An interesting development in California, where Newt Gingrich, a Republican politician, formerly Speaker of US House of Representatives and 2012 Presidential candidate, spoke of the importance of taking account of maturity of young adults in sentencing.
Despite recognizing the big differences between a teenager and an adult in our laws, however, many states have done a poor job of taking this gap into account in their sentencing codes.
The latest scientific research shows that young-adult brains, like those of juveniles, are not yet fully matured. In fact, young adults’ capacities for judgement, decision-making, and appreciating the consequences of their actions are not fully developed until their early twenties. This makes juveniles and young adults uniquely capable of change, personal growth, and rehabilitation.
It’s only fair to recognize the difference between young- and full-grown adults in sentencing, just as we draw a distinction between juveniles and adults. People who commit offenses before their capacities are fully formed deserve a second chance — an opportunity for a parole hearing if they mature, rehabilitate, and pay serious restitution to their victims and to the community.