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Gov.’s Juvenile Justice Proposals Win High Praise

Governor Malloy. Credit: Dannel Malloy/flickr.com
Governor Malloy. Credit: Dannel Malloy/flickr.com
November 9, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. – Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing
reforms
to the state's juvenile justice system.

He says the changes would put Connecticut far ahead of the rest of the country.

Speaking at a Connecticut Law Review Symposium on Friday, the governor said he wants to build on his Second Chance Society program.

"Let us consider raising the age of juvenile justice system jurisdiction through age 20 instead of an arbitrary stopping the jurisdiction at age 17,” he said. “We would be the first in the nation to do so."

The proposal would put Connecticut in line with European countries such as Germany where defendants are tried as juveniles up to age 21 and the Netherlands where it's 23.

Malloy also proposed allowing low risk young adults from 21 to 25 to have their cases heard confidentially, with the records sealed and with an opportunity to have those records expunged.

Vincent Schiraldi, a senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, says that would bring the law in line with the science.

"Young people's brains don't stop developing until they're in their mid 20s,” he stresses. “So, if you believe there should be a juvenile court then you, scientifically, almost have to believe that young adults should get similar treatment at the hands of the justice system."

Schiraldi says young people are also taking on many of the other responsibilities of adulthood at a later age, and those responsibilities have an impact on behavior.

According Schiraldi, in 1960 almost half of 18 to 25-year-olds were married. Today that's less than 10 percent.

"And so really it's kind of a double whammy,” he states. “These young people are not fully developed, and also they're not occupying the same kinds of adult roles that previous generations did at the same age group."

Scientists and psychologists also point out that, given the opportunity, adolescents and young adults are more likely to adapt and change.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT