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88 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 15 (1997-1998)
Immaturity and Irresponsibility

handle is hein.journals/jclc88 and id is 29 raw text is: 0091-416919718801-0015
THE JOURNAL OF CRIMAL LAW & CRIMINOLOGY                     Vol. 88, No. I
Copyright 0 1998 by Northwestern University, School of Law  Pdnted in U.S.
IMMATURITY AND IRRESPONSIBI~iTY
STEPEEN J. MORSE
I. INTRODUCTION
Our image of teenage offenders vacillates. We see them as
wayward youths, as kids gone wrong, but who are nonetheless
not bad. This image is of the teen as a victim. They are mis-
guided, immature, insufficiently socialized, but not evil. What
they need is a therapeutic response that will permit natural
maturation and socialization to set them on the right path. In
contrast, we also see teen offenders as hostile predators, the
products of unfortunate environments and perhaps heredity,
who have little or no human sympathy or regard. This image is
of the teen as a full-fledged criminal. Because they are evil and
fully responsible, they must be punished to satisfy just deserts
and to protect the public. At the extreme, they deserve to be
executed. In the anecdotal reports that fill the media and that
often drive public policy, it is not hard to find either image.
The image of the teen offender as a criminal seems cur-
rently to predominate. Mid- to late-adolescence is a high-risk
age for offending, especially violent offending,1 and the in-
creased availability and common use of weapons2 makes teen
violence particularly frightening. Although violent crime rates,
Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology and Law
in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania.
This article was presented at a Symposium, The Fuure of the Juvenile Court, sponsored
by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the University of Pennsyl-
vania, held at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in May, 1997. I would like to
thank the Symposium organizer, Dean Ira Schwartz, the commentators on the paper,
Professor Alfred Blumstein, ProfessorJames B. Jacobs and Ms. Jane Tewksbury, and the
many participants who offered suggestions, for their excellent comments. The paper was
also presented at the Legal Studies Workshop at the University of Pennsylvania Law
School. I thank my commentator, Leo Katz, and my other colleagues for their help. Fi-
nally, I thank Paul Robinson and Kevin Reitz for their characteristically thoughtful com-
ments.
'DELBERT ELLIOTr, YOUTH VIOLENCE: AN OvEmviEw 4 (1994).
2 Id. at 10-11.

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