How should we think about dealing with youth offenders who are tried and sentenced as adults? What interventions make the most sense? And how can juvenile justice systems make better use of grounded, empirically-demonstrated information in sentencing guidelines that ultimately reduce the rates of youth re-offending?

Those were some of the questions addressed by Ed Mulvey, Ph.D, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Law and Psychiatry program with the Western Psychiatric Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Some 120 people from various quarters of youth child care and provider services convened at the Thwing Center at Case Western Reserve University recently to hear Dr. Mulvey speak about this and similar topics of interest, including his recent co-authored work with colleagues on a report published by the National Academy of Sciences, entitled, “Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach”.

MSASS Blog Ed-Mulvey-Presentation

Ed Mulvey presenting at the Shubert-CIP Conversation

Learn More About Edward Mulvey | Read Further About Reforming Juvenile Justice

One of the main messages presented was that the physiological make-up of the adolescent brain is distinctly different from its eventual landscape as an adult brain. This growing understanding should be taken into consideration when determining adolescent interventions with youth in the juvenile justice system. Adolescents are qualitatively different from adults and younger children and this should be viewed accordingly.

“The essence of adolescence is that impulses are not going to be curbed, they’re going to be heightened” said Dr. Mulvey. “There is a kind of a debate about, Do adolescents really look that different? Aren’t they just kind of on a straight, linear line to becoming an adult?”

The answer, he says, is no. That’s not the case.

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