NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sending Juvenile Offenders To Adult Prisons

March 10, 2000

All of the states have some means of transferring juveniles to adult criminal courts, and later if convicted to adult prisons. The transfer is made either because of the nature of the crime or at the discretion of the juvenile judge or a prosecutor.

But the minimum age for such transfers differs from state to state.

  • It ranges from 10-years in Kansas and Vermont to 15-years in New Mexico -- with 22 states and the District of Columbia stipulating no minimum age.
  • Since 1992, 45 states have enacted laws making it easier to transfer juveniles to adult courts.
  • That has led to a doubling of juveniles under 18 doing time in an adult facility since 1985.
  • One in 10 of the 85,000 juveniles now incarcerated on any given day is serving a sentence in an adult prison.

Supporters of rehabilitation programs for young offenders point to Justice Department estimates that a youth who is reformed by age 18 saves society some $2 million. While it costs about $25,000 a year to warehouse a juvenile miscreant, it costs double that to send him through a rehabilitation program.

Source: Editorial, "Push to Jail Juveniles Begins Backfiring," USA Today, March 10, 2000.


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