Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

News that is better or worse than expected influences health decisions

From the 29 October 2013 University of California – Riverside press release

UCR psychologist finds that unrealistic pessimists less likely to take preventive action after receiving good news

 IMAGE: This is Kate Sweeny.

Click here for more information. 

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Patients who are unrealistically optimistic about their personal health risks are more likely to take preventive action when confronted with news that is worse than expected, while unrealistic pessimists are less likely to change their behavior after receiving feedback that is better than expected, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

This poses a serious dilemma for health care professionals, said study authors Kate Sweeny, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, and co-author Amanda Dillard, assistant professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University: Should they withhold accurate risk information from unrealistic pessimists to avoid undermining their perceptions of the severity of their potential consequences and ultimately their motivation for preventive behavior?

“The question reveals a tension between the goals of health-behavior promotion and informed patient decision-making that has plagued researchers in several health domains, most notably with regard to women’s often overly pessimistic perceptions of their breast cancer risk,” Sweeny and Dillard wrote in “The Effects of Expectation Disconfirmation on Appraisal, Affect, and Behavioral Intentions,” published this month in the online edition of Risk Analysis: An International Journal. The journal is an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis, a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society based in McLean, Va.

“Our findings cannot resolve this tension, but rather point to the need for further consideration of the potential consequences of risk communication,” the researchers said.

Sweeny and Dillard are the first to demonstrate that how an individual reacts and responds to objective risk feedback may depend on initial expectations prior to the feedback.

The psychologists conducted a series of experiments in which participants were told they would be tested for exposure to toxins found in everyday products. The researchers found that people who received risk feedback that was worse than expected expressed stronger intentions to prevent the threat in the future than did people who received risk feedback that was better than expected. All study participants received the same health feedback; only the expectations of the participants differed.

“Our findings add critical pieces to the previously incomplete picture of the consequences of expectation disconfirmation,” they wrote. “Ours is the first experimental investigation of the relationship between expectation disconfirmation and behavioral intentions in the context of personal risk perceptions, and the first study to examine the process by which intentions might rise or fall in response to unexpected risk feedback.”

Contrary to findings in other recent studies, Sweeny and Dillard determined that when people are faced with objective feedback that differs from their perceptions of health risks, they may adapt their behavior to fit the new risk information.

“In our studies, participants who learned that their risk was higher than they expected … formed relative strong intentions to take preventive action,” they said. They also found that people who learned that their risk was lower than expected felt relatively good in the face of feedback and formed relatively weak intentions to take preventive action. All of the study participants received the same health risk feedback.

“Our findings point to an important tradeoff people face when managing their expectations as they await feedback: maintaining optimism leaves people open to disappointment, but bracing for the worst may undermine future motivation to improve,” they said. “… It seems that people find the emotional consequences of being caught off-guard more compelling than the potential for elation to undermine their motivation to change their behavior in response to feedback.”





October 30, 2013 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unpublished trial data ‘violates an ethical obligation’ to study participants, say researchers

Flowchart of four phases (enrollment, interven...

Flowchart of four phases (enrollment, intervention allocation, follow-up, and data analysis) of a parallel randomized trial of two groups, modified from the CONSORT 2010 Statement Schulz KF, Altman DG, Moher D; for the CONSORT Group (2010). “CONSORT 2010 Statement: updated guidelines for reporting parallel group randomised trials”. BMJ 340 : c332. doi:10.1136/bmj.c332. PMC 2844940. PMID 20332509 . . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From the 29 October 2013 British Medical Journal press release


Study finds almost 1 in 3 large clinical trials still not published 5 years after completion

Almost one in three (29%) large clinical trials remain unpublished five years after completion. And of these, 78% have no results publicly available, finds a study published on today.

This means that an estimated 250,000 people have been exposed to the risks of trial participation without the societal benefits that accompany the dissemination of their results, say the authors.

They argue that this “violates an ethical obligation that investigators have towards study participants” and call for additional safeguards “to ensure timely public dissemination of trial data.”

Randomized clinical trials are a critical means of advancing medical knowledge. They depend on the willingness of people to expose themselves to risks, but the ethical justification for these risks is that society will eventually benefit from the knowledge gained from the trial.

