The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced a new grant of $5.6 million for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network in Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice to fund the program's continued research in the field of juvenile justice.
Led by Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg, the network was established in 1997 to conduct research on issues such as what happens to a child entering the juvenile justice system, when a child knows it's wrong to commit a crime, at what age a child is competent to stand trial, and what types of treatment programs work best for certain juvenile offenders. The network is composed of research sites across the country, staffed by social scientists, legal scholars, and legal practitioners, including a prosecutor and a defense attorney who work with juvenile offenders. The research will ultimately be used to shape policy and practice in juvenile and criminal justice systems. Currently, juvenile justice systems function differently in each state, and few, if any, guidelines exist to assist courts in recognizing or addressing a youth's competence to stand trial, criminal culpability, or likelihood of rehabilitation.
"Before the network started, competence to stand trial wasn't even an issue in juvenile justice," said Steinberg, director of the network. "Now, if you follow the media coverage of juvenile cases, competence will be discussed. Culpability will be mentioned.... Our goal is to examine what the appropriate response is to serious juvenile offending. The network tries to bring a reasoned, scientific, empirical perspective to the discussion."