Processed as an Adult: A Regression Discontinuity Estimate of the Crime Effects of Charging Non-Transfer Juveniles as Adults

44 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2014 Last revised: 24 Mar 2015

See all articles by Charles Loeffler

Charles Loeffler

University of Pennsylvania

Ben Grunwald

Duke University School of Law

Date Written: March 19, 2015

Abstract

A sizable literature examines the effect of transferring the most serious and persistent juvenile arrestees from the juvenile justice system to the adult justice system. Few studies, however, have tested whether processing juveniles in the adult system has a similar effect on those who are not eligible for transfer. Recent legislative changes to the exclusive jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system justify greater scholarly attention on this population. Using a regression discontinuity design, this study estimates the effects of the juvenile and adult justice systems on recidivism for non-transfer-eligible juvenile offenders arrested just weeks before and after the age of majority for drug distribution, a common felony charge. Our results suggest that processing these juveniles as adults slightly reduces the probability of recidivism by between 3 and 5 percent. Based on the rapid onset and limited change in size of these effects over the duration of a 4-year follow-up, and based on the concentration of the effects within a sub-group having the lowest risk of incarceration, we attribute this finding to a combination of enhanced deterrence and incapacitation in the adult justice system. These results suggest that processing juveniles in the adult system may not uniformly increase offending and may reduce offending in some circumstances. Implications for recent state-level changes to the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system are discussed.

Keywords: Juvenile Justice, Regression-Discontinuity, Criminal Recidivism

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

Loeffler, Charles and Grunwald, Ben, Processed as an Adult: A Regression Discontinuity Estimate of the Crime Effects of Charging Non-Transfer Juveniles as Adults (March 19, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2375982 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2375982

Charles Loeffler (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Ben Grunwald

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Dr.
Durham, NC 27708
United States

HOME PAGE: http://bengrunwald.com

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