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Treating Juveniles Like Juveniles: Getting Rid of Transfer and Expanded Adult Court Jurisdiction

Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 46, 2013

Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 13-37

66 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2013  

Christopher Slobogin

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: November 6, 2013


The number of juveniles transferred to adult court has skyrocketed in the past two decades and has only recently begun to level off. This symposium article argues that, because it wastes resources, damages juveniles, and decreases public safety, transfer should be abolished. It also argues that the diminished culpability rationale that has had much-deserved success at eliminating the juvenile death penalty and mandatory life without parole for juveniles is not likely to have a major impact on the much more prevalent practices of transferring mid- and older-adolescents to adult court and expanding adult court jurisdiction to adolescents; neither the law nor developmental science justifies the conclusion that juvenile offenders deserve significant mitigation in the non-capital context. If instead juvenile justice is reconceptualized as a preventive mechanism rather than a punishment regime (as laid out in the book I co-authored, "Juveniles at Risk: A Plea for Preventive Justice"), transfer becomes much less alluring. If the primary goal of juvenile justice is public safety, with retribution conceived as an important goal only to the extent that recognizing it is necessary to ensure systemic legitimacy, then maintaining an adult court option for juveniles (and imposing long sentences on them) becomes unnecessary and counterproductive. Appended to this article is another article, written for the ABA’s Criminal Justice Magazine, that fleshes out how a risk management regime would work in a prevention-oriented juvenile justice system.

Keywords: juvenile justice, transfer, retribution, preventive detention, risk assessment and management

Suggested Citation

Slobogin, Christopher, Treating Juveniles Like Juveniles: Getting Rid of Transfer and Expanded Adult Court Jurisdiction (November 6, 2013). Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 46, 2013; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 13-37. Available at SSRN:

Christopher Slobogin (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

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