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The Impact of Trying Youths as Adults, Campaign for Youth Justice, 2007

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THE CAMPAIGN FOR YOUTH JUSTICE
The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is dedicated to ending
the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under
the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system. The goals of the
campaign are:
• to raise awareness about the negative impact of prosecuting
youth in the adult criminal justice system and of incarcerating
young people in adult jails and prisons;
• to reduce the number of youth who are tried, sentenced, and
incarcerated in the adult system;
• to decrease the harmful impact of trying youthful offenders in
adult court; and
• to promote research-based, developmentally appropriate
rehabilitative programs and services for youth.

THE CONSEQUENCES AREN’T MINOR
The Impact of Trying Youth as Adults and Strategies for Reform

A C A M PA I G N F O R Y O U T H J U S T I C E R E P O R T

::

MAR CH 2007

PG. 1

DEDICATION
This book is dedicated to the thousands of
young people and their families across the
country who have been affected negatively
by state laws in the name of public safety.

PG. 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction

3

Note from the Editors

3

How a Youth Ends Up in the Adult Justice System

5

Key Findings

6

The Opportunity for Change

18

Recommendations

20

State Chapters
California

23

Connecticut

35

Florida

49

Illinois

63

North Carolina

71

Virginia

85

Wisconsin

95

INTRODUCTION
NOTE FROM THE EDITORS

“On the horizon, therefore, are tens of thousands of
severely morally impoverished juvenile superpredators.”
— John DiIulio, The Coming of the Superpredators, The Weekly Standard (1995)

Sometimes all it takes is one case to change the course of public opinion and national policy.
The Central Park Jogger case did just that. On April 19, 1989, a 29-year-old investment
banker was raped and left unconscious. Five teenagers—who later became known as
the “Central Park Five”—confessed to police, were convicted in the rape, and served
sentences ranging from 7 to 11 years. The press inflamed public fears, coining new
phrases such as the activity “wilding” where “packs of bloodthirsty teens from the
tenements, bursting with boredom and rage, roam the streets getting kicks from an
evening of ultra-violence.”1

The superpredator phrase stuck and almost every state passed new laws to make it easier
to try and sentence youth in the adult criminal justice system. Punitive policies also were
introduced on a national level. Former Representative Bill McCollum (R-FL), then chair of
the Crime Subcommittee in the House Judiciary Committee, first introduced the “Violent
Youth Predator Act of 1996,” and later reintroduced this legislation as the “Violent Juvenile
and Repeat Offender Act of 1997.” At a committee oversight hearing on the legislation he
said, “Brace yourself for the coming generation of superpredators.”

PG. 3

As a result of the Central Park Jogger case, prominent and influential individuals, such as
former Princeton professor and Bush Administration appointee, John DiIulio, made doom
and gloom predictions about the emergence of a “generational wolfpack” of “fatherless,
Godless and jobless” youth. According to these observers, this situation was not confined
to New York City but was endemic of a national wave of “superpredators.”2

PG. 4

The roving waves of super-violent youth never materialized. In fact, the juvenile crime rate
proceeded to fall for a dozen years to a 30-year low. And the youth in the original Central
Park Jogger have since been found innocent. Their convictions were thrown out in 2002,
after DNA testing confirmed the guilt of convicted serial rapist and murder, Matias Reyes.
This stunning reversal did not garner the same coverage that the original case did, and the
myth of excessive youth violence still holds.
Despite the data, surveys report that the public believes the juvenile crime rate is
increasing and that youth account for a large proportion of overall crime. In reality, national
statistics show that more than 80% of all crimes are committed by adults.
State laws approved in the hysteria over predicted youth crime remain on the books,
but with little proven benefit to public safety. The public was told that these laws would
promote public safety, but research produced during the 1990’s and in this decade
refutes that idea. In fact, far from reducing crime, trying youth as adults increases the
chances that young people will continue to re-offend.
Combined with earlier statutes, these laws put thousands of youth at risk of isolation,
abuse, and emotional and mental health problems. When tried and incarcerated as adults,
young people face harmful and irreversible consequences, often for the kinds of minor
mistakes many of us made when we were young. Some researchers estimate that as many
as 200,000 youth are prosecuted as adults every year.3
This report shines light on the high costs youth are paying from these mistaken policies by
highlighting the following states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina,
Virginia, and Wisconsin. Each chapter contains up-to-date and comprehensive information
on the processes and policies that send youth to the adult criminal justice system, data
on who is affected, and real-life examples of individual youth who have been personally
affected by these laws.
The profiles show what can happen when public policy can be swayed by a single, nowdiscredited case and the resulting unfounded hysteria. These stories represent more
than single cases; they reflect the pain and harm that comes to the thousands of youth in
the adult justice system whose stories haven’t been told. Unfortunately, they are not the
exception; they are the rule.
It is our hope that at least one of the voices of these youth will inspire state and national
policymakers to take action on the recommendations in this report.
Sincerely,

