Fall 2013 Symposium — Reading List


Reconsidering Juvenile and Criminal Court Jurisdiction in New York


Background Reading List



The National Juvenile Justice Network’s (NJJN) 2013 policy platform makes concrete recommendations for policies to keep youth out of the adult system. With legal and scientific communities consistently asserting that young people cannot be held accountable for their actions in the same way as adults, data showing the physical and emotional harm that comes to youth in adult facilities, and evidence of the long-term negative consequences of an adult criminal record, it’s past time to reform our policies that place youth in the adult system.



The National District Attorneys Association’s (NDAA’s) Board of Directors has had the opportunity to review and comment upon the proposed resolution concerning sentence mitigation for youthful offenders which is under consideration by the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association (ABA). The NDAA strongly objects to what we consider to be an overly broad and one-sided attempt to encourage state legislatures to revise juvenile codes across America to make it more difficult to prosecute juvenile offenders as adults for egregious crimes and to punish juvenile offenders less seriously for the criminal behavior solely because of their perceived immaturity..



State Trends documents the continued momentum around reform efforts for youth in the adult criminal justice system. Each law highlighted contributes to the reduction of youth under the age of 18 who are prosecuted, sentenced, and incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system each year as well as youth who are placed in adult jails and prisons each year. With 23 states enacting 40 pieces of legislation in the last eight years, it is clear that policymakers, advocates, youth, and families are coming together to recognize that kids are different and require different considerations when contemplating punishment. 



The difference between the juvenile system and adult system is philosophy—mainly, rehabilitation versus punishment. The juvenile justice system focuses on the child or youth and offers an opportunity for rehabilitation. The adult criminal system focuses on what the offense warrants in terms of punishment.



In the 1980s and 1990s, legislatures in nearly every state expanded transfer laws that allowed or required the prosecution of juveniles in adult criminal courts. The impact of these historic changes is difficult to assess inasmuch as there are no national data sets that track youth who have been tried and sentenced in the criminal justice system. Moreover, state data are hard to find and even more difficult to assess accurately. In addition to providing the latest overview of state transfer laws and practices, this bulletin examines available state-level data on juveniles adjudicated in the criminal justice system.



At first glance, it may appear that the greater use of transfer lowered violent youth crime, but this argument is refuted by a simple analysis of crime trends. In the six states that allow fair comparisons (i.e., where all juveniles ages 16-17 are originally subject to juvenile court jurisdiction and sufficient data exist for the calculations), the use of criminal court transfer bears no relationship to changes in juvenile violence. The 1995-2010 drop in violent crime ranged from –50% to –74% in these states, but the size of the decline was not related to the use of transfer.



The Vera Institute of Justice’s Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit (CBAU) analyzed the likely costs and benefits of a proposal to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in North Carolina. The CBAU incorporated data specific to North Carolina, but also drew upon national research and best practices in juvenile justice. The Vera Institute’s analysis influenced recommendations made by a state task force to the general assembly.