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Youth in Adult Court

A Decade of NCSC Research on Blended Sentencing for Juvenile Offenders

Blended sentencing enables some courts to impose juvenile or adult sanctions (or both) on certain juveniles. Extralegal factors (race in particular) influenced the probability of a blended sentence and transfer to adult criminal court, even though both are rarely imposed, and objective risk-and-needs assessment information should inform decisions in these cases.

Blakely & Blended Sentencing: A Constitutional Challenge to Sentencing Child “Criminals”

This Note explores the constitutional implications of blended sentences in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Blakely by describing the mechanisms of various blended sentencing schemes, then applying the principles found in Blakely to those statutory schemes. 

Blended Sentencing Laws and the Punitive Turn in Juvenile Justice

In many states, young people today can receive a “blended” combination of both a juvenile sanction and an adult criminal sentence. We ask what accounts for the rise of blended sentencing in juvenile justice and whether this trend parallels crime control developments in the adult criminal justice system. We use event history analysis to model state adoption of blended sentencing laws from 1985 to 2008, examining the relative influence of social, political, administrative, and economic factors. We find that states with high unemployment, greater prosecutorial discretion, and disproportionate rates of African American incarceration are most likely to pass blended sentencing provisions. This suggests that the turn toward blended sentencing largely parallels the punitive turn in adult sentencing and corrections—and that theory and research on adult punishment productively extends to developments in juvenile justice.

Juvenile Penalty or Leniency: Sentencing Juveniles in the Criminal Justice System

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of being juvenile on sentencing in the criminal justice system. More specifically, youth transferred to criminal court are compared to adults in terms of likelihood of incarceration, jail length, and prison length. In this study, 2 national data sets are merged. The juvenile sample includes 3,381 convicted offenders, and the adult sample is comprised of 6,529 convicted offenders. The final sample is 9,910 offenders across 36 U.S. counties. The key independent variable is juvenile status, and the dependent variables are incarceration, jail length, and prison length. Because of the multilevel nature of the data, hierarchical linear modeling is used across all models. Juveniles are punished less severely in the jail incarceration decision. However, when youth are actually sentenced to incarceration (either jail or prison), they are given longer confinement time than adults.

Let the Jury Do the Waive: How Apprendi v. New Jersey Applies to Juvenile Transfer Proceedings

This Note analyzes Apprendi's applicability to juvenile transfer proceedings throughout the United States.

Race, Juvenile Transfer, and Sentencing Preferences: Findings from a Randomized Experiment

In light of the expansion of punitive “get tough” policies for juvenile offenders, some researchers have uncovered evidence that juveniles who are waived to the adult court receive more severe sanctions than retained juveniles. Theoretically, the transfer status of delinquents may serve as a cognitive heuristic in criminal justice system (CJS) actors’ “focal concern” judgments. Understood through this framework, transfer status may signify to CJS workers, and especially Whites, that a juvenile offender is especially dangerous or blameworthy, thereby justifying harsher punishments. To examine these relationships, two experimental vignettes were embedded in a national survey of CJS workers in which the transfer status of the offender was randomized. Analyses reveal that respondents did not prefer harsher sentences for the transferred violent male delinquent, but they did recommend significantly harsher sentences for the transferred nonviolent female delinquent. White respondents, however, were especially punitive in their sentencing preferences for the transferred violent male delinquent. The findings are partially consistent with the theoretical expectation that transfer status functions as a heuristic in CJS actors’ assessments of juvenile offenders. The results also suggest that White CJS workers may racially typify violent youth who have been transferred to adult court.

Sentencing Transferred Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Court: The Direct and Interactive Effects of Race & Ethnicity

Much prior research has demonstrated that race and ethnicity are associated with harsher punishment outcomes among adult defendants in the criminal court. However, few studies have explored these disparities in the sentencing of juvenile offenders who have been transferred to the adult court, and this research has reported conflicting findings. Moreover, the ways in which offenders’ race and ethnicity may interact with their sex, age, and offense type have yet to be explored among this population. Analysis of defendants sentenced in Florida (N = 30,913) reveals that Black transferred juveniles are more likely to be sentenced to jail or prison and are given longer prison sentences than Whites, but Hispanic youth are only penalized in the sentence to jail. Interaction analyses suggest that Black males are sentenced particularly harshly regardless of age, and the effects of race and ethnicity are conditioned by a violent, sex, or drug offense.

WISCONSIN: Criminal Court Jurisdiction Over 17 Year-Olds

This memo clarifies the use of reverse waiver for 17-year-olds in Wisconsin and explains that juvenile offenders who violate state criminal laws generally have their cases addressed by juvenile courts. However, a 17 year-old offender is considered an “adult” for purposes of criminal prosecution and an adult court is the only court with jurisdiction over that offender.

Youthful Offenders in the Federal System

Recent studies on brain development and age, coupled with recent Supreme Court decisions recognizing differences in offender culpability due to age, have led some policymakers to reconsider how youthful offenders should be punished. This report reviews those studies and provides an overview of youthful federal offenders, including their demographic characteristics, what type of offenses they were sentenced for, how they were sentenced, and the extent of their criminal histories.1 The report also discusses the intersection of neuroscience and law, and how this intersection has influenced the treatment of youthful offenders in the criminal justice system.