MyNotes - Adolescent Brain Research and Criminal Justice

The following article was shared during an Abydos Training (Summer Writing Academy) and jives with some of the other main points on Brain Power (the take-aways) the found worth remembering from Acts of Teaching book...those take-aways included the following:

  1. Stress negatively impacts memory 
  2. Creativity is normal brain activity. "Creativity is not something that occurs only in the brains of outstanding individual. It is a normal aspect of human brain function (Restak, 1984). 
  3. The brain inside a teenager's skull is in some ways closer to a child's brain than to an adults. (Brownlee, 1999, U.S. News and World Report).
  4. Brain development occurs in womb. 
  5. Provide enriched environments because they enhance students. 
  6. Learners should be encouraged to explore, to extend, to dig deep, to solve problems, to become question-posers, to create. 
  7. Dyslexia, ADD/ADHD - cognitive style. Dyslexics think differently. They are intuitive and excel at problem-solving, seeing the big picture, and simplifying (Sally Shaywitz) 
  8. If we harbor any real or imagined fears or concerns that give rise to feelings of inadequacy when it comes to writing...our enthusiasm carries over into feelings of genuine delight about the writing of others. Students will not be fooled (Acts of Teaching) 
  9. Students are impacted by everything in their environment. Give them a steady diet of worksheets, which deaden all stimuli and challenge, put them in a daily threatening situation, and the brain's Reticular Activating system (RAS) works overtime to alert hte brain to danger and works to avoid that danger at all costs in order to survive. 
  10. People remember best when they organize and relate new material in subjective ways. 
  11. When teachers teach from a script--be it a basal or an ancient lesson plan--students respond in kind. There is no spontaneity, no sparkle, no verve and no passion. Everyone is "doing time." In that situation, students remember little. In classes where the teacher goes over and over the material ad nauseam, there is little motivation. 
  12. Any activity which engages a student's interest and imagination which sparks the desire to seek out an answer, or ponder a question, or create a response, can be good potential brain food (Healy). 

 Consider these points in light of the information shared below about adolescent brains and the criminal justice system.

What's the Matter with Kids Today - Magazine - ABA Journal
    • A group of test subjects ages 10 to 30 is asked to solve a puzzle

      • Adolescents tend to start moving balls almost immediately, which usually necessitates rearranging later. Adults, however, tend to take more time to consider their first move, which generally allows them to solve the puzzle on their first try.

        • The test is designed to measure impulse control.

          • In another experiment, designed to measure mature decision-making abilities, test subjects are presented with a choice between a small, immediate cash reward and a larger, long-term cash reward. Younger subjects invariably have a lower "tipping point"—the amount of money they are willing to take to get their reward immediately. Older subjects are more willing to wait.

            • younger subjects take greater risks when their friends are present; older subjects tend not to change their driving in either case.

              • It's also part of the science that lies at the heart of a series of decisions, including a May ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida, that have changed the direction of juvenile justice.

                • Graham outlawed life-without-parole sentencing in nonhomicide cases for individuals under age 18, and it may be comparable to the Brown v. Board of Education case in juvenile justice, says Paolo Annino, a Florida State University law professor and director of the school's children's advocacy clinic.

                  • we are finally acknowledging outside of the death penalty arena that kids are different from adults and need to be treated differently by the criminal justice system

                    • adolescents, as a group, are more immature, more irresponsible, more susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, and more capable of long-term change than are adults, which the court said made them categorically ineligible for the death penalty.

                      • These differences render suspect any conclusion that a juvenile falls among the worst offenders," for whom the death penalty is reserved, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the 5-4 majority in Roper. "The susceptibility of juveniles to immature and irresponsible behavior means 'their irresponsible conduct is not as morally reprehensible as that of an adult.' "

                        • Graham created a new categorical rule barring life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicides, Stevenson reasons. And every time the court has created such a rule, it has been held to be retroactive. "It's an important win not only for kids who have been condemned to die in prison but for all children who need additional protection and recognition in the criminal justice system," he says.

                          • Scientists say research demonstrates what every parent of a teenager probably knows instinctively: That even though adolescents may be capable of thinking like adults, they are mentally and emotionally still children.

                            • While an individual's cognitive abilities (thinking, reasoning) reach adult levels around the age of 16, studies show that psychosocial capabilities (impulse control, judgment, future orientation and resistance to peer pressure) continue to develop well into early adulthood

                              • Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychology professor who has been studying adolescent brain and behavioral development for 35 years, likens the teenage brain to a car with a powerful gas pedal and weak brakes

                                • While the gas pedal responsible for things like emotional arousal and susceptibility to peer pressure is fully developed, the brakes that permit long-term thinking and resistance to peer pressure need work.

                                  • Such research shows, for instance, that adolescents exhibit more neural activity than adults or children in areas of the brain that promote risky and reward-based behavior

                                    • "The argument that the juvenile brain is too insufficiently developed to constitutionally permit imposition of life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for the most heinous and violent criminal offenses is predicated on advocacy masquerading as science," the center said.

                                      • "A criminal justice system which categorically denies constitutional and proper sentences for juvenile offenders perpetuates no justice at all."

                                        • adolescent brain development

                                          • unfinished products, human works-in-progress. They stand at a peculiarly vulnerable moment in their lives. Their potential for growth and change is enormous. Almost all of them will outgrow criminal behavior, and it is practically impossible to detect the few who will not."

                                            • "As the Roper court noted, juveniles are more malleable and capable of reform than adults: It is cruel to simply 'give up' on them," their brief said.

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