Liz Ryan, Campaign for Youth Justice

Jason Ziedenberg, Justice Policy Institute

HOW A YOUTH ENDS UP IN THE ADULT JUSTICE SYSTEM
Age of Juvenile
Court Jurisdiction

These laws determine the age of adulthood for criminal justice purposes. They
effectively remove certain age groups from the juvenile court control for all infractions, whether violent or non-violent, and place them within the adult court
jurisdiction. Thirteen states have defined the age of juvenile court jurisdiction
as below the generally accepted age of 18 years old.

Transfer and
Waiver Provisions

These laws allow young people to be prosecuted in adult courts if they are
accused of committing certain crimes. A variety of mechanisms exist by
which a youth can be transferred to adult court. Most states have transfer
provisions, but they vary in how much authority they allow judges and prosecutors to exercise.

Judicial Waiver

This is the most traditional and common transfer and waiver provision. Under
judicial waiver laws, the case originates in juvenile court. Under certain
circumstances, the juvenile court judge has the authority to waive juvenile
court jurisdiction and transfer the case to criminal court. Some states call
the process “certification,” “remand,” or “bind over for criminal prosecution.”
Others “transfer” or “decline jurisdiction” rather than waiver. At the end of the
2004 legislative session, almost all states had judicial waiver provisions. State
statutes vary in how much guidance they provide judges on the criteria used
in determining if a youth’s case should be transferred.

Prosecutorial Waiver

These laws grant prosecutors discretion to file cases against young people in
either juvenile or adult court. Such provisions are also known as “concurrent
jurisdiction,” “prosecutorial discretion,” or “direct file.” At the end of the 2004
legislative session, 15 states had concurrent jurisdiction provisions.

Reverse Waiver

This is a mechanism to allow youth whose cases are being prosecuted in
adult court to be transferred back down to the juvenile court system under
certain circumstances. At the end of the 2004 legislative session, 25 states
had reverse waiver provisions.

Statutory or
Legislative Exclusion

These laws exclude certain youth from juvenile court jurisdiction entirely by
requiring particular types of cases to originate in criminal rather than juvenile
court. At the end of the 2004 legislative session, 29 states had statutory
exclusion laws on the books.

“Once an Adult,
Always an Adult”

These laws require youth who have been tried as adults to be prosecuted
automatically in adult courts for any subsequent offenses. At the end of the
2004 legislative session, 34 states had such provisions, but most require the
youth to have been convicted in the initial criminal prosecution.

Blended Sentencing

These laws allow juvenile or adult courts to choose between juvenile and adult
correctional sanctions in sentencing certain youth. Courts often will combine
a juvenile sentence with a suspended adult sentence, which allows the youth
to remain in the juvenile justice system as long as he or she is well-behaved.
At the end of the 2004 legislative session, 26 states had passed laws that
provided for blended sentencing in some cases.

PG. 5

Sources: Sickmund, M. (2003). Juveniles in court. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs. http://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/195420/contents.html. Griffin, P. (2005). National overviews. State juvenile justice profiles.
Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice. http://www.ncjj.org/stateprofiles/

PG. 6

KEY FINDINGS
National and state research, and the experience of young people, their parents, and their
families give us a concrete picture of how the laws governing the trying, sentencing, and
incarceration of youth do not promote public safety. The following are more than a dozen
key findings from this research.

#1 The overwhelming majority of youth who enter the adult court are
not there for serious, violent crimes.

