Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Youth especially vulnerable during police interrogation

Adolescents are a "psychologically vulnerable" population when it comes to police interrogation tactics, says a study highlighted in this New York Times piece (Oct. 13), because they're easier to manipulate and don't assert their rights. The article opened:
Even when police interrogators left the room, cameras kept recording the teenage suspects. Some paced. Several curled up and slept. One sobbed loudly, hitting his head against the wall, berating himself. Two boys, left alone together, discussed their offense, joking.

What none did, however, was exercise his constitutional rights. It was not clear whether the youths even understood them.

Therefore none had a lawyer at his side. None left, though all were free to do so, and none remained silent. Some 37 percent made full confessions, and 31 percent made incriminating statements.

These were among the observations in a recent study of 57 videotaped interrogations of teenagers, ages 13 to 17, from 17 police departments around the country. The research, published in Law and Human Behavior, adds to accumulating evidence that teenagers are psychologically vulnerable at the gateway to the criminal justice system. Youths, some researchers say, merit special protections.

According to federal statistics, nearly 1.5 million teenagers were arrested in 2011, the last year for which data was collected.
The article concluded mentioning a couple of other recent developments on false confessions of which I wasn't aware:
Citing recent research, the American Psychological Association has called for widespread protections for suspects, including teenagers, during interrogations. The recommendations include limiting the length of interviews; videotaping them in their entirety; assuring that teenagers are always accompanied by a lawyer; and that interviewers be trained to reduce the risk of eliciting false confessions from impressionable suspects such as youths.

This spring, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a law enforcement coalition, along with the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, developed online training for those who interview adolescents. Drawing from developmental research, the program instructs officers to explain Miranda warnings in language teenagers will understand and not to make false promises of leniency, because of youths’ proclivity toward gullibility.

“We want to avoid involuntary or false confessions from juveniles,” said John Firman, director of research for the association. “The ultimate goal is to get accurate information from them. And if you don’t understand juvenile brain development, the likelihood is that you’ll get bad information.”


Paul-UK said...

Hello from this side of the pond again. Why not have an "appropriate adult" brought in to the proceedings? Here in the UK, an appropriate adult must be brought in and be present for all under 18s or where there are concerns that the person conceded is deemed to be a "vulnerable person" under the police and Criminal evidence act. The appropriate adult can be a parent, guardian or social worker.

Anonymous said...

Never, ever talk to the police for any reason. The biggest LIE ever told is "WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU."

He's Innocent said...

@ 6:19

You are so very correct. What a sad state it is when you cannot trust those who have the authority to crush your life or redeem it are there only to gain a statistic out of you.

I should know. My spouse is a former law officer. He too was duped into trusting his fellow lawmen and they have crushed his life, his career, and our joint lives. And "crush" is not an overstatement.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they confess because the evidence against them is so great that it wouldn't do any good to keep lying.