Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Committee Chair/Advisor

Rhys Hester

Committee Member

Heather Hensman Kettrey

Committee Member

Bryan L. Miller


The overwhelming majority of existing literature on the effects of age on judicial sentence decision-making focuses on juveniles (ages 18 and below) and older adults. This paper focuses on offenders between the ages of 18-29, who fall legally outside the definition of juvenile, yet do not have the full brain development or clinical maturity of an adult to provide knowledge of sentencing outcomes for different populations and a well-rounded review and critique of judicial sentence decision-making (Johnson, Blum, & Giedd, 2009). Using a series of logistic regression analyses on the Pennsylvania Commission Sentencing (PCS) data from 2001 to 2018, I examine the effects of legal and extralegal factors, specifically age, on the in/out prison sentence decision and sentencing trend of youthful offenders. The paper discusses the influence of existing brain development research on the Supreme Court's ruling in Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama and examines judicial sentence decision-making through Focal Concerns Theory to synthesize how a brain science spillover effect has impacted youthful offender sentencing. The results demonstrate that all offenders are sentenced leniently after the Miller ruling; therefore, a brain science spillover effect is not the cause or reasoning for sentencing leniency. Furthermore, the results affirm sentencing literature findings about specific factors that increase an offender's likelihood of imprisonment.



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