Mercyhurst Criminal Justice Conference takes hard look at juveniles in the adult system

Why do we try juveniles as adults? Is it good for society? What are the long-term ramifications for juveniles in the adult system? These compelling questions and more will be addressed at Mercyhurst College’s 36th annual Criminal Justice Conference and James V. Kinnane Awards luncheon on Wednesday, Oct. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ambassador Banquet & Conference Center.

You’ll meet one of the nation’s most distinguished scholars on juvenile brain development and also hear the personal plight of a parent whose child was tried criminally as an adult when Mercyhurst College, the Mercyhurst Civic Institute and the college’s School of Social Sciences present “Minor Problems, Major Impact: Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System.”

The daylong event will also feature a luncheon, during which the Kinnane Awards will be presented to Magisterial District Judge Suzanne Mack and Tom McCalmont, director of services at Harborcreek Youth Services. Recipients are chosen for their outstanding contributions to the field of criminal justice. The Kinnane Award is regarded as the most prestigious of its kind in northwestern Pennsylvania. *(See separate story on award recipients.) *

The day begins with an address by Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Distinguished University Professor and the Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple University. His topic is “Rethinking Juvenile Justice.”

A nationally and internationally renowned expert on psychological development during adolescence, Steinberg's research has focused on a range of topics in the study of contemporary adolescence, including adolescent brain development, risk-taking and decision-making, parent-adolescent relationships, adolescent employment, high school reform and juvenile justice. He is the author or co-author of more than 300 articles and a dozen books on growth and development during the teenage years, including "Adolescence," the leading college textbook on adolescent development, now in its 9th edition; "You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10 to 25;" "Rethinking Juvenile Justice;" and "The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting," which has been published in 10 languages.

Steinberg is a former president of the Division of Developmental Psychology of the American Psychological Association and of the Society for Research on Adolescence, and was director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice.

Next to speak is David L. Myers, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Criminology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and interim chair of the IUP Murtha Institute for Homeland Security. Myers has taught more than 15 different courses at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, specializing in classes on research methods and quantitative analysis, juvenile justice and delinquency, and criminal justice policy, planning and evaluation.

He is the author of "Boys among Men: Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults" and nearly 30 journal articles, book chapters and other scholarly works. His presentation will review the evolution of juvenile transfer to adult court and the associated research findings, with a focus on the key issues that exist and recommendations for current and future transfer policies and procedures.

The conference’s third speaker is Grace Bauer, a field organizer with the Campaign for Youth Justice, Washington, D.C. She will give a personal view of the trauma and implication that having a child tried as an adult can have on a family.

The mother of three children from Sulphur, La., Bauer’s first exposure to the juvenile justice system came as the parent of a court-involved youth who, at age 14, was sent to a juvenile correctional facility where he was abused and mistreated. When it became clear that there was no system accountability for her son’s treatment, and nowhere to turn for help or redress of grievances, Bauer became a passionate advocate for juvenile justice reform.

Since joining the Campaign for Youth Justice in 2008, she has worked to unite the parents and allies of children in six targeted states to change laws and practices that result in children being prosecuted and confined as adults. She has also led the development of the National Parent Caucus, a network of family members who have joined together to end the practice of trying, sentencing and incarcerating children as adults.

PLEASE NOTE: The conference is free and open to the public. However, because lunch is provided, reservations are REQUIRED. To make reservations, contact George Fickenworth at 824-2183 or gfickenworth
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