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.

WATCH – “Juvenile Justice & the Adolescent Brain: Is Healthy Neurodevelopment a Civil Right?”

Adolescent brain science has already transformed juvenile justice policy. As we see from recent Supreme Court rulings that ended the death penalty and life without parole for juveniles, the Court is predisposed to appreciate arguments that indicate that adolescents are neurobiologically different from adults.

Brain science may also elucidate neurodevelopmental implications for juvenile offenders subject to prolonged removal from the community, facilities with limited educational and rehabilitative resources, solitary confinement, or transfer to the adult criminal system for trial and incarceration as an adult. If these conditions can be shown to have long-term, detrimental effects on the adolescent brain, might it be possible to establish a scientific and legal basis for the “right to a sound brain,” or a healthy context for brain development, enforceable through the Eighth Amendment?

On Thursday, March 12, 2015, the MGH Center for Law Brain & Behavior’s Juvenile Justice working group presented a public symposium at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center of Harvard Medical School bringing together a juvenile court Judge (Hon. Jay Blitzman), forensic mental health evaluation and juvenile justice policy expert (Thomas Grisso), adolescent developmental neuroscientist (Leah Somerville), and Department of Youth Services clinician (Jeanne Tomich) to elucidate this question. Robert Kinscherff, forensic psychologist and Senior Associate at the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice, moderated the conversation.

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Working group to tackle juvenile brain & justice system

Beginning in summer 2014, as part of a venture into juvenile justice as an ongoing program area, CLBB convened a faculty juvenile justice working group to bring together experts in the adolescent brain and criminal justice to respond to key ethical and legal issues at their intersections. The groups, drawing from the Harvard Law and Medical Schools and Harvard University Psychology Faculty, will convene for ongoing expert faculty meetings, academic publications, and a public seminar event. The group is supported by the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. View the initial announcement here.

CLBB Faculty and working group members include adolescent brain researchers Leah Somerville, PhD and Margaret Sheridan, PhD, adolescent psychiatrist Gene Beresin, MD, and juvenile offender evaluation and juvenile justice policy experts Thomas Grisso, PhD, Robert Kinscherff, PhD, Esq., and Gina Vincent, PhD.

The group will culminate its first year with a public Symposium on Juvenile Justice on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The Symposium will take place at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center of Harvard Medical School. View event details and RSVP.