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Do You Agree That Waivers Help Decrease Criminality Among Adolescents or Does It Increase?

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The existence of racial disparity in the waiver of juvenile cases to adult criminal court has been acknowledged in past research

In addition, questionable practices with respect to prosecutorial decision-making in the waiver process have also drawn attention to existing juvenile waiver policies. The consequences and effectiveness of waiving juveniles to criminal court also warrants further examination as current literature points toward negative experiences for youths waived to adult court and a lack of success with reference to the intended objectives of the waiver process.

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In the 1700s, laws did not distinguish between juveniles and adults within the criminal justice system. According to a PBS Frontline online article, “Child or Adult? A Century Long View,” children as young as seven years of age were charged, tried, and sentenced in adult criminal courts. This posed many problems, given that there were typically no distinctions made between age, gender, and mental illness, so prison and jail populations were mixed with juveniles and adult criminals. See Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice, “Juvenile Justice History.” Progressive reformers of the penal system sought to change this, and the Society for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency founded the New York House of Refuge in 1825, an institution specifically for juvenile delinquents. “Child or Adult? A Century Long View,” supra. The idea was to educate and rehabilitate juveniles so as to attack what were believed to be the roots of juvenile delinquency—a lack of moral education and standards. Id. These institutions proliferated across other cities and states, followed by the first juvenile court being established in Cook County, Illinois, in 1899. Id. Juvenile courts were designed to provide not only rehabilitative functions but also protective supervision for youth. “Juvenile Justice History,” supra. Problems with these early juvenile courts emerged

Judges had broad discretion over their cases without formal hearings, resulting in wide disparities in treatment of juvenile offenders. “Child or Adult? A Century Long View,” supra ; “Juvenile Justice History,” supra. In the 1960s, a series of cases made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing procedures and due process rights for individuals in the juvenile court system. Id. Ultimately, these decisions led Congress to pass the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 1974, which still governs the juvenile justice system. “Child or Adult? A Century Long View,” supra. Through the act, states were offered grants to develop community-based programs as alternatives to institutionalization.

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Beginning in the 1980s, many States passed legal reforms designed to get tough on juvenile crime

One important reform was the revision of transfer (also called waiver or certification) laws (Griffin, 2003) to expand the types of offenses and offenders eligible for transfer from the juvenile court for trial and sentencing in the adult criminal court. These reforms lowered the minimum age for transfer, increased the number of transfer-eligible offenses, or expanded prosecutorial discretion and reduced judicial discretion in transfer decisionmaking (Fagan and Zimring, 2000; Redding, 2003, 2005).

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As has been noted, transfer into an adult court proceeding can result in several negative consequences for the accused. Juvenile proceedings take place in a closed courtroom, while adult proceedings are typically public. A conviction record is generally sealed for juveniles, while adult records are frequently publicly accessible. Adult penalties tend to be much harsher than the penalties for the comparable juvenile offenses. The juvenile courts tend to be more focused on the rehabilitation of the accused, unlike adult courts which may be focused more on punishment

Sadly, juveniles who serve jail and prison time are much more likely to be assaulted than those serving in juvenile facilities.

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Piquero, A.R., Fagan, J., Mulvey, E.P., Steinberg, L., and Odgers, C. 2005. Developmental trajectories of legal socialization among serious adolescent offenders. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 96:267–98.

Glassner, B., Ksander, M., Berg, B., and Johnson, B.D. 1983. A note on the deterrent effect of juvenile versus adult jurisdiction. Social Problems. 31:219–21.

Griffin, P. 2003. Trying and sentencing juveniles as adults: An analysis of state transfer and blended sentencing laws. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.

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