Opinion: We Must Stop Unjustly Punishing Kids Entangled in the Legal System



The Columbus Dispatch: Sarah Denny - April 29, 2021


We have a deep and recent history in this country of punishing children and teens in violent and tragic ways despite their age.


The youngest documented juvenile death penalty was the execution of a 12-year-old girl in Connecticut in 1786.


The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t outlaw juvenile death sentences until 2005. Our own state of Ohio abolished life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders only earlier this year.


Why are we so slow to change our ways and reform, once and for all, our juvenile justice system? As a pediatrician, I turn to science. And it makes a compelling case.


For example, we know from scientific research that the frontal lobe of the human brain — the hub of decision-making, impulse control and attention — does not reach full maturity until a person reaches their mid-20s.


And yet, so often, we continue to punish children, teens and young adults as if they were fully mature adults.


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