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Juvenile Offenders in the Adult Criminal Justice System

Donna M. Bishop
Crime and Justice
Vol. 27 (2000), pp. 81-167
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147663
Page Count: 87
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Juvenile Offenders in the Adult Criminal Justice System
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Abstract

Most state legislatures have instituted punitive reforms in response to rising rates of youth crime, including provisions that transfer an increasing number and range of adolescents to criminal courts for adult prosecution. Proponents assert that juvenile court sanctions and services constitute neither just nor effective responses to savvy juvenile offenders and propose that criminal prosecution will insure more proportionate punishments, provide more effective deterrence, and achieve greater incapacitation. The empirical evidence is too limited to be definitive, but it suggests that most of those assertions are wrong. Expansive transfer policies send many minor and nonthreatening offenders to the adult system, exacerbate racial disparities, and move adolescents with special needs into correctional systems ill prepared to handle them. Transfer results in more severe penalties for some offenders, but there is no evidence that it achieves either general or specific deterrent effects. There is credible evidence that prosecution and punishment in the adult system increase the likelihood of recidivism, offsetting incapacitative gains. Transfer also exposes young people to heightened vulnerability to a host of unfortunate experiences and outcomes.

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