WHEN RALPH Bonano was 17 years old, he was on the wrong road. He had dropped out of school, joined a gang, been arrested several times—and he regularly sold drugs. When your correpondent spoke to him three years later, in 2014, he was on a better path. He had given up breaking the law, passed his high-school exams and and had a steady job in south Boston making helmets for the military. He credited Roca, a programme in Chelsea, Massachusetts, for helping him stay out of trouble. Roca specialises in helping young people aged between 17 and 24 stay out of jail and find work.
Criminal justice experts are increasingly of the opinion that 18, the age at which law-breakers enter the adult criminal justice system in most states, is too young. In a recent paper, three academics at Harvard Kennedy School—Vincent Shiraldi, Bruce Western and Kendra Bradner —wrote a paper recommending that “the age of juvenile court justice be raised to at least 21 years old, with additional, gradually diminishing protections for young adults up to age 24 or 25.” They point out that neurobiological and developmental research has shown that the...Continue reading