The U.S. Supreme Court, our nation’s highest court, has held in several opinions since 2005 that the fact that a person is a child is relevant to matters of justice and the law. The message that “kids are different” has been established by the Court as well as scientific research.
Relying on legal analysis, behavioral studies and adolescent brain research findings that children are categorically different from adults, the Supreme Court has ruled that children must be treated differently in the context of sentencing. As a result, the parameters for how we treat children in the U.S. justice system are forever changed.
Just as we consider the unique characteristics of young people when making decisions about when they are allowed to volunteer for military service, drive, serve on juries or register to vote, we also must consider these differences in the context of juvenile justice policies. Laws that treat children like adults and ignore relevant factors related to their status as children — their lessened culpability, their unique vulnerability to peer pressure, their lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions and impulse control, and their particular capacity for rehabilitation— can no longer be justified.
Roper v. Simmons (2005)