Just in time to be an interesting lead to our upcoming event, Juveniles in Adult Institutions, a bill–SB 261–has passed in California that expands the definition of juveniles.
The bill, proposed by Senator Hancock, is an extension of SB 260, which passed in 2013. Under that bill, as explained in this guide, people sentenced to lengthy prison terms in adult institutions for offenses they committed under the age of 18 receive a special “youth offender hearing” before the parole board, in which juvenile development is taken into account in the decision whether to release.
If Governor Brown signs SB 261, the age cutoff will rise to 23.
There are some very good reasons, grounded in developmental psychology, for expanding the definition of “juvenile” to adolescent years. We have known for a while that the transition from juvenile to adult is non-linear, due to considerable changes in brain chemistry, and that adolescent brain development continues occurring until the mid-20s. The emerging findings from this research have already shaped some legal decisions, such as Roper v. Simmons, Miller v. Alabama, and Graham v. Florida.
At our event on September 17, we’ll be discussing the implications of these developmental psychology findings on our practices of trying juveniles as adults. Please join us!