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Inside Criminal Justice

Should Juvenile Criminals Get Adult Sentences?

November 28, 2012 06:28:45 am

Photo by derekskey, via Flickr

Sean Shevlino grew up a typical kid from a conservative, affluent Charleston, SC suburb. But when he was a teenager, things started to go downhill. Arrested in 2006 for his part in a supermarket robbery, Shevlino was sent to prison for 10 years. Since he was 16 at the time of his crime, under South Carolina law he was charged as an adult.

Increasingly, however, social scientists, law enforcement authorities, lawyers and judges are questioning the wisdom of charging juveniles like Shevlino as adults. They point to psychologists’ research suggesting that while some teenagers can be astonishingly mature, the adolescent brain develops at different rates.  Middle adolescence—ages 14-18—might be the worst time for rational decision making. 

In a special report for The Daily Beast, reporter Clark Merrefield examines the dysjunction between the law and what science tells us about juvenile development. Merrefield, a 2012 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow, explored the Shevlino case and others as part of his special project.

Read his story HERE.

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