#1 The overwhelming majority
of youth who enter the adult
court are not there for serious,
violent crimes.
“I never saw any superpredators in my
court. What I saw were 14- and 15-yearolds, scared to death.”
—Judge David A. Young, Circuit Court for Baltimore

“I never saw any superpredators in my court. What I saw were 14- and 15-year-olds,
scared to death.”
—Judge David A. Young, Circuit Court for Baltimore City (1998)

Estimates range on the number of youth prosecuted in adult court nationally. Some
researchers believe that as many as 200,000 youth are prosecuted every year.4 Despite
the fact that many of the state laws were intended to prosecute the most serious
offenders, most youth who are tried in adult courts are there no matter how minor their
offense. In states such as Connecticut, North Carolina, and New York, youth age 16 and
17 can automatically be tried as adults no matter what the offense. In 10 other states
(Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South
Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin), 17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted as adults.

City (1998)

For example:
• In Connecticut, 96% of the 16- and 17-year-olds arrested are arrested for non-violent
offenses,5 but all of them will be tried in the adult justice system.
• In Illinois, more than 70% of all arrests of young people of any age are for non-violent
offenses, and the majority of 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system are
arrested for non-violent offenses.6
• In Wisconsin, all 17-year-olds end up in the adult justice system even though 85% of
them were charged with non-violent offenses.7
Most of the youth who enter the adult court are charged with non-violent offenses. Of the
youth who serve time in adult prison, 7 out of 10 are convicted of violent offenses, but
there is more to their story as well. The term “violent offense” does not necessarily imply
that these youth are a threat to public safety. For example, Anthony Laster, a youth from
Florida profiled in this report, was sent to adult jail for “strong armed robbery,” a “violent”
crime that consisted of stealing $2 from another young person. And a youth in Illinois was
tried as an adult for a robbery that involved taking gym clothes. These “robberies” are
considered violent offenses under the FBI index of violent crimes. Additionally, a number
of youth entering prison are labeled as accomplices. These youth were present at the
scene of the crime but did not actually commit a violent offense.
By increasing the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18 in all states, substantial
numbers of youth currently charged with minor and non-violent offenses would not be
prosecuted in adult courts. Instead these youth would be treated in the juvenile justice
system. There they would obtain services, treatment, and programming that is more
developmentally appropriate.

#2 Increasing numbers of young people have been placed in adult jails
where they are at risk of assault, abuse, and death.
“Barbaric.”
—D.C. Superior Court Judge Wendell Gardner in reference to the practice of placing a girl in the D.C. jail
(Washington Post, September 14, 2006)

Currently, 40 states permit or require that youth charged as adults be placed pre-trial
in an adult jail, and in some states they may be required to serve their entire sentence
in an adult jail.8 Since states have passed laws to make it easier to prosecute youth as
adults, the number of youth placed in adult jails has increased dramatically. According to
the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, since 1990 the incarceration of youth
in adult jails has increased 208%.9 On any given day, more than 7,000 young people are
held in adult jails.10 This figure is likely much higher as it does not account for the turnover
in adult jails.11
This policy places thousands of young people at risk as it is extremely difficult to keep
youth safe in adult jails. Jail officials are in a Catch 22 when it comes to young people
in their custody. On the one hand, if jail officials don’t separate youth from adults in
adult jails, youth will have regular contact with adults. This situation can result in serious
physical and emotional harm to youth. On the other hand, when officials do separate
youth from adults, they are often placed in isolation for long periods of time. This can lead
to depression, exacerbate already existing mental health issues, and put youth at risk
of suicide. Essentially, this is a no-win situation for jail officials. In fact, the American Jail
Association recommends that “The American Jail Association be opposed in concept to
housing juveniles in any jail unless that facility is specially designed for juvenile detention
and staffed with specially trained personnel.”12

#2 Increasing numbers
of young people have been
placed in adult jails where
they are at risk of assault,
abuse, and death.
“Barbaric.”
—D.C. Superior Court Judge Wendell Gardner in
reference to the practice of placing a girl in the D.C.
jail (Washington Post, September 14, 2006)

For example, press accounts in 2006 in the Daily Progress13 and The News Virginian14
reported that a 15-year-old youth in Waynesboro, Virginia, was placed in an adult jail in
a cell with an adult convicted of child molestation. This youth also witnessed a suicide
attempt by an adult inmate. And during his time at the jail, the youth did not receive
educational programming or mental health counseling. Even though Virginia law allows
youth who are charged as adults to be placed in juvenile detention facilities instead of
adult jails, the judge in this case did not exercise this option. Fortunately, the youth’s
attorneys were able to remove him from this facility.