But when trial data remain unpublished, the societal benefit that may have motivated someone to enrol in a study remains unrealized.

US law requires that many trials involving human participants be registered – and their results posted – on the largest clinical trial website But evidence suggests that this legislation has been largely ignored.

So a team of US-based researchers set out to estimate the frequency of non-publication of trial results and, among unpublished studies, the frequency with which results are unavailable in database.

They searched scientific literature databases and identified 585 trials with at least 500 participants that were registered with and completed prior to January 2009. The average time between study completion and the final literature search (November 2012) was 60 months for unpublished trials.

Registry entries for unpublished trials were then reviewed to determine whether results for these studies were available in the results database.

Of 585 registered trials, 171 (29%) remained unpublished. Of these, 133 (78%) had no results available in Non-publication was more common among trials that received industry funding (32%) than those that did not (18%).

“Our results add to existing work by showing that non-publication is an important problem even among large randomized trials,” say the authors. Furthermore, the sponsors and investigators of these unpublished trials infrequently utilize the results database.

The lack of availability of results from these trials “contributes to publication bias and also constitutes a failure to honor the ethical contract that is the basis for exposing study participants to the risks inherent in trial participation,” they add. “Additional safeguards are needed to ensure timely public dissemination of trial data,” they conclude.







October 30, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Surviving — Then Thriving

Lukas uses several television sets to absorb a...

Lukas uses several television sets to absorb as many Holocaust survivor testimonies as possible. The people seen are actual Holocaust survivors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Am thinking that perhaps one needs to have at least some tools for thriving before a traumatic event in order to thrive after a traumatic event….


From the 29 November 2013 ScienceDaily article

Oct. 29, 2013 — Modern medicine usually considers trauma — both the physical and the psychological kinds — as unequivocally damaging. Now researchers at Tel Aviv University are lending support to a more philosophical view of suffering, finding that trauma, however terrible, may have distinct psychological benefits.

Last year, junior investigator Dr. Sharon Dekel and Prof. Zahava Solomon of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work found that individuals with Holocaust-survivor parents may be less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of their own traumas. In a study published in theJournal of Traumatic Stress, the researchers set out to see if so-called second-generation Holocaust survivors also undergo more post-traumatic “growth.”

“Post-traumatic growth can be defined as a workable coping mechanism, a way of making and finding meaning involved in the building of a more positive self-image and the perception of personal strength,” said Dekel. “We were interested in studying the effect of the Holocaust on the second generation’s propensity for this kind of growth. If we can identify verifiably positive implications of trauma, we will be able to incorporate them into treatment and teach people how to grow after terrible experiences,” she said.

Trauma’s silver lining

Researchers have traditionally focused on the negative implications of trauma, and survivors have been shown to pass this burden onto their children. But a growing body of evidence suggests that trauma can have positive outcomes as well. Some survivors of traumatic events develop new priorities, closer relationships, an increased appreciation of life, a greater sense of personal strength, and experience heightened spirituality.

Read the entire article here

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 1 SNAP Cuts Will Affect Millions of Children, Seniors, and People With Disabilities

State-by-State Figures Highlight the Impacts Across the Country

From the 24 October 2013 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report

By Dottie Rosenbaum and Brynne Keith-Jennings

The 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits ends on November 1, 2013, which will mean a benefit cut for each of the nearly 48 million SNAP recipients — 87 percent of whom live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities.  House and Senate members who are now beginning to negotiate a final Farm Bill should keep this benefit cut in mind as they consider, in reauthorizing the SNAP program, whether to make even deeper cuts.

The November 1 benefit cut will be substantial.  A household of three, such as a mother with two children, will lose $29 a month — a total of $319 for November 2013 through September 2014, the remaining 11 months of fiscal year 2014.  (See Figure 1.)  The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”  Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014 will averageless than $1.40 per person per meal.  Nationally, the cut totals about $5 billion in 2014 and a total of $11 billion over the fiscal year 2014 to 2016 period.[1] (See Table 1.)

The SNAP benefit cut will make it even harder for families to put food on the table.  More than 80 percent of SNAP households have monthly income below the federal poverty line ($19,500 a year for a family of three), and more than 40 percent live in deep poverty, with income below half of the poverty line.  The Recovery Act’s temporary benefit increase boosted the ability of households to provide adequate food for their families, known as “food security,” research shows.

