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CFYJ Reports

Too Many Youth Caught in the Net of Adult Prosecution

Too Many Youth Caught in the Net of Adult Prosecution

Too Many Youth Caught in the Net of Adult Prosecution

In October 2007, the Campaign for Youth Justice released “To Punish a Few: Too Many Youth Caught in the Net of Adult Prosecution,” which provides a comprehensive analysis of the issue of youth tried as adults. Jolanta Juszkiewicz, Ph.D., authored this comprehensive report as a follow up to her earlier study, “Youth Crime/Adult Time: Is Justice Served?”. This report uses data collected for the Juvenile Defendants in Criminal Courts, Survey of 40 Counties, 1998 (JDCC) program sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. The JDCC was the most ambitious effort to capture information on the prosecution of juveniles as adults. This report presents a multi-faceted analysis to explore whether the intended purposes of the expansion of adult prosecution of youth were met in 1998 and whether the answers to that question would differ today.

The findings of this report add credence to those of innumerable other studies that (1) African-American youth were disproportionately caught in the net of adult prosecution and adjudication in most of the jurisdictions, when measured against their proportion of the general or arrested population and (2) a high proportion of youth were held in adult jails, and for many whose cases did not result in a conviction in adult court this was their only exposure to an adult facility. Other findings indicated that the filing mechanisms, particularly the statutory exclusion and to a lesser extent direct filing, were less successful in identifying those youth who were deemed to be inappropriate for juvenile court then the judicial waiver. Many youth whose cases were filed in adult court by these mechanisms were subjected to detention in adult jail only to have their cases be transferred back to the juvenile court system or otherwise thrown out of the adult system.

Perpetual Punishment: The Consequences of Adult Convictions for Youth

perpetual punishmentAn examination of the long-term consequences of adult conviction for a youth, including federal legislation barring access to federal programs (food stamps, public assistance, public housing, etc) as well as state legislation over criminal history anonymity, employment barriers and other essentials to becoming a productive citizen.

Return Them to Juvenile Court

return them to juvenile courtA criticism of the punitive dimensions of historic and recent policies that have placed juveniles in the criminal courts, this brief also describes rationales that better fit society's interests in strengthening juveniles to be well-adjusted youth, rather than risking their futures and society's interests with their incarceration as criminals.

Children Being Tried as Adults: Pre-Trial Detention Laws in the U.S.

children being tried as adultsA run-down of the pre-trial detention laws for each of the 51 jurisdictions in the United States (50 states plus the District of Columbia). Includes information on the negative effects of holding youth pre-trial in adult facilities.

The Consequences Aren't Minor

The Consequences Aren’t Minor: The Impact of Trying Youth as Adults and Strategies for Reform

consequences arent minorThis March 2007 study examines the laws and data in seven key states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin. An estimated 200,000 youth end up in the adult system each year, and 40 states allow or require the jailing of these youth in adult facilities before they ever go to trial. They are often held in adult jails for months or years, even though they are charged with nonviolent offenses. Research indicates that sending youth to the adult criminal justice system doesn't work to reduce crime. Jails are not designed to safely hold youth, who are either incarcerated in cells with adults, or separated in forms of isolation that can lead to depression or even suicide.

The laws are not evenly applied, with youth of color and those without access to adequate legal counsel more likely to end up in adult correctional facilities. Nationwide, three out of four young people admitted to adult prison in 2002 were youth of color. The report also notes that juvenile judges are frequently excluded from the decision to prosecute youth as adults. Instead, prosecutors and state laws determine which youth end up in the adult system, no matter how minor the offense.

The report urges policy makers to take advantage of the shift in public opinion and the new adolescent brain development research that inspired the Supreme Court to end the death penalty for minors. The report calls for a ban on the incarceration of youth in adult jails or prisons, and in the rare cases where the seriousness of a crime warrants consideration of prosecution in the adult system, a juvenile court judge should make the decision rather than prosecutors or state law.

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