In visiting correctional facilities for this report, the researchers found many instances of
youth awaiting trial in jails or serving sentences in jail of up to two years for minor, nonviolent offenses. In the Wisconsin chapter of this report, two cases of youth serving time in
adult jails illustrate this situation. In the first case, “Jane” was prosecuted as a 17-year-old
in adult court for a bicycle theft. In the other case, “John,” who is 17 and homeless, was
prosecuted in adult court for breaking and entering a car so he could find a warm place to
sleep during a cold spell in December. Both youth were placed in an adult jail for months.
As a result, both will have adult convictions for these minor offenses that will follow them
for the rest of their lives.

PG. 7

The researchers for this report learned from youth and their families that many youth in adult
jails sleep in excess of 15 hours a day, do not receive adequate nutrition or exercise, and
do not have access to educational programming. In addition, they have little to no access
to a counselor. Adult jail staff are not equipped or trained to provide adequate services to
young people. These youth need programming that is developmentally appropriate and
rehabilitative, the kind of programming available in the juvenile justice system.

PG. 8

#3 State laws may
contradict core federal
protections designed to
prohibit confinement of
juveniles with adults.
“State laws that allow for youth under age
18 to be confined in the adult criminal
justice system seem to contradict the
intent of the federal Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention Act, which, for
more than 30 years, has required sight
and sound separation when youth are
housed in adult lock-ups, as well as
speedy removal of youth whenever they
are placed in adult jails.”

Recent national research also shows that youth may await trial in adult jails before being
sent back to juvenile court by adult court judges for prosecution. In some cases, these
youth are not even convicted.15 In conducting research for this report, the authors became
aware of one case of a youth in the District of Columbia who spent more than 14 months
in an adult jail awaiting trial and was later found not guilty. As a result of his incarceration,
this youth now suffers from a serious mental health disorder that he did not have prior to
placement in the jail.
Instead of adult jail, states and counties could place youth, if they pose a risk to
public safety, into juvenile detention facilities where they are more likely to receive
developmentally appropriate services, educational programming, and support by trained
staff. It is true that many of the juvenile justice systems in this country are also in need of
reform. Nevertheless, youth sent to the juvenile justice system are more likely to receive
age-appropriate and rehabilitative services.

#3 State laws may contradict core federal protections designed to
prohibit confinement of juveniles with adults.
“State laws that allow for youth under age 18 to be confined in the adult criminal justice
system seem to contradict the intent of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention Act, which, for more than 30 years, has required sight and sound separation
when youth are housed in adult lock-ups, as well as speedy removal of youth whenever
they are placed in adult jails.”
—Nancy Gannon Hornberger, Executive Director, Coalition for Juvenile Justice (2007)

—Nancy Gannon Hornberger, Executive Director,
Coalition for Juvenile Justice (2007)

#4 In contrast to growing
numbers of youth incarcerated
in adult jails, adult prisons’
admissions of youth are
declining.
“Youths should not be placed in prison
with adults where rape and drugs are the
norm.”
—Dwayne Betts, formerly incarcerated youth in adult
prison (2006)

Federal protections approved by the Congress in 1974 to protect youth by prohibiting the
placement of youth in adult jails (except in rare and limited circumstances) do not apply
to youth who are prosecuted as adults. The federal protections, under the Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), specifically cover youth under the jurisdiction of
the juvenile court.16 The protections will still apply to youth who are in juvenile court and
have not yet been “transferred” or “waived” to adult court by a juvenile court judge, but do
not apply to youth who are automatically prosecuted as adults through other mechanisms.
This is especially true for states with statutes that provide for a “lower age of juvenile court
jurisdiction,” “prosecutorial discretion or direct file,” or “automatic transfer or statutory
exclusion.” These statutes remove youth from the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court
and, as a result, youth are likely to be placed in adult jails. Right now, 40 states have
statutes that require or allow youth prosecuted as adults to be placed in adult jails without
federal protections.17
The JJDPA is scheduled for reauthorization in 2007 by Congress and could be amended
to prohibit this practice of placing youth in adult jails nationwide.

