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Submitted 5:09 p.m.
12.16.2014
Letter to the Editor

Some adults prosecuted in our criminal justice system suffer cognitive impairments and developmental disabilities, and are still treated as any other adult in the eyes of the system. ”

Julie Smyth, LMSW of New York, NY

The "notion that children are different from adults...in brain function" is the mantra of the juvenile justice reform movement. However, some adults prosecuted in our criminal justice system suffer cognitive impairments and developmental disabilities, and are still treated as any other adult in the eyes of the system.

For the past four years I have had the privilege to be a social worker in public defense offices in both Philadelphia and New York City. I have had adult clients, some of whom suffered lead poisoning or traumatic brain injuries as children, whose IQ's were measured to be in the "borderline" and "extremely low" ranges. An IQ within these ranges indicates brains functioning at a different level than the average adult, and yet punitive sentences persist.

The juvenile justice system certainly needs an overhaul, but the criminal justice system as a whole must look deeper into the people it prosecutes and reexamine the positions that punitive measures promote safety.

 
This letter written in response to
News December 13, 2014
The sweet spot in criminal justice reform.