Jeffrey Fagan is a professor at Columbia University, a member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, and vice chair of the Committee on Law and Justice at the National Research Council.
Anthony Laster was a 15-year-old eighth-grader with an IQ of 58 who was described by relatives as having the mind of a 5-year-old. One day in 1998, shortly after his mother died, Anthony was hungry, so he reached into the pocket of another student in his Florida middle school and took $2 in lunch money. The boy's family reported the crime to the authorities, and the local prosecutor, Barry Kirscher, decided to prosecute Anthony as an adult. It was Anthony's ﬁrst arrest. He spent the next seven weeks -- including his ﬁrst Christmas since his mother died -- in an adult jail waiting for his court date.