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.

The 17-Year-Old Adults

By Maurice Chammah | The Atlantic | 3 March 2015

If you’re 17 years old and arrested for a crime, where you go depends mostly on what state you happen to live in. Although prosecutors and judges are usually able to pull teenagers out of the juvenile court system and charge them as adults if the crime is severe enough, nine states automatically classify 17-year-olds as adults. In North Carolina and New York, 16-year-olds always face adult courts.

But these states are the holdouts. In the last few years, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Connecticut have raised the age of who is automatically considered an adult by the criminal justice system to 18. Plenty of policymakers still believe that certain individuals merit adult prison time no matter their age, but as a matter of blanket policy, lawmakers are increasingly setting the age of adult “criminal responsibility” at 18, citing the fact that adolescent brains are still developing at age 17 — and continue developing well into the 20s — and that these youths are particularly vulnerable to abuse in adult prisons. Continue reading »

Reflections on Roper

By Andrew Cohen | The Marshall Project | 2 March 2015

It has been exactly ten years since the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Roper v. Simmons, a 5-4 decision that declared that the Eighth Amendment precluded the imposition of the death penalty for murderers who committed their capital crimes before they turned 18. Predictably, the justices were sharply divided about this important and new national restriction on capital punishment in America. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, cited the “susceptibility” of juveniles to “immature and irresponsible behavior.” Justice Antonin Scalia, in typically blunt tones, said in the leading dissent that the ruling made a “mockery” of the Court’s capital precedent.

Few people in U.S. know more about the Roper decision than Victor Streib, a professor of law at Ohio Northern University, who has devoted decades of his professional life to the study of capital punishment. Streib’s work was cited in Roper by Justice Kennedy, and over the past ten years, the academic has been no less diligent in watching the legacy of this important case develop, both at the Supreme Court and among lower federal and state courts.

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A Boy Among Men

By Maurice Chammah | The Marshall Project | 24 February 2015

This story was produced in collaboration with The Atlantic.

Three years ago, the young man who would later be known as John Doe 1 shuffled into the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. The town of 11,000 residents, which sits in the remote center of the state, houses five prisons, and over the years, it has earned the nickname “I Own Ya.” John, who was 17, had already gotten over the initial fear of going to an adult prison—he had spent several months at a county jail near Detroit and an intake facility in Jackson—but he also knew he would be spending longer at this lonely outpost, a minimum of three years for a couple of home invasions. It was still wintery in April, and his state-issued jacket was poor protection against the drafts coming through the broken windows, shattered by men who had passed through before. “It was pretty ragged,” he recalled recently, “a tear down.”

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