The benefit cut will affect all households that receive SNAP, the majority of which include children, seniors, or people with disabilities.  Nationally, more than 21 million children — that is, more than 1 in 4 of all children — live in a household that receives SNAP.  At least a quarter of children receive SNAP benefits in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia; in some states, this figure is more than 40 percent.  November’s SNAP cut for households with children will total $3.5 billion in the remaining 11 months of fiscal year 2014.  Similarly, more than 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP.  Their households will experience a $1.2 billion benefit cut over the same period.  Table 2, below, shows the number of children and senior citizens or people with disabilities in each state who live in such households.

In addition, the November benefit cut will reduce, by millions of dollars in every state, the flow of money that not only would help families afford to eat, but also would inject money into the economy.  Studies show that in a distressed economy, every dollar of SNAP benefits creates at least about $1.70 in economic activity, as SNAP recipients spend their benefits on food quickly.  For example, California and Texas will each lose over $400 million in SNAP benefits that would have helped their residents eat in 2014; the potential economic impact is even greater.

The depth and breadth of the SNAP cuts that take effect in November are unprecedented.  Past cuts have affected specific states or groups, but they have not affected all participants nor been as large as these cuts.

They are taking effect the same week that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees begin their conference committee negotiations on the Farm Bill, which includes a reauthorization of and proposed cuts to SNAP.  The House version of the bill would cut SNAP by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years, denying benefits to about 3.8 million people in 2014 and an average of 3 million people each year over the coming decade.

Table 1
The SNAP ARRA Termination: Estimated State-by-State Impact in Fiscal Year 2014
Total SNAP Benefit Cut to State
(in millions of dollars, from November 2013 through September 2014)
Number of SNAP Recipients in FY 2014
(all of whom are impacted by the cut)
Total Share of Total State Population
Alabama -$98 910,000 19%
Alaska -$12 95,000 13%
Arizona -$109 1,101,000 17%
Arkansas -$52 501,000 17%
California -$457 4,168,000 11%
Colorado -$55 511,000 10%
Connecticut -$44 424,000 12%
Delaware -$16 154,000 17%
District of Columbia -$15 144,000 22%
Florida -$379 3,552,000 18%
Georgia -$210 1,947,000 19%
Hawaii -$33 190,000 13%
Idaho -$24 230,000 14%
Illinois -$220 2,031,000 16%
Indiana -$98 925,000 14%
Iowa -$43 421,000 13%
Kansas -$33 317,000 11%
Kentucky -$94 875,000 20%
Louisiana -$98 920,000 20%
Maine -$26 251,000 19%
Maryland -$82 774,000 13%
Massachusetts -$95 889,000 13%
Michigan -$183 1,775,000 18%
Minnesota -$55 556,000 10%
Mississippi -$70 664,000 22%
Missouri -$96 933,000 15%
Montana -$13 131,000 13%
Nebraska -$18 180,000 10%
Nevada -$37 359,000 13%
New Hampshire -$12 117,000 9%
New Jersey -$90 873,000 10%
New Mexico -$47 442,000 21%
New York -$332 3,185,000 16%
North Carolina -$166 1,708,000 17%
North Dakota -$6 57,000 8%
Ohio -$193 1,847,000 16%
Oklahoma -$66 615,000 16%
Oregon -$84 819,000 21%
Pennsylvania -$183 1,779,000 14%
Rhode Island -$20 181,000 17%
South Carolina -$93 875,000 18%
South Dakota -$11 104,000 12%
Tennessee -$141 1,345,000 20%
Texas -$411 3,997,000 15%
Utah -$26 253,000 9%
Vermont -$10 101,000 16%
Virginia -$99 941,000 11%
Washington -$114 1,113,000 16%
West Virginia -$36 350,000 19%
Wisconsin -$89 861,000 15%
Wyoming -$4 39,000 7%
Guam -$7 45,000 N/A
Virgin Islands -$4 27,000 N/A
Puerto Rico Block Grant  $0 N/A N/A
Total -$5,000 47,600,000 15%
Source: CBPP estimates based on USDA’s June 2013 Thrifty Food Plan, CBO May 2013 baseline, 2011 USDA data on SNAP Household Characteristics, recent USDA administrative data on the number of SNAP participants, and U.S. Census Bureau data on state populations.
Notes: The number of SNAP recipients shown is for a typical, or average month in fiscal year 2014.  In addition to the cuts shown in this table, an additional $6 billion in cuts are expected to occur in fiscal years 2015 and 2016 under CBO’s May 2013 food inflation projections.