#4 In contrast to growing numbers of youth incarcerated in adult jails,
adult prisons’ admissions of youth are declining.
“Youths should not be placed in prison with adults where rape and drugs are the norm.”
—Dwayne Betts, formerly incarcerated youth in adult prison (2006)

On any given day, more than 2,000 youth are in adult prisons.18 With the exception of
Connecticut, which led the nation in the number of youth in adult prison and experienced
a nearly 20% increase in the number of youth in adult prison,19 this number has declined
significantly over the past decade.20 This decrease is explained by a number of factors.
First, there is growing recognition by national, state, and local policymakers that youth
don’t belong in adult prisons.
Youth in adult prisons are at risk of abuse, sexual assault, suicide, and death, which has
led experts to conclude that “clearly, juveniles are a vulnerable population within adult
correctional facilities.”21 Over the past decade, the MacArthur Foundation Research
Network on Adolescent Development has conducted extensive research that shows
that youth in adult corrections face harsher settings and experience more developmental
problems than youth in juvenile correctional settings, facts that lead these renowned
researchers to conclude that “trying and punishing youths as adults is an option that
should be used sparingly.”22
Additionally, correctional administrators—both juvenile and adult—do not support efforts to
place youth in adult prisons.
In a recent policy statement issued by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators
(CJCA), they stated that, “The Council of Juvenile and Correctional Administrators strongly
opposes the expansion of eligibility criteria for the waiver and transfer of youths into the
adult criminal justice system. These policies have resulted in the placement of hundreds of
youths into adult penal facilities without adequate treatment services.”23
As a result, some states ban this practice altogether or severely limit placements of youth
in adult prisons. California, which some advocates arguably believe has one of the most
punitive and harsh statutes on trying youth as adults, recognizes that adult prison is no
place for youth and has a policy in effect to ban that practice. In other states, such as
Virginia, adult court judges may sentence youth to juvenile correctional facilities instead of
adult prison and these youth may stay in these facilities until age 21. And Florida, which
previously led the nation in transfers to adult court, has dramatically reduced transfers and
replaced adult prison placements with juvenile incarceration.
Other states, such as Wisconsin and North Carolina, have set up separate facilities in
the adult prison system for youth prosecuted as adults. Although this may be one way
to address the issue of separating youthful offenders from more hardened adult inmates,
there is a lack of national data on the effectiveness of these facilities. One state profiled in
this report offers us a glimpse into this approach. In Connecticut, youth charged as adults
are placed in the Manson Youth Institute (MYI), a separate facility for youthful offenders.
Although MYI only houses youth under age 21, MYI is an adult prison run by the
Connecticut Department of Corrections. Programs for youth in the juvenile justice system
are not available for this population. The facility has been the subject of numerous lawsuits
and in July, 2005, a 17-year-old, David Burgos, incarcerated at MYI for a probation
violation, committed suicide at the facility. David’s tragic story is shared by his mother in
the Connecticut chapter of this report.

PG. 9

To ensure the safety of these youth, the JJDPA could be amended to ban or severely limit
the placement of youth in adult prisons; individual states could also ban this practice.

PG. 10

#5 The decision to send youth to adult court is most often not made by
the one person best considered to judge the merits of the youth’s
case—the juvenile court judge.
“Waiver and transfer of juveniles to adult court should be rare and only after a very
thoroughly considered process.”

