One Size Does Not Fit All: The Deterrent Effect of Transferring Juveniles to Criminal Court
Criminology & Public Policy, 15, 1-10.
10 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2016
All states transfer certain serious or repeat juvenile offenders from the juvenile court for adjudication in the adult criminal court in the hopes that doing so will reduce offender recidivism. Yet, clear empirical data on whether transfer achieves these results has been lacking. This essay discusses the implications for policy, practice, and future research of the findings of Zane et al.'s (2016) meta-analysis of the nine methodologically sound studies of the specific deterrent effects of juvenile transfer. The central take home message of the meta-analytic findings is that transfer likely has different effects depending upon the type of juvenile offender, type of transfer mechanism used, and the punishments and interventions meted out by the juvenile and criminal court systems. Thus, future research must be conducted across jurisdictions having different transfer mechanisms and sentencing options, and be of a level of sophistication that includes a host of offense and offender variables as well as court processing/sanction type, and employ methodologies that minimize or detect potential selection biases between comparison groups. Importantly, because one size of legal processing and sanction does not fit all offenders, judges and prosecutors should base their transfer decisions not primarily upon seriousness of the charge but on an individualized and nuanced evaluation of relevant case, offender, and local justice and social service system capabilities.
Keywords: Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Offenders, Juvenile Justice, Deterrence, Transfer, Adult Court, Crime Control
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