More Recidivism After Trying Teens As Adults: CDC Panel


Youths tried as adults and housed in adult prisons commit more crimes, often more violent ones, than minors who remain in the juvenile justice system, said a panel of experts chosen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports the Washington Post. Longer sentences and the transfer of juveniles to the adult system gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s as youth crime increased. The trend raised fears in statehouses and in Congress about young predators, and laws to push more juvenile offenders into the adult system flourished. The laws have not deterred other youths from crime, nor have they rehabilitated the youths sentenced under them, said Dean Robert Johnson of the New Jersey Medical School, a member of the CDC Task Force on Community Preventive Services. “Not only does it not deter youth crime, it actually makes them more violent. It may salve our desire to punish. But don’t get that confused with rehabilitation. Don’t make the mistake of believing that punishment will help anything.”

The panel’s findings were based on a review of six studies that examined the effect of juvenile transfers to the adult system. The report comes as the Senate considers reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act which calls for youths in adult jails to be housed separately — something that does not always occur. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled for Thursday. Shay Bilchik, a former Florida prosecutor and Justice Department official, once favored transferring reoffending youths to adult courts. Now, there is mounting evidence that such policies do not help youths or make communities safer. “You couldn’t ask for any worse results,” said Bilchik, director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. “We’re getting faster recidivism for more serious crimes.”


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