adolescent brain is still developing, that it is highly subject to reward- and peer-influence, and that its rate of development varies widely across the population. They have developed basic tools that offer data with which to judge the potential for juvenile desistance, recidivism, and rehabilitation. With its ability to examine the workings of the teenage brain, neuroscience is improving our understanding of adolescents, and potentially, juvenile offenders. Through their window into the brain, neuroscientists understand, for example, that adolescents mature at markedly varied rates.
Then we look at studies of intention, perception of risk, and other mental states that matter to the mens rea of crimes. And, last, we discuss studies of self-control, which might be relevant to some formulations of the insanity defense. As we show, to date, very little is known about the brain that is of significance for understanding criminal responsibility. But there is no reason to think that neuroscience cannot provide evidence that will challenge our understanding of criminal responsibility. The question is very much worth asking, and while some work has already been done in this direction, as described in the previous sections of this article, there is much more work ahead for a confidently positive answer (Kateri McRae et al., 2010).
Juveniles’ developmental context plays a huge role in their legal culpability and should be considered in court. The recent Supreme Court rulings have paved the way for using brain science in court in juvenile cases.
Roper v. Simmons (543 U.S. 551 (2005)), Graham v. Florida (130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010)), Miller v. Alabama (132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012)).
Todd A. Hare, Colin F. Camerer, & Antonio Rangel, Self-Control in Decision-Making Involves Modulation of the vmPFC Valuation System, 324 science 646, 648 (2009).
Kateri McRae et al., The Neural Bases of Distraction and Reappraisal, 22 J. cogn. neurosci. 248, 262 (2010)