State revisits how to handle young adults who commit crimes
The criminal justice system has long treated juveniles who commit crimes differently than adults. Now, research suggests young adults ages 18 to 25 should receive different treatment, as well, and the state is reviewing whether it will make that distinction.
The push to distinguish between young adults and older adults in criminal justice is based on brain research that says the former haven't fully reached adulthood: physically, financially or emotionally. Increasingly, many people are reaching milestones later in life, such as getting married and establishing careers, says Columbia University researcher Lael E.H. Chester.
“That’s important because those are also elements that we know are helpful to steer people away from crime,” said Chester, the director of the Emerging Adult Project, which strives to inform effective justice responses that advance successful paths to adulthood.
Chester recently spoke to a Washington legislative committee that’s looking into possible changes in how the state deals with 18- to 25-year-olds who commit crimes. Other states have set up special courts to deal with that age group, and some have allowed young adults to be charged the same as juveniles for certain crimes.