Sending Teens to Adult Court Doesn’t Cut Recidivism: Study

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Transferring juvenile offenders to adult court—a policy developed in the 1980s and 1990s as part of reforms aimed at “toughening” the justice system—has no “statistically significant effect on recidivism,” according to a report published online today in Criminology & Public Policy, a journal of the American Society of Criminology.

Researchers based their conclusion on an analysis of nine studies comparing transferred juveniles with juveniles who were not transferred, the report states. Of these, five studies found evidence of increased recidivism for transferred juveniles, three studies found no significant difference in recidivism outcomes between transferred and non-transferred juveniles, and one study found that transferred juveniles were less likely to recidivate compared with nontransferred juveniles.

The review of the nine studies shows “there is no reliable basis on which to argue that scientific evidence ‘now’ exists for or against transfer as a policy of specific deterrence,” write authors Steven N. Zane and Brandon C. Welsh, both of Northeastern University, and Daniel P. Mears of Florida State University in a study entitled “Juvenile Transfer and the Specific Deterrence Hypothesis: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” “Rather, the evidence is that transfer may decrease recidivism, but it also may increase it.”

The authors concluded that more research is needed to identify the effect transfers have on recidivism.

The full report is available here.

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