Juvenile Transfer Laws: An Effective Deterrent to Delinquency?

U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Youth in adult lockups go back to jail more often, and faster, than youth who end up in juvenile justice programs for comparable crimes, according to this federal bulletin. And in 13 of 14 states examined in one study, juvenile crime stayed constant or increased after laws making it easy to transfer juvenile cases to adult court were introduced (Michigan was the one exception).

The report marks the first time that Department of Justice research has taken a position on transfer laws, which can force courts to try certain juveniles as adults or allow judges or prosecutors to make that decision.

The bulletin provides a research overview on the deterrent effects of juvenile transfer laws on recidivism, and finds that juvenile justice programs are doing a better job than adult systems in preventing youth from turning into lifetime criminals. Author Richard Redding notes that deterrence appears to be far more connected to the likelihood of arrest than to the fear of being tried in adult court, as “few violent juvenile offenders knew that they could be tried as adults, none thought it would happen to them, and few thought they would face serious punishment.” Free, 12 pages. (800) 851-3420,


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