State laws that require or encourage trying juvenile defendants as adults have little or no deterrent effect on juvenile crime, says a new report issued by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, part of the Justice Department. The report, by Chapman University Law Prof. Richard Redding, also says that the laws substantially increase recidivism. Redding did not do original research but analyzed studies conducted by various researchers over more than a decade.
A 2005 Florida study, for example, found that 49 percent of youths who were tried as adults reoffended, compared with 35 percent of those who stayed in juvenile court. Among possible explanations for that result: juveniles who are tried as adults are stigmatized and resent the experience; they learn more about “criminal mores” when incarcerated with adults, and there is less rehabilitation in the adult justice system. “Too many youth are being prosecuted as adults, with harmful results,” said Liz Ryan of the Campaign for Youth Justice, an advocacy group. “We are calling on federal and state policy makers to reverse these punitive laws” in light of the research.