OP-ED: Justice foiled by ignorance of trauma

By Judge George Timberlake, Ret, JJIE.org

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At the supermarket last week, I saw a young woman who looked familiar, but I could not recall her name. I said “Hello” and continued looking for kale, quinoa and 15-grain bread — staples at my house since we are eating healthy.

Two aisles over, I saw her again. She was thin, almost gaunt, dressed in worn clothes that didn’t fit, but I now recognized her from an appearance years ago in my juvenile courtroom. Let’s call her Kera.

Kera recognized me, too. I tried to start a conversation. She mumbled a short response and hurried out of the store without making a purchase.

In the parking lot, I sat in my pickup for several minutes thinking about this woman who had the outward appearance of a meth addict. I wondered how she came to be the person I just saw and what I might have done differently to improve her outcome.

My thoughts turned to remarks delivered by Abigail Baird, a developmental neuroscientist studying brain development and decision-making by teenagers. She was addressing a symposium sponsored by the National Center for State Courts and the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative.

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