Jeffrey Fagan

Jeffrey Fagan is a professor at Columbia University, a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, and vice chair of the Committee on Law and Justice at the National Research Council.

Recent Articles

Adolescents, Maturity, And The Law

Anthony Laster was a 15-year-old eighth-grader with an IQ of 58 who was described by relatives as having the mind of a 5-year-old. One day in 1998, shortly after his mother died, Anthony was hungry, so he reached into the pocket of another student in his Florida middle school and took $2 in lunch money. The boy's family reported the crime to the authorities, and the local prosecutor, Barry Kirscher, decided to prosecute Anthony as an adult. It was Anthony's first arrest. He spent the next seven weeks -- including his first Christmas since his mother died -- in an adult jail waiting for his court date. Anthony's story, reported by 60 Minutes II , is, sadly, familiar. Every day, judges and prosecutors make complex decisions about whether young offenders should be tried as juveniles or adults. Sometimes the choice is made in a retail process repeated daily in juvenile courts or prosecutors' offices; at other times, the choice is made, wholesale, by legislative fiat in a...