While many aspects of Maine’s Juvenile Justice system are ripe for reform, this Article advocates for improving the system’s response to one group of offenders often overlooked by policymakers: emerging adults. The Supreme Court, in Roper v. Simmons, stated that “[t]he qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18.” In fact, studies have shown that criminal conduct attributable to the unstable and impulsive nature of the adolescent mind continues well into a person’s mid-twenties. These eighteen to twenty-five-year-old offenders, termed “emerging adults” by researchers, experience much of the same developmental and physiological challenges as their younger, system involved counterparts, yet they are treated as if they are fully developed in the eyes of the law. Thus, emerging adults—without any sound scientific or legal justification—are exempt from many of the systemic protections offered to system involved youth under the age of eighteen. This is the case in Maine, resulting in poor outcomes for the state’s emerging adults who come in contact with law enforcement. Overrepresentation of minority groups, and prolonged system involvement are just some of the deficits of Maine’s current model. To produce better outcomes, there must be a holistic, individualized, and supportive systemic response that considers the needs of emerging adults on an individual basis and refers them to appropriate rehabilitative services. This Article proposes two reforms aimed at improving outcomes for Maine’s emerging adult population: (1) raising the age of original juvenile court jurisdiction to age twenty-one and expanding the continuum of supports and services the juvenile justice system provides this group, and (2) protecting emerging adults ages twenty-one to twenty-five from the most punitive sanctions of Maine’s Criminal Code.

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