Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Public Policy, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Previous trauma may serve as a risk factor for involuntary or false confessions among juvenile suspects.
In the article, “How Trauma May Magnify Risks of Involuntary and False Confessions Among Adolescents,” Cleary and her co-authors examine the relationship between traumatic personal and situational experiences and false confessions in juvenile suspects. The authors posit that previous trauma may serve as a risk factor for involuntary or false confessions among juvenile suspects, as two-thirds of justice-involved adolescents experience at least one traumatic experience. The researchers reviewed symptoms of adolescent trauma, focusing on the similarities between adolescents’ responses to trauma. From there, the authors systematically applied the “Three Errors” framework, which describes factors of police-induced false confessions, to their outline of the psychological mechanisms that increase adolescent risk of making involuntary or unreliable statements to police. The authors were able to show theoretical links between past trauma and false confessions in adolescent suspects. They acknowledged that more empirical research is needed in this often neglected area of juvenile justice work but it is essential to ensuring fairness for adolescent suspects interacting with law enforcement.