#5 The decision to send youth
to adult court is most often not
made by the one person best
considered to judge the merits
of the youth’s case—the juvenile
court judge.
“Waiver and transfer of juveniles to adult
court should be rare and only after a very
thoroughly considered process.”
—Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines, National Council
on Juvenile and Family Court Judges (2005)

#6 Access to effective legal
counsel is a deciding factor on
whether a youth is prosecuted
as an adult.
“Almost 40 years after the United States
Supreme Court determined that children
are entitled to certain due process rights
under the Constitution, most notably the
right to counsel, many children in Florida
still do not have access to the kind of
constitutional protections envisioned by
the Court.”
—Patricia Puritz, Executive Director of the National
Juvenile Defender Center and co-author of Florida:
An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality

—Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines, National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges (2005)

Since the founding of the first juvenile court in Chicago in 1899, the most “traditional” way
for a youth to enter the adult court was to be found “unfit” for rehabilitation by a juvenile
court judge, who had the discretion to remove a child from the consideration of the
juvenile court. Judicial transfer was intended to be used in limited circumstances and after
a careful deliberation process that included a hearing.
With the passage of these state laws, this process has been dramatically altered. Now,
in most instances, juvenile court judges do not make the decision about whether a youth
should be prosecuted in adult court.24 Despite the fact that a juvenile court judge is a neutral
player who is in the best position to investigate the facts and make the decision, state
laws have removed some authority and discretion from these judges and, instead, required
placement of youth in adult court under a “lower age of juvenile court jurisdiction” (13
states) or through “automatic transfer or statutory exclusion” provisions.25 These inflexible
statutes are based on age and/or category of offense and therefore do not allow for judicial
review and do not provide discretion for juvenile court judges to keep youth in juvenile court.
In approximately 15 states, discretion and authority to send youth to adult court has been
delegated to prosecutors.26 This report highlights the fact that in states such as California,
Florida, and Virginia, there is a lack of available data on the impact of this situation. In
these states, limited to no available public data exist on the number of transfers/waivers
to adult court made by prosecutors or the availability or use of objective criteria for
prosecutorial decision-making. There is also no analysis available on the exercise of
discretion not to send a youth to adult court.
To ensure that a youth’s case is fully deliberated and thoroughly examined by a neutral and
objective decisionmaker before sending the youth to adult court, states could revise their
statutes and policies to allow for only judicial waiver or transfer to adult court.

#6 Access to effective legal counsel is a deciding factor on whether a
youth is prosecuted as an adult.
“Almost 40 years after the United States Supreme Court determined that children are
entitled to certain due process rights under the Constitution, most notably the right to
counsel, many children in Florida still do not have access to the kind of constitutional
protections envisioned by the Court.”

Representation in Delinquency Proceedings (2006)
—Patricia Puritz, Executive Director of the National Juvenile Defender Center and co-author of Florida: An
Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality Representation in Delinquency Proceedings (2006)

The effectiveness of a youth’s lawyer can be the difference between whether a youth is
prosecuted as an adult or is considered in the juvenile justice system. Two states featured
in this report underscore this point.

In Florida, a recently released report by the National Juvenile Defender Center, Florida:
An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation in Delinquency
Proceedings, showed that youth routinely waive their right to counsel under the
mistaken impression that this makes the case easier to resolve because it means less
time, less inconvenience to their parents, and less cost. In addition to many youth
waiving their right to legal counsel, the report notes that the legal counsel provided to
youth is often inadequate.
In Virginia, court-appointed attorneys assigned to provide legal counsel to youth facing
transfer to the adult court are not required to have any criminal defense training or
expertise and receive $120 per charge, the lowest rate in the nation.
For youth to receive fair and adequate consideration by the justice system, national, state
and local governments could dedicate resources to providing access to effective legal
counsel for youth.

# 7 Youth of color are disproportionately affected by these policies.
“Our job, in working to achieve fairness and equity, is to sound the alarm about the
unjust criminal justice system and demand that our leaders and those in power act now
to halt this destructive, unfair treatment of our brothers and sisters, especially of our
children.”
—James Bell, Executive Director of the Haywood Burns Institute (Covenant with Black America 2006)

In every state profiled in this report for which data are available, youth of color are
disproportionately affected by these statutes.
• California: African-American youth are 4.70 times as likely to be transferred to the adult
system as white youth, and Latino youth are 3.44 times as likely to be transferred to the
adult system as white youth.27
• Connecticut: Youth of color are less than 30% of the youth population, but make up
80% of the young men in the adult corrections system.28