Table 2
Estimated State-By-State Impact of the SNAP ARRA Repeal On Subpopulations
Number of Children Affected in FY 2014 Households With Children Affected in FY 2014 Benefit Loss to Households With Children
(in millions of dollars, November 2013-September     2014)
Number of Elderly or People With Disabilities Affected in FY 2014 Households With Elderly or People with Disabilities Affected in FY 2014 Benefit Loss to Households With Elderly or People With Disabilities
(in millions of dollars, November 2013-September 2014)
Alabama 423,000 214,000 -$71 157,000 144,000 -$23
Alaska 42,000 18,000 -$9 13,000 11,000 -$2
Arizona 538,000 251,000 -$84 147,000 134,000 -$18
Arkansas 232,000 117,000 -$37 91,000 86,000 -$12
California 2,285,000 1,171,000 -$373 154,000 123,000 -$17
Colorado 250,000 117,000 -$41 73,000 69,000 -$10
Connecticut 149,000 77,000 -$24 102,000 94,000 -$15
Delaware 68,000 34,000 -$11 23,000 21,000 -$3
District of Columbia 55,000 28,000 -$9 30,000 27,000 -$4
Florida 1,303,000 668,000 -$215 713,000 666,000 -$92
Georgia 892,000 441,000 -$152 295,000 260,000 -$36
Hawaii 70,000 33,000 -$18 39,000 34,000 -$7
Idaho 117,000 55,000 -$19 35,000 32,000 -$5
Illinois 886,000 425,000 -$145 349,000 322,000 -$47
Indiana 436,000 212,000 -$74 164,000 153,000 -$22
Iowa 174,000 87,000 -$27 69,000 60,000 -$8
Kansas 148,000 72,000 -$23 51,000 50,000 -$6
Kentucky 343,000 177,000 -$59 207,000 189,000 -$28
Louisiana 436,000 209,000 -$71 174,000 162,000 -$24
Maine 94,000 52,000 -$15 67,000 60,000 -$9
Maryland 301,000 154,000 -$46 147,000 128,000 -$17
Massachusetts 334,000 184,000 -$50 283,000 253,000 -$36
Michigan 769,000 394,000 -$131 461,000 409,000 -$67
Minnesota 239,000 112,000 -$33 114,000 104,000 -$10
Mississippi 307,000 148,000 -$49 119,000 112,000 -$15
Missouri 449,000 218,000 -$71 188,000 175,000 -$22
Montana 55,000 29,000 -$9 24,000 21,000 -$3
Nebraska 89,000 41,000 -$14 35,000 32,000 -$4
Nevada 167,000 77,000 -$24 63,000 59,000 -$7
New Hampshire 49,000 26,000 -$7 33,000 28,000 -$4
New Jersey 364,000 184,000 -$56 195,000 167,000 -$24
New Mexico 217,000 106,000 -$34 62,000 56,000 -$8
New York 1,211,000 649,000 -$207 1,064,000 944,000 -$163
North Carolina 758,000 389,000 -$118 285,000 246,000 -$31
North Dakota 29,000 15,000 -$5 13,000 12,000 -$2
Ohio 792,000 402,000 -$142 412,000 378,000 -$57
Oklahoma 294,000 145,000 -$49 116,000 106,000 -$13
Oregon 304,000 164,000 -$45 159,000 138,000 -$16
Pennsylvania 766,000 366,000 -$120 494,000 440,000 -$68
Rhode Island 64,000 36,000 -$11 46,000 42,000 -$6
South Carolina 401,000 200,000 -$66 142,000 127,000 -$17
South Dakota 52,000 24,000 -$8 20,000 18,000 -$3
Tennessee 560,000 278,000 -$95 252,000 224,000 -$29
Texas 2,360,000 1,085,000 -$342 672,000 609,000 -$95
Utah 151,000 64,000 -$22 38,000 34,000 -$5
Vermont 34,000 19,000 -$5 28,000 24,000 -$4
Virginia 415,000 211,000 -$68 174,000 160,000 -$18
Washington 456,000 231,000 -$67 234,000 208,000 -$27
West Virginia 141,000 75,000 -$23 98,000 87,000 -$11
Wisconsin 379,000 190,000 -$53 164,000 148,000 -$20
Wyoming 17,000 9,000 -$3 6,000 6,000 -$1
Guam 26,000 10,000 -$6 3,000 2,000 -$1
Virgin Islands 12,000 6,000 -$3 4,000 3,000 -$1
Total 21,500,000 10,700,000 -$3,460 9,100,000 8,200,000 -$1,192
Source: CBPP estimates based on USDA’s June 2013 Thrifty Food Plan, CBO May 2013 baseline, 2011 USDA data on SNAP Household Characteristics, recent USDA administrative data on the number of SNAP participants, and U.S. Census Bureau data on state populations.
Notes: The number of SNAP recipients shown is for a typical, or average month in fiscal year 2014.

