Second Chance Kids image

Frontline, PBS, May 2, 2017
Featuring Robert Kinscherff (Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience)

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Watch the Full Episode

On May 2, 2017, PBS's Frontline aired "Second Chance Kids," an exploration of the fight over the fate of juveniles in prison for murder, following a landmark Supreme Court ruling. Robert Kinscherff, Senior Fellow in the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, was a featured expert in the program.

From the accompanying article, "How Brain Science Is Changing How Long Teens Spend in Prison":

In the 1990s, before scientists had the tools to understand the teenage brain, judges around the country sentenced thousands of adolescents to life in prison without the chance for parole.

Many of these teens, who are now in their 30s and 40s, committed serious crimes like murder and were punished as adults. 

At the time, policy makers thought “if you’re old enough to do the crime, you’re old enough to do the time,” said Robert Kinscherff, a senior fellow in law and neuroscience at Harvard University.

But advances in brain science since the early 2000s have proved that adolescents’ minds are fundamentally different from those of adults. Changes in the brain that occur during adolescence make young people more impulsive, less able to make measured decisions and more susceptible to peer pressure. At the same time, the malleable nature of the teenage brain means that people who commit crimes in their youth also have a greater capacity to reform. [...]

Watch the full episode of Frontline here.

The Project on Law and Applied Neurosciece is a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

bioethics criminal law judicial opinions neuroscience pediatrics