Punishment and the Adolescent Brain: The Role of Developmental Science in Recent U.S. Supreme Court Decisions About Juvenile Offenders
Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Psychology
Monday, March 3rd
Presented by the Center for Psychology and Law
This event is free and open to the public. Approved for MCLE credit.
Abstract: In the past decade, the United States Supreme Court has issued landmark opinions in three cases that involved the criminal culpability of juveniles. In 2005, the Court abolished the juvenile death penalty. In 2010, the Court banned life without parole for juveniles convicted of crimes other than homicide. And in 2012, the Court prohibited states from mandating life without parole for any crimes committed by minors. In all three cases, the Court drew on scientific studies of the adolescent brain in concluding that adolescents, by virtue of their inherent psychological and neurobiological immaturity, are not as responsible for their behavior as adults. This presentation will discuss the Court’s rationale in these cases and the role that scientific evidence about adolescent brain development played in its decisions.
Bio: Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., is the Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University. He received his A.B. in Psychology from Vassar College and his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University. Dr. Steinberg is a former President of the Division of Developmental Psychology of the American Psychological Association and of the Society for Research on Adolescence, former Director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, and a member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. An internationally recognized expert on psychological development during adolescence, Dr. Steinberg’s research has focused on a range of topics in the study of contemporary adolescence, including adolescent brain development, risk-taking and decision-making, parent-adolescent relationships, school-year employment, high school reform, and juvenile justice. He served as a member of the National Academies’ Board on Children, Youth, and Families and chaired the Academies’ Committee on the Science of Adolescence. Dr. Steinberg was the lead scientist in the preparation of the American Psychological Association’s amicus briefs submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, which abolished the juvenile death penalty; Graham v. Florida, which banned the use of life without parole for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes; and Miller v. Alabama, which prohibited the use of mandatory life without parole for all juvenile crimes.
Dr. Steinberg is the author of approximately 350 articles and essays on growth and development during the teenage years, and the author, co-author, or editor of 18 books. His new book, AGE OF OPPORTUNITY: Revelations from the New Science of Adolescence, will be published in September, 2014. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Psychological Association’s Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society and its Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Public Policy, as well as the National Academy of Sciences Henry and Bryna David Lectureship. In 2009, Steinberg was named the first winner of the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for Productive Youth Development. In 2013, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.