End notes:

[1] For more information on the temporary benefit boost, see Stacy Dean and Dorothy Rosenbaum, “SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Revised August 2, 2013,


October 30, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] The benefits of crying wolf

From the 28 October 2013 Indiana State University press release

Crying wolf: Who benefits and when?

A crisis at work can bring out the best in colleagues, often inspiring more cooperation and self-sacrifice. A new study from Indiana University and the University of Guelph has found the benefits are not shared equally, with higher-ranking group members having the most to gain by perceived threats to the group.

“Sociologists have known for a long time that groups tend to come together when they face adversity,” said social psychologist Stephen Benard, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. “What our research highlights is that there is a downside to our tendency to stick together when things are tough — powerful group members can exploit that tendency to distract us from competing with them.”

The study, “Who cries wolf, and when? Manipulation of perceived threats to preserve rank in cooperative groups,” was published in the online journal Proceedings of the Library of Science One in September. Pat Barclay, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Guelph in Canada is the co-author.

Benard and Barclay tested their theories by creating three-person groups and having them play a cooperative group game in which people could pay money to increase the perception of threat to their group. They found that people with higher-ranking positions paid more to manipulate the threat and the action helped maintain their privileged positions.

“With this approach, we find people in high-ranking positions are more likely to manipulate apparent threats when their position is precarious, compared to when it is secure,” Benard said.
But this doesn’t mean the next crisis at work is a ploy by the boss to boost her job security. Social science predictions involve the average person, in general, not specific people or situations.

“When groups face potential threats, it’s important to judge those threats carefully,” Benard said. “On one hand, you want to be alert to the fact that other group members might have an incentive to exaggerate the threat. On the other hand, it’s also important not to underestimate threats that could be real.”

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with the Minerva Initiative of the U.S. department of Defense and the Cornell University Institute for Social Sciences.



October 30, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Workplace Health | , | Leave a comment

Public Wants Labels for Food Nanotech – and They’re Willing to Pay for It

From the 10 October 2013 North Carolina State press release

For Immediate Release

Matt Shipman | News Services | 919.515.6386

Dr. Jennifer Kuzma | 919.515.2592

Release Date: 10.28.13
Filed under Releases

New research from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota finds that people in the United States want labels on food products that use nanotechnology – whether the nanotechnology is in the food or is used in food packaging. The research also shows that many people are willing to pay more for the labeling.

Study participants were particularly supportive of labeling for products in which nanotechnology had been added to the food itself, though they were also in favor of labeling products in which nanotechnology had only been incorporated into the food packaging.

Study participants supported labeling products in which nanotechnology had been added to food, as well as products in which nanotechnology had been incorporated into the packaging.

“We wanted to know whether people want nanotechnology in food to be labeled, and the vast majority of the participants in our study do,” says Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of a paper on the research and Goodnight-Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at NC State. “Our study is the first research in the U.S. to take an in-depth, focus group approach to understanding the public perception of nanotechnology in foods.”

The researchers convened six focus groups – three in Minnesota and three in North Carolina – and gave study participants some basic information about nanotechnology and its use in food products. Participants were then asked a series of questions addressing whether food nanotechnology should be labeled. Participants were also sent a follow-up survey within a week of their focus group meeting.

