News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.


The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

Juvenile Law Center

The Juvenile Law Center’s initiatives include minimizing court and systems involvement, promoting fairness in the courts, improving outcomes for court-ordered youth, and ensuring access to services and opportunities. Founded in 1975 and the oldest non-profit, public interest law firm for children in the United States, the Juvenile Law Center has become a national advocate for children’s rights, working across the country to enforce and promote the rights and well-being of children who come into contact with the justice, child welfare and other public systems.

Through litigation, appellate advocacy and submission of amicus (friend-of-the-court) briefs, policy reform, public education, training, and strategic communications, the Juvenile Law Center strives to ensure that laws, policies, and practices affecting youth are rooted in research, consistent with children’s unique developmental characteristics, and reflective of international human rights values.

Explore the Juvenile Law Center’s online resources here.

Why Juvenile Justice Advocates Shouldn’t Ignore Retribution

By John Maki | Juvenile Justice Information Exchange | February 12, 2014

In juvenile justice advocacy, we don’t like to talk about retribution, the principle that people who break the law deserve to be punished in proportion to their offenses.

This is for a good reason. It is not just the fact that it is cruel for the state to hurt kids, even if it is sanctioned by some theory of moral desert. At its core, the juvenile justice system rejects the primacy of this idea.

The founding premise of the juvenile justice system is not to define kids by their past actions and punish them as if they were adults, but to look toward their possible future and how they can develop beyond the worst thing they have done. Continue reading »

Let’s stop arresting kids for being kids

By Phillip Kassel, Miriam Ruttenberg and Dan Losen | The Boston Globe | February 10, 2014

The state Supreme Judicial Court said recently that a judge may protect students from “the stigma of being perceived to be a criminal” by dismissing a charge prior to the initial court appearance. This is a good step in the right direction. But we need to do more to keep youths from being arrested in schools in the first place. As US Attorney General Eric Holder said recently; “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.”

Consistent with a national trend addressed in new federal guidance, Massachusetts students formerly disciplined in house are now cuffed, arrested, and charged with crimes for minor misbehaviors in significant numbers. A Brockton youth with a good disciplinary record was arrested and charged with “assault with a deadly weapon” for accidentally (as the principal acknowledged) hitting a teacher with a tossed candy, causing no injury. In Taunton and Springfield, students were arrested for using bad language, slamming doors, or merely being obnoxious. Continue reading »

CLBB expands into public policy and juvenile justice with new Faculty and Board members

The MGH Center for Law, Brain and Behavior is pleased to introduce the newest members of our Faculty and Advisory Board. These new members bring expertise in child psychiatry, government, moral cognition, the adolescent brain, public affairs, and Massachusetts politics. We look forward to their contributions to the ongoing work of the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior. Continue reading »

Decision-making, explained?

Decision making and memory are lynchpins of human behavior and cognition.  And the emerging science of the failures of decision making and memory is becoming increasingly relevant for discussions of public policy and the criminal justice system.

“We don’t know much, but we know a few things that can be put to use,” Kahneman said.

In a talk Tuesday at Harvard Business School, psychologist and Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman sat down with Harvard Law Professor and decision scholar Cass Sunstein to discuss Kahnemann’s research into how the mind processes information, the distinction between experience and memory, and it’s role in shaping the field of behavioral economics.  Colleen Walsh, staff writer for the Harvard Gazette, reported:

While Kahneman said he initially thought that determining “whether people were happy in their life is more important than how happy they are when they think about their life,” he later changed his mind based on an understanding of how people plan for the future.

“In a way, when you think about the future you are maximizing the qualities of your anticipated memories. If this is true, it’s absurd to have a conception of well-being which has nothing to do with what people are actually trying to achieve.”

During a question-and-answer session, one member of the audience wondered if it is premature to use what are sometimes considered “primitive” behavioral findings in shaping public policy. (In recent years, several countries, including the United States, have created behavioral insights teams to help their governments design better policy.)

“We don’t know much, but we know a few things that can be put to use,” Kahneman said.

See the full article in the Harvard Gazette here. By Colleen Walsh, February 5, 2014.