Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, Inc. (PfCJR), which advocates to eliminate the damaging health consequences that can result from negative interactions with the criminal justice system, has officially partnered with Campaign for Youth Justice, a national initiative focused entirely on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
(DECATUR – March 9, 2016) – Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, Inc. (PfCJR) is pleased to support advocacy efforts of the Campaign for Youth Justice by officially partnering to lend the collective voice of our physician members to the national initiative to end the prosecution, sentencing and incarceration of youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.
Medical literature reflects that adolescent brains are developmentally different from those of adults, often leading to impulsive decision-making, increased risk-taking and decreased appreciation for long-term consequences of behaviors. As a result, youth, by law, are prohibited from taking on major adult responsibilities such as voting, jury duty and military service. It follows, then, that youth should not be held to an adult standard of accountability when involved with the criminal justice system.
Furthermore, youth in adult jails and prisons are more likely to be sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and, upon release, are more likely to re-offend than youth housed in juvenile facilities. Each of those experiences, as well as early developmental experiences that put youth and adolescents at risk for involvement with the criminal justice system, result in long-lasting, negative physical and mental health consequences that could be avoided by juvenile justice reform that identifies and diverts at-risk youth.
Osvaldo Gaytan, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform’s Juvenile Justice Taskforce and a physician with specialties in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Neuropharmacology and early childhood trauma states “Children and adolescents are our future. I think we can all agree on that. As doctors, it is our duty to make a united stand against environmental factors that affect both the mental and physical health outcomes of our patients. Every bit of evidence we have as physicians points to the fact that adolescent brains do not function in an equal capacity as adult brains. Therefore, it is not scientifically sound to equate the functioning of an adolescent brain with that of an adult. It is unjust.”
Please join Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform and the Campaign for Youth Justice on insisting that the legal age for being treated as an adult be raised to 18 years of age as a national standard.
Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform, Inc. (PfCJR) was founded by a group of physicians who were struck by the myriad of ways that negative encounters with the criminal justice system lead to detrimental health consequences. We firmly believe that changing the interaction between the criminal justice system and individuals of targeted populations will ultimately lead to improved health of targeted communities.