Criminal Justice Needs to Create “Developmental Competence”

Attributed to Socrates (469-399 BC):

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
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According to The Society for Neuroscience, “Teenagers and adults often don’t see eye to eye, but new brain research is shedding light on why. Although adolescence is often characterized by increased independence and a desire for knowledge and exploration, it is also a time when brain changes can result in high-risk behaviors, addiction vulnerability, and mental illness, as different parts of the brain mature at different rates.

“Scientists once thought the brain’s key development ended within the first few years of life. Now, thanks to advanced brain imaging technology and adolescent research, scientists are learning more about the teenage brain both in health and in disease. They know now that the brain continues to develop at least into a person’s twenties.

“Parts of the brain associated with behavior undergo refinement during the teen years. Areas associated with more basic functions, including the motor and sensory areas, mature early. Areas involved in planning and decision-making, including the prefrontal cortex — the cognitive or reasoning area of the brain important for controlling impulses and emotions — appear not to have yet reached adult dimension during the early twenties. The brain’s reward center, the ventral striatum, also is more active during adolescence than in adulthood, and the adolescent brain still is strengthening connections between its reasoning- and emotion-related regions.

“Scientists believe these collective findings may indicate that cognitive control over high-risk behaviors is still maturing during adolescence, making teens more apt to engage in risky behaviors. Also, with the brain’s emotion-related areas and connections still maturing, adolescents may be more vulnerable to psychological disorders.”
Strategies for Youth, a leading training organization in the field of police-youth relationships, has a solution for police and the criminal process. SfY has found “that adults who are developmentally competent will have more effective interactions with youth–for both adults and youth.”

This is what we mean by the term developmental competence:

“Developmental Competence refers to the understanding that children and adolescents’ perceptions and behaviors are influenced by biological and psychological factors related to their developmental stage.”

http://www.strategiesforyouth.org

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About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at www.sergeantsleadership.org. I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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