Neuroscience and the juvenile legislation

Scientific evidence suggests that the parts of the brain responsible for impulse control, decision-making, judgment and emotions, and crucial when fixing culpability in case of juvenile delinquency, keep developing into the twenties. Earlier this week, the Rajya Sabha cleared the Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bill that allows juveniles between ages 16 and 18 years who are charged with heinous offences to be tried as adults. Neuroscience was conspicuously absent from this debate. Globally, juvenile justice policies are increasingly informed by developments in brain science that probe questions of culpability and “blameworthiness” of adolescent offenders. “Capacities relevant to criminal responsibility are still developing when you’re 16 or 17 years old,” psychologist Laurence Steinberg of the American Psychological Association had said while supporting Christopher Simmons, who, as an adolescent, had been convicted of…

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