Juvenile transfer is the process of removing juvenile offenders from the juvenile court and placing them into the adult court. Although states implement this process in varying ways, it is seen in different viewpoints as either having a positive effect on juveniles or a negative effect. Studies have been conducted examining the statistics regarding recidivism for juveniles who have been transferred to the adult court versus those who have not. After taking a look at these two perspectives, I have gained a broader understanding of the multiple studies that have been conducted over juvenile transfer and its effectiveness, and have come to the conclusion that it is a sound policy that should continue to be used in the United States for certain individuals in certain cases. Studies have been conducted attempting to discover the effectiveness of juvenile transfer, and whether it is beneficial for juvenile deterrence and society as a whole. For example, Lanza-Kaduce and colleagues conducted research which showed that juvenile transfer actually had a negative effect on juveniles, and that its primary purpose of deterring and lowering delinquency was not being achieved. The study found that those individuals who had been transferred into the adult court had a much higher rate of recidivism compared to those who remained in the juvenile court. They also found that recidivism of violent crimes was higher among those who had been transferred. (Lanza-Kaduce, p. 67). These results conclude that juveniles are negatively affected by transfer into the adult court, and lead us to ask why. The overall experience of the adult court process could be to blame for the resulting negative effects; however, it could be attributed to the harsher sanctions that are imposed. For instance, as the offender goes through the process of the adult court (trial, incarceration, etc.), they will face many experiences that could potentially have a negative impact on them. They are essentially hardened by the criminal justice system. The other possibility is that the sanctions imposed by the adult court are harsher; therefore they cause the offender to exhibit negative side effects. If an offender is given a sentence that is not matched to their particular case, they will end up returning to society after completing their sentence with hardened traits and will consequently be more likely to recidivate. The multiple theories discussing the position that juvenile transfer has negative impacts on juveniles are grounded on the fact that either the adult court process or the sanctions imposed by the adult court actually cause juveniles to recidivate. Some studies have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of juvenile transfer have found positive results. For example, Jordon (2011) concluded that youth transferred into adult court have a lower probability of re-arrest than those who remain in juvenile court. The study showed that there were limitations to prior research including hidden bias, indicating that the results were incorrect. If the prior studies revealed statistics that had biased results, we can confidently reexamine the effectiveness of juvenile transfer and discover other studies which attempt to correct the mistakes of prior research. According to Jordon’s study, statistics conclude that juveniles who are placed into the adult court have a higher likelihood of successfully reintegrating into the community as compared to those who remain in the juvenile court. “Using the same analysis, this study found that the average recidivism rate for decertified youth is 0.70 and 0.56 for non-decertified youth. The result is statistically significant (p50.05), suggesting that decertified youth are more likely to recidivate than nondecertified youth.” (Jordon 2011 p. 60). After examining the differences of the various studies that have been conducted, we see that perhaps the effectiveness is based on an individual basis more than a general success rate. For instance, the results of the studies might differ due to the fact that juveniles are so diverse and have many varying characteristics, which needs to be addressed when determining whether a juvenile offender should be transferred to the adult court or not. Some studies have also been conducted that look at the affect juvenile transfer has on juveniles which concluded that there is too little empirical evidence to accurately determine the affects it has. (Loughran p. 477). We can determine from these studies that although there have been multiple studies conducted in the past which indicate juvenile transfer has negative results, the studies were not completely accurate, leaving room for further studies and theories. With this in mind, we can begin to look at the possibility of continuing to use juvenile transfer, but perhaps in a more subjective way. After researching the various studies that have been conducted and theories that have been drawn, I have come to the conclusion that policy makers should continue to employ the use of juvenile transfer. Although there is a multitude of different viewpoints and varying results displaying opposing results, I believe the implications that juvenile transfer has is highly useful for certain juveniles in certain cases. I believe that if a juvenile commits a serious offense, and the circumstances are examined revealing unjust motives, the criminal justice system should use the most extreme forms of punishment for that individual, which are found using the adult court. Each offender should be closely examined to determine which court system would best serve them in the long run. For instance, if more rehabilitative focused sentencing would be the ideal course of action for the offender, then the juvenile court would be the ideal route to take; however, if more severe and intensive punishment is the goal, then the adult court would be the best method. It would be a bad policy to have automatic transfer based on certain predetermined characteristics of the juveniles, such as age or crimes committed, although these should absolutely be taken into account. The criminal justice system, specifically the corrections system, works best when practitioners look at offenders and their cases on an individual basis. Because people are so incredibly diverse and their circumstances and personal characteristics vary widely from person to person, it is impossible to implement laws that perfectly serve society when used to cover a large group of offenders. Instead, policy makers should have a more subjective approach and consider each juvenile and their specific needs. The safety of society needs to be the focus of all decisions made. For example, if there is a juvenile who is considered a dangerous offender, then leaving them in the juvenile court would be an impractical way to deal with their case. The rehabilitative focus of the juvenile court would most likely not be sufficient for the dangerous offender’s case. Instead, a punishment with a high likelihood of lengthy incarceration would be the ideal method for that offender. This would keep them out of the community preventing them from committing more crimes and would ideally deter them from recidivating upon release since they would most likely want to avoid enduring such a harsh sentence again. Society would be protected both temporarily and long-term. Instead of discounting juvenile transfer as an option for practitioners, it should continue to be used but should be implemented on a stricter basis. Each individual juvenile offender should be closely examined and evaluated to determine whether or not to transfer them to the adult court. In conclusion, we see that there is an extremely large number of studies that have been conducted throughout the years attempting to determine the effectiveness of juvenile transfer. Statistics show varying results regarding juvenile recidivism. Studies have been conducted arguing that juvenile transfer has negative effects on the juvenile due to the adult court process and harsh sanctions; however studies have also been conducted arguing that juvenile transfer has positive effects on the juvenile, thereby serving society through the successful use of the criminal justice system. After examining the arguments both for and against juvenile transfer, I have come to the conclusion that the ultimate goals of the criminal justice system (offender punishment, offender rehabilitation, victim restoration, and community protection) are best accomplished through the use of juvenile transfer for certain juvenile offenders in certain situations. Taking each juvenile into consideration on an individual basis will allow practitioners to apply juvenile transfer in the appropriate cases, thereby effectively utilizing the courts and the criminal justice system.
Jordan, K. L. (2012). Juvenile transfer and recidivism: a propensity score matching approach. Journal Of Crime & Justice, 35(1), (p. 60).
Lanza-Kaduce, L. L., Lane, J. J., & Bishop, D. M. (2005). Juvenile offenders and adult felony recidivism: The impact of transfer. Journal Of Crime & Justice, 28(1), (p. 67).
Loughran, T., Mulvey, E., Schubert, C., Chassin, L., Steinberg, L., Piquero, A., & ... Losoya, S. (2010). Differential Effects of Adult Court Transfer on Juvenile Offender Recidivism. Law & Human Behavior (Springer Science & Business Media B.V.), 34(6), (p. 477). doi:10.1007/s10979-009-9210-z.