DOJ Releases Judicial Waiver Data on Youth, Shows Increase in Drug Offenses Waived to Criminal Court
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s latest bulletin, U.S. courts with juvenile jurisdiction handled nearly 1.4 million delinquency cases in 2010. “Delinquency Cases Waived to Criminal Court, 2010” shows that more than half (54%) of these cases were handled formally (i.e., a petition was filed requesting an adjudication or waiver hearing) and of the petitioned delinquency caseload, about 1% resulted in judicial waiver to adult criminal court. The number of delinquency cases judicially waived peaked in 1994 at 13,300 cases, more than double the number of cases waived in 1985. In 2010, juvenile courts waived an estimated 6,000 delinquency cases, 55% fewer cases than in 1994.
The bulletin documents how the offense profile and characteristics of cases judicially waived to criminal court have changed considerably. From 1985 to 1992, property offense cases made up the largest share of the waived caseload. Beginning in 1993, person offense cases accounted for a greater proportion of the waived caseload than property offense cases. Most alarming, the number of non-violent drug related offenses waived to the adult criminal system more than doubled from 1985-2010.
The study highlights how the decline in juvenile violent crime drove much of the decrease in judicial waivers throughout the 1990s. But don't be fooled by the 55% decrease in waived cases between 1994 and 2010. According to DOJ, “part of the decline in judicial waivers can be attributed to the simultaneous and widespread expansion of nonjudicial transfer laws. As a result of these new and expanded laws, many cases that might have been subject to waiver proceedings in previous years were undoubtedly filed directly in criminal court by prosecutors, bypassing the juvenile court altogether.” With over 200,000 youth each year in the adult system, we must continue to embolden and promote practices that encourage rehabilitation over incarceration. The consequences are too great to do otherwise.
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