DEFUSING THE MYTH: Prosecuting Children as Adults doesn't work to Decrease Juvenile Crime

Author Unspecified
DateJune 29, 1996
Sourcehttp://www.aclu.org/congress/lg062996z.html
Copyright Copyright (C) 1997 The American Civil Liberties Union
Concepts
  • variables
  • causal graphs
  • confounders
Keywords
  • juvenile crime

THE RESEARCH PROVES IT DOESN'T WORK
The most recent research demonstrates that efforts to transfer children from juvenile court to adult criminal court does not decrease recidivism and may, in fact, be counterproductive.
One study, comparing New York and New Jersey juvenile offenders, shows that the rearrest rate for children sentenced in juvenile court was twenty-nine percent lower than the rearrest rate for juveniles sentenced in the adult criminal court. (1)
A recent Florida study compared the recidivism rate of juveniles who were transferred to criminal court versus those who were retained in the juvenile system and concluded that juveniles who were transferred recidivated at a higher rate than the nontransfer group. Furthermore, the rate of reoffending in the transfer group was significantly higher than the nontransfer group as was the likelihood that the transfer group would commit subsequent felony offenses. (2)
THE STATISTICS PROVE IT DOESN'T WORK
A U.S. Department of Justice study found that juvenile arrests for violent crimes grew from 83,400 in 1983 to 129,600 in 1992, despite a 10% decrease in the number of sixteen and seventeen year olds in the U.S. population and despite a 115% increase in the number of juveniles, between 1989 and 1994, prosecuted in adult court for person-on-person offenses. (3)
DISPROPORTIONATE APPLICATION TO MINORITY YOUTH PROVES IT DOESN'T WORK
Several studies demonstrate that minority youth are more likely to be transferred to adult court through the use of prosecutorial discretion and judicial waiver. (4)
THE CAUSALITIES PROVE IT DOESN'T WORK
Incarcerating juveniles in adult jails places the juveniles in real danger. Research demonstrates that children in adult institutions are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be beaten by staff, and fifty percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than juveniles confined in a juvenile facility. (5)
On April 25, 1996, six adult prisoners murdered a seventeen year old boy while he was incarcerated in the juvenile cellblock of an adult jail in Ohio. (6)
In Idaho, a seventeen year old boy held in an adult jail was tortured and finally murdered by other prisoners in the cell. (7)
In Ohio, a juvenile court judge put a fifteen year old girl in adult county jail to "teach her a lesson." On the fourth night of her confinement, she was sexually assaulted by a deputy jailer.
THE RESEARCH PROVES ALTERNATIVES DO WORK
A 1996 Connecticut Judicial Branch study found that offenders under the age of twenty-one sentenced to Alternatives to Incarceration Programs (AIP) have a lower rate of rearrest than offenders convicted of similar crimes but sentenced to Department of Corrections Incarceration (DOC).
Young drug offenders rearrested for drug crimes -- three new arrests for those sentenced to AIP versus ten new arrests for DOC.
Young drug offenders rearrested for felonies -- less than one new arrest for every two new arrests of those previously in DOC.
Young drug offenders rearrested overall -- about one new arrest for AIP compared to two new arrests for those previously in DOC.
NOTES:
1. Jeffrey Fagan, The Comparative Advantage of Juvenile Versus Criminal Court Sanctions on Recidivism Among Adolescent Felony Offenders 1, 21, 27 (1996) (unpublished manuscript, on file with the American Civil Liberties Union).
2. Donna M. Bishop et al., The Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court: Does it Make a Difference?, 42 Crime and Delinq. 171, 183 (1996).
3. See Vincent Schiraldi, Treating Kids Like Adults Doesn't Shrink Crime Rate, L.A. Daily News, May 12, 1996 at 1.
4. See, e.g., Jeffrey Fagan et al., Racial Determinants of the Judicial Transfer Decision: Prosecuting Violent Youths in the Criminal Court, 33 Crime and Delinq. 259 (1987).
5. See Jeffrey Fagan et al., Youth in Prisons and Training Schools: Perceptions and Consequences of the Treatment-Custody Dichotomy, 40 Juv & Fam. Ct. J. 1 (1989); Eisikovits & Baizerman, Doin' Time; Violent Youth in a Juvenile Facility and in an Adult Prison, 6 J. Offender Counseling, Services & Rehabilitation 5 (1983).
6. Kristen Delguzzi, Prison Security Went Awry: Youth Killed When Adults Entered Cellblock, Cin. Enquirer, April 30, 1996, at B1.
7. See Yellen v. Ada County, Civ. Action no. 83-1026 (D. Idaho Feb. 13, 1985) (order of permanent injunction).