CJISci researchers use science to understand human behavior in context and develop effective solutions to address quality of life issues for juveniles and their families. We understand opinions, personal beliefs, and experience are insufficient bases to support interventions, law, policy, or procedures. We seek empirical support to advance current reforms in the juvenile justice system. We seek to protect adolescents from harsh, punitive policies and sentences inconsiderate of developmental vulnerabilities.
A large body of existing psychology and emerging neuroscience research provides evidence of the developmental dissimilarity of adolescents to adults, including lagging emotional, psychosocial, and cognitive functions. Findings demonstrate the adolescent stage of development involves characteristic heightened risk-taking, impulsivity, sensation seeking, susceptibility to peer influence, and lack of future orientation, very often leading to poor judgment and decision-making. Unfortunately, the adolescent stage also leads to deviance and problem behaviors. Empirical evidence shows youth engaging in some form of deviance is common enough to consider normal however, even violent criminal behavior in adolescence is not a reliable predictor of future criminal behavior. These realities lead to real consequences and warrant needs and risk informed laws and intervention strategies to support and protect youth into mature adulthood. This requires caring adults committed to research, public dissemination, and evidence-based interventions for the sake of our young people.