# 7 Youth of color are
disproportionately affected
by these policies.
“Our job, in working to achieve fairness
and equity, is to sound the alarm about the
unjust criminal justice system and demand
that our leaders and those in power
act now to halt this destructive, unfair
treatment of our brothers and sisters,
especially of our children.”
—James Bell, Executive Director of the Haywood Burns
Institute (Covenant with Black America 2006)

• Florida: African-Americans and Latinos account for fewer than half of the youth
population in the state, yet nearly 7 out of 10 young people transferred to the adult
system were youth of color in 2005.29
• Illinois: In Cook County, youth of color comprise a little more than half of the youth
population, but represent 9 out of 10 young people in the county jail.30
• North Carolina: Nearly 7 out of 10 young people in the North Carolina Department of
Corrections are youth of color.31

• Wisconsin: Youth of color represent 15% of the state’s youth population, but they
represent nearly 7 out of 10 youth in adult prisons.33

PG. 11

• Virginia: In 2005, African-American youth constituted fewer than half of all youth
arrested in Virginia but represented 73% of youth entering the adult corrections
system.32

PG. 12

Together, African-American, Latino, and other non-white youth represent a minority of the
youth population in states, but represent up to 7 out of 10 youth tried as adults. Although
Latinos were found to be tried as adults at higher rates than whites in some states, in
other places, data limitations may be masking the scale as Latino young people are more
likely to end up in the adult system.34
National research underscores this point. A recent report by the National Council on
Crime and Delinquency, And Justice for Some, finds that, “[i]n 2002, an estimated
4100 new admissions to adult prisons involved children under the age of 18. Three out
of four of these admissions were youth of color.”35 The authors refer to a “cumulative”
disadvantage that increases the more deeply youth are involved in the justice system.36
The authors conclude that “as the blurring of the line between the juvenile and criminal
court increases, so does the likelihood that these trends will disproportionately affect
youth of color.”37
When the JJDPA is reauthorized in 2007, Congress could strengthen the federal
“Disproportionate Minority Contact” provision by requiring states to invest federal and
state resources in effective approaches to reducing racial disparities in the justice system.

# 8 Female youth are
affected too, but little is
known about them.
“We’re not talking about axe murderers.
These are mostly runaways, shoplifters
and truants. They needed our help, but
didn’t get it. Most of them don’t belong
in prison.”
–Mickey Kramer, child advocate on girls in
Connecticut’s prison system
(The Hartford Courant, January 1, 2007)

# 8 Female youth are affected too, but little is known about them.
“We’re not talking about axe murderers. These are mostly runaways, shoplifters and
truants. They needed our help, but didn’t get it. Most of them don’t belong in prison.”
–Mickey Kramer, child advocate on girls in Connecticut’s prison system (The Hartford Courant, January 1, 2007)

Very limited data are available on girls in the adult criminal justice system:
• In Connecticut, the number of girls in adult corrections has increased dramatically.
The Hartford Courant reports that, “At the beginning of December, 30 girls aged 14 to
17 were incarcerated at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, according to the state
Department of Correction. By comparison, only 11 girls in that age group were being
held at York in December 2005.”38
• In Wisconsin, several girls are in the Taycheedah women’s prison, a prison currently
under a federal civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.39
No recent, comprehensive national research studies have been undertaken that document
the impact of the placement of girls in the adult criminal justice system. Clearly, extensive
research is needed to adequately address the unique and special needs of girls in the
justice system.
Although more information is needed, it is clear that girls, like boys, are at serious risk in
the adult system. There are model approaches to serve girls in the juvenile justice system
that could be more viable alternatives to placing girls in the adult justice system.

#9 The consequences for prosecuting youth in adult court “aren’t minor.”
“We must keep almost all teens in the juvenile justice system where they can receive
treatment and avoid stigma.”
—Dr. Donna Bishop, Northeastern University (February, 2006)

Youth tried as adults face the same punishments as adults. They can be placed in adult
jails pre- and post-trial, sentenced to serve time in adult prisons, or be placed on adult
probation with few to no rehabilitative services. Youth also are subject to the same
sentencing guidelines as adults and may receive mandatory minimum sentences or life
without parole. The only consequence that youth cannot receive is the death penalty.
In 2005, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released For the Rest of Their
Lives, which documented the plight of the more than 2,000 youth serving life without
parole. In the California chapter of this report, Brian is an example of a young person
serving a lengthy sentence, 45-to-life.

