Developing Statutes for Competence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings: A Guide for Lawmakers

April 3, 2012

We invite you to read the following new resource on juvenile competence to stand trial (JCST) entitled: Developing Statutes for Competence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings:  A Guide for Lawmakers.

This guide, authored by Kimberly Larson, J.D., Ph.D. and Thomas Grisso, Ph.D. as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative and the National Youth Screening and Assessment Project (NYSAP), will assist state policymakers in the creation of JCST legislation.

During the past 10 years, research on court-involved youths’ capacities to participate in their defense has underscored the need for special care in applying competence to stand trial to juveniles. Currently, states around the country are working toward the creation of developmentally appropriate laws to help protect juveniles’ due process rights. In the past decade, at least 15 states have developed new JCST statutes. Nevertheless, most states have not yet developed statutory guidance for the application of CST in juvenile courts.

Written for legislators, their staff, judges, attorneys, and clinicians, this new guide will assist policymakers interested in creating or changing JCST legislation in their states to locate the key issues and concepts. The guide first provides the reader with an overview of important background information regarding competence to stand trial, its historical application to youth, and recent developmental research on both the brain and behavior of juveniles. It then outlines the 16 main issues that policymakers ought to consider in the creation of JCST laws, and the pros and cons for each possible solution regarding these questions. Whenever clinical or empirical evidence supports it, the guide also provides recommendations regarding each of these issues.

The full document as well as other important information on juvenile competency legislation is available at the MacArthur Foundation Website or the Center for Mental Health Services.

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