Study participants were particularly supportive of labeling for products in which nanotechnology had been added to the food itself, though they were also in favor of labeling products in which nanotechnology had only been incorporated into the food packaging.

However, the call for labeling does not indicate that people are necessarily opposed to the use of nanotechnology in food products. For example, many study participants indicated support for the use of nanotechnology to make food more nutritious or to give it a longer shelf life – but they still wanted those products to be labeled.

“People do have nuanced perspectives on this,” Kuzma says. “They want labeling, but they also want access to reliable, research-based information about the risks associated with labeled products – such as a Food and Drug Administration website offering additional information about labeled products.”

The researchers also found that about 60 percent of the study participants who responded to the follow-up survey were willing to pay an additional 5 to 25 percent of the product price for either nanotechnology-free products or for nanotechnology labeling.

The paper, “Hungry for Information: Public Attitudes Toward Food Nanotechnology and Labeling,” was published online Oct. 7 inReview of Policy Research. Lead author of the study is Jonathan Brown, a former graduate student at the University of Minnesota. The work was supported by National Science Foundation grant SES-0709056.



October 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

Commuting’s Hidden Cost –

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 7.55.30 AM

Commuting’s Hidden Cost –


Millions of Americans like her pay dearly for their dependence on automobiles, losing hours a day that would be better spent exercising, socializing with family and friends, preparing home-cooked meals or simplygetting enough sleep. The resulting costs to both physical and mental healthare hardly trivial.

Suburban sprawl “has taken a huge toll on our health,” wrote Ms. Gallagher, an editor at Fortune magazine. “Research has been piling up that establishes a link between the spread of sprawl and the rise of obesity in our country. Researchers have also found that people get less exercise as the distances among where we live, work, shop and socialize increase.

“In places where people walk more, obesity rates are much lower,” she noted. “New Yorkers, perhaps the ultimate walkers, weigh six or seven pounds less on average than suburban Americans.”

A recent study of 4,297 Texans compared their health with the distances they commuted to and from work.It showed that as these distances increased, physical activity and cardiovascular fitness dropped, and blood pressure, body weight, waist circumference and metabolic risks rose.

The report, published last year in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Christine M. Hoehner and colleagues from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas, provided causal evidence for earlier findings that linked the time spent driving to an increased risk of cardiovascular death. The study examined the effects of a lengthy commute on health over the course of seven years. It revealed that driving more than 10 miles one way, to and from work, five days a week was associated with an increased risk of developing high blood sugar and high cholesterol. The researchers also linked long driving commutes to a greater risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation, all of which can impair the quality and length of life


Read the entire article here

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bid to Keep Youths Out of Adult Prisons –

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 7.42.53 AM


A Bid to Keep Youths Out of Adult Prisons –


DENVER — James Stewart died alone.

The 17-year-old from Denver had committed a terrible act: while driving drunk, he slammed into another vehicle head on and killed its driver. Initially placed with other juvenile offenders, he was moved to the county lockup after the district attorney charged him as an adult. Left alone in his cell despite his frantic pleas to be with others, he tightened his bedsheets around his neck and killed himself.

His death, in 2008, was one of two suicides by young people in Colorado jails that helped spur a significant change in state law last year by narrowing the authority of prosecutors to charge juveniles as adults and to place them in adult jails, part of a wave of such laws nationwide.

In a reversal of the tough-on-crime legislation that swept the nation in the late 1980s and ’90s, nearly half of the states have now enacted one or more laws that nudge more young offenders into the juvenile justice system, divert them from being automatically tried as adults and keep them from being placed in adult jails and prisons.

Sarah Brown, a director of the criminal justice program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the shift stems from a decline in juvenile crime, concerns about the costs of adult prisons and a growing understanding of adolescent brain development showing that the young have a greater potential for rehabilitation.

The Supreme Court has increasingly taken neurological research into account on juvenile justice issues — most recently in a 2012 case,Miller v. Alabama, which barred mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for those who committed their crimes before they turned 18. Justice Elena Kagan’s majority opinion in the case cited adolescents’ “diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change.”


Read the entire article here


October 30, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: