Report: Does Transferring Kids to Adult Court Deter Future Offenses?


Tuesday, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released “Transfer of Juveniles to Adult Court: Effects of a Broad Policy in One Court,” a new bulletin culling data from the Pathways to Desistance Study.

The longitudinal report examined outcomes for juveniles transferred to adult courts in Maricopa County, Ariz., with the authors concluding that 77 percent of young people that returned to their community after being sent to adult facilities reengaged in at least some level of “antisocial activity,” with approximately two-thirds eventually arrested or placed in an “institutional setting.”

“Adolescents in the adult system may be at risk for disruptions in their personal development, identity formation, relationships, learning, growth in skills and competencies and positive movement into adult status,” the report’s authors wrote.

Researchers said transferring young people to adult courts might have a “differential” effect, with some juveniles becoming likelier to offend again, depending on the young person’s presenting offense and previous offense history. Researchers state that adolescent offenders transferred to adult courts, without any prior petitions, were much likelier to be re-arrested than young people that remained in the juvenile justice system.

“Most of the youth in the study who were sent to adult facilities returned to the community within a few years, varying widely in their levels of adjustment,” the report says. “Youth were more likely to successfully adjust when they were not influenced by antisocial peers.”

Additionally, researchers say that adolescents are also at an elevated risk of being physically or sexually attacked while housed at adult facilities. Despite representing a meager proportion of total inmates in the nation’s adult prison system, analysts estimate that 21 percent of all victims of substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate sexual violence in 2005 were under the age of 18.

While transferring juveniles with serious violent offenses to adult courts “seemed to have its intended effect,” the report noted that adult court transfers had a detrimental effect regarding juveniles with serious property offenses.

“These analyses provide clear evidence that certain case characteristics, most notably type of offense and prior history, are differentially related to outcomes among transferred adolescents,” the researchers concluded.

Photo from the OJJDP's “Transfer of Juveniles to Adult Court: Effects of a Broad Policy in One Court.”

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James Swift

James Swift is a freelance reporter working in metro Atlanta.

One thought on “Report: Does Transferring Kids to Adult Court Deter Future Offenses?”

  1. We are dealing with a situation where both the judiciary and the various prosecution agencies, particularly on the state level, are not concerned with public safety. They are concerned with self promotion as “victim advocates” and being “tough on juvenile crime.” The result has been a generation of youngsters who have been prosecuted as adults and incarcerated in adult facilities and who will leave those facilities in MUCH worse condition than when they left. Some will die, some will be permanently scared by acts of sexual and physical abuse by both staff and other inmates and some will leave prison without any rehabilitation and job training in useful professions. This latter group will either re-offend and return to the prison system or die.

    Prosecutors have, largely, lost any understanding of their function in society. They are not victim advocates, but rather carry the unique function of advocates for society as a whole; society which include the alleged perpetrator. Finding a correct balance between trying to correct juveniles who fall from grace and protecting the public is the ONLY job of these attorneys, yet they consistently attempt to act as the valiant saviors of individual victims and victim survivors instead of acting in the best interest of society as a whole.

    It is time to reverse the trend of allowing prosecutorial agencies to make determinations regarding the application of adult sanctions on children who commit crimes, as they have fully demonstrated a failure to be objective in those determinations, nationwide. Dangerous men and women in power have committed two many salvageable children to a living death sentence by placing them under the same standards that are applied to adults.

    There is nothing wrong with incarceration of youth who commit serious crimes, however the entire focus of their incarceration MUST be on rehabilitation over punishment. Incarcerating children in adult settings with little or no services to encourage reform and rehabilitation results in a greater danger to society. Unfortunately, neither the bar, nor the judiciary seems to either recognize this danger, nor care about the children they send to prison. There interest is apparently too focused on clearing case calendars and the purported “protection of society,” a subject which they have clearly failed to recognize.

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