should the state of massachusetts raise the age of juvenile justice jurisdiction to age 20 making 21 the age at which a person must be tried as an adult why or why not


The Juvenile Sentencing Project notes that the US Supreme Court, in four decisions since 2005, determined that “the

Eighth Amendment requires [that] individuals under eighteen years of age…be sentenced differently from adults” (1).

These decisions forbid execution of offenders who committed their crimes as juveniles, and they require that juvenile

offenders, both those currently serving sentences and those who are sentenced in the future, be given the possibility of

parole. The court’s decisions are all based in recent developments in developmental science which have identified “traits

or conditions that undermine adolescents’ decision-making capacity” (Cauffman et al. 5) which results in them being less

culpable than adults. According to Lavoie, offering imprisoned offenders the possibility of parole gives them access to

“programs aimed at rehabilitation, including job training, substance abuse treatment, and counseling” (18). Perker and

Chester note that the Massachusetts state legislature has considered “four major bills that propose to raise the age of

juvenile justice jurisdiction and extend the legal protections and dedicated services for juveniles to emerging adults [by]

rais[ing] the upper age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 18, 19 and 20-year-olds, while simultaneously raising the lower

age of juvenile jurisdiction from seven to 12” (17).


Should the State of Massachusetts raise the age of juvenile justice jurisdiction to age 20, making 21 the age

at which a person must be tried as an adult? Why or why not?


Your essay must use these three sources: 1) Elizabeth Cauffman, “How Developmental Science Influences Juvenile

Justice Reform,” 2) the Roper decision of the Supreme Court, and 3) Selen Siringil Perker, “Emerging Adults: A distinct

population that calls for an age-appropriate approach by the justice system.” You may use the other articles as well, but

you are not required to do so.

In developing your argument, incorporate ideas that support your position as well as ideas that disagree with your

position. Your essay must quote and/or paraphrase and work directly with material from all four readings in this reading

set. In addition, define and employ key terms that seem to be central to the arguments of your sources and, therefore, to

your argument as well. Primary among these key terms is Culpability. Additional key terms: developmental science;

psychosocial maturity; future orientation; executive function; desistance; penal proportionality; categorical; prophylactic;

emerging adults.

You must attribute any material that you summarize, quote, or paraphrase to its source (using the page numbers of

the reading set for quotations and paraphrases). Your own ideas and thinking are necessary and important. However,

you should base your essay on the information contained in the set of readings, not on your own life experience, on

outside readings (including the internet), or on courses you have taken.

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