#9 The consequences for
prosecuting youth in adult
court “aren’t minor.”
“We must keep almost all teens in the
juvenile justice system where they can
receive treatment and avoid stigma.”
—Dr. Donna Bishop, Northeastern University
(February, 2006)

When youth leave jail or prison, are on probation, or have completed their adult sentences,
they carry the stigma of an adult criminal conviction. They may have difficulty finding a
job or getting a college degree to help them turn their lives around. Access to a driver’s
license may be severely restricted, and in some states, youth may never be able to vote or
hold public office. The consequences of an adult conviction aren’t minor; they are serious,
long-term, life-threatening, and in some cases, deadly.40
For example, the Higher Education Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-244) makes youth who are
convicted of drug-related offenses ineligible for any grants, loans, or work assistance
programs. States do not have the authority to circumvent this federal requirement.
No other class of offense, including violent offenses, sex offenses, repeat offenses, or
alcohol-related offenses, results in the automatic denial of federal financial aid eligibility.
In January 2006, the law “was modified to restrict its applicability to applicants who were
in school and receiving federal Title IV aid when they committed their drug offenses.” In
April 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit in federal court challenging the
constitutionality of the law.
In one case featured in the North Carolina chapter, a star basketball player’s scholarship
to college was revoked when the university learned that he had been convicted in adult
court for selling $95 worth of marijuana. Fortunately for this youth, another university in
another state offered him a second chance and he is thriving in school there. Most youth
will not get a second chance for their education.

PG. 13

Youth may also be limited in obtaining employment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does
protect individuals from the denial of employment by certain employers because of arrests
that do not lead to conviction unless there is a “business justification” or because of
a criminal conviction unless there is a “business necessity.” However, states set most
policies and legal standards governing the employment of individuals with criminal
records. Where standards do not provide otherwise, employers are permitted to deny
jobs “to anyone who has been convicted of a crime or a certain category of crime, without
considering the circumstances of the offense, its relevance to the job, the amount of
time that has elapsed, the job being sought, evidence of rehabilitation, or the ‘business
necessity’ for barring the applicant, in potential violation of EEOC guidelines.”41

PG. 14

As of 2004, 37 states permit all employers and occupational licensing agencies to consider
arrests in making employment decisions, even if those arrests have not led to a conviction.
Only three states prohibit certain employers and agencies from considering such arrests,
and only 10 prohibit all state employers and agencies from considering non-conviction.
When there is a criminal conviction, 36 states have no standards governing public
employers’ consideration of applicants’ criminal records, 45 states have no standards
governing private employers, and 29 states have no standards for occupational license
applicants.42 The laws are construed such that anyone, youth or adult, who has been
arrested for even a minor offense, will face significant challenges in the employment market.

# 10 The research shows that these laws do not promote public safety.

# 10 The research shows
that these laws do not
promote public safety.
“The Network set out to find scientific
evidence of whether juveniles were
different enough from adults to merit
different treatment by the courts. What
we found was that young offenders are
significantly unlike adults in ways that
matter a great deal for effective treatment,
appropriate punishment, and delinquency
prevention. Society needs a system that
understands kids’ capacities and limits,
and that punishes them in developmentally
appropriate ways.”
—Dr. Laurence Steinberg, the Director of the MacArthur
Foundation Research Network (September, 2006)

“The Network set out to find scientific evidence of whether juveniles were different
enough from adults to merit different treatment by the courts. What we found was
that young offenders are significantly unlike adults in ways that matter a great deal
for effective treatment, appropriate punishment, and delinquency prevention. Society
needs a system that understands kids’ capacities and limits, and that punishes them in
developmentally appropriate ways.”
—Dr. Laurence Steinberg, the Director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network (September, 2006)

Although research on the full impact of these laws is ongoing, the most current results
reveal an ever-increasing negative impact on youth adjudicated in the adult criminal justice
system. In addition, studies by researchers throughout the country show that sending
youth to the adult criminal justice system doesn’t work to reduce crime.
In fact, youth are more likely to re-offend after serving an adult sentence. For example, in
one study comparing the recidivism of youth waived to criