Connecticut Governor's Proposal to Raise Juvenile Court Age Sets Precedent

Posted November 9, 2015
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog governormalloy 2015

Con­necti­cut Gov­er­nor Dan­nel Mal­loy has pro­posed that Con­necti­cut become the first state in U.S. his­to­ry to raise the age of juve­nile, or fam­i­ly, court juris­dic­tion beyond age 18. Gov­er­nor Malloy’s prece­dent-set­ting pro­pos­al would raise the age of juve­nile court juris­dic­tion through age 20 and devel­op a sep­a­rate process for hand­ing cas­es for defen­dants and offend­ers between the ages of 21 and 25.

The gov­er­nor’s pro­pos­al is both bold and con­sis­tent with a grow­ing body of brain research and behav­ioral sci­ence con­firm­ing that young peo­ple are fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent than adults. We now know that the brains of young adults into their ear­ly 20s are devel­op­men­tal­ly clos­er to those of ado­les­cents than to old­er adults. As states around the coun­try seek to roll back harsh laws that trans­fer youth to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, state leg­is­la­tion has the poten­tial to push back even more emphat­i­cal­ly, sug­gest­ing that not only should we treat youth as youth, but that our tra­di­tion­al ceil­ing for juve­nile juris­dic­tion is far too low.

For the last two decades, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has part­nered with state and local juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems around the coun­try to demon­strate that the vast major­i­ty of jus­tice-involved youth can be served safe­ly in the com­mu­ni­ty instead of in cost­ly insti­tu­tions. Our expe­ri­ence has taught us time and again that all youth, regard­less of offense, should receive age-appro­pri­ate respons­es root­ed in prin­ci­ples of youth development.

The evi­dence is clear that the adult crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem can­not meet the devel­op­men­tal needs of youth and can expose them to an array of deep phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal harms. The ado­les­cent brain, body and emo­tions are not fixed, but rather high­ly dynam­ic and respon­sive to their envi­ron­ment until a young per­son reach­es his or her mid-20s. There­fore, youth who have bro­ken the law should be held account­able in ways that rec­og­nize their devel­op­men­tal stage and capac­i­ty for change. The promise of the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem to help youth can­not be real­ized if youth are treat­ed like adults and exposed to harsh sen­tenc­ing and cor­rec­tion­al con­di­tions.

As an orga­ni­za­tion, the Casey Foun­da­tion is com­mit­ted to the result that all chil­dren in the Unit­ed States have a brighter future. Pro­pos­als such as Gov­er­nor Malloy’s rec­og­nize that no mat­ter how seri­ous a crime he may have com­mit­ted, a young per­son in trou­ble with the law deserves to be equipped with skills and oppor­tu­ni­ties that allow him to reach his full potential.

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families