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Abstract

This Article seeks to advance discussions about the potential implications for justice policy of recent neuroscientific, psychological, and sociological research on young adults. In doing so, we emphasize the importance of not exaggerating either the empirical findings or their policy relevance. The available research does not indicate that individuals between the ages of eighteen and twenty are indistinguishable from younger adolescents in attributes relevant to criminal offending and punishment. Thus, we are skeptical on both scientific and pragmatic grounds about the merits of the proposal by some advocates that juvenile court jurisdiction should be categorically extended to age twenty-one. But the research does suggest that young adults, like juveniles, are more prone to risk-taking and that they act more impulsively than older adults in ways that likely influence their criminal conduct. Moreover, correctional reform is justified because young adult offenders, like noncriminal young adults and juvenile offenders, are more likely to become productive members of society if they are given the tools to do so during a critical developmental period.

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