NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Adult-Size Juvenile Justice

February 28, 2000

The number of juvenile offenders sentenced to adult state prisons doubled over the past decade, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Justice. Criminologists say states are increasingly willing to try youngsters as adults when they stand accused of a major felony crime.

  • The number of youths convicted as adults jumped from 3,400 in 1985 to 7,400 in 1997.
  • Every state now has at least one provision to transfer juveniles to adult courts.
  • Forty-six states allow juvenile-court judges to refer cases directly to adult courts and 15 permit prosecutors to file major felony cases in adult courts.
  • Three states -- New York, Connecticut and North Carolina -- exclude all defendants who are 16 or older from their juvenile systems.

Some 61 percent of offenders younger than 18 who were sent to state prisons were convicted of violent offenses, while another 22 percent were convicted of lesser crimes.

The average maximum sentences for juveniles sentenced as adults in 1997 was eight years.

Source: Kevin Johnson, "Youths in Adult Prisons Double," USA Today, February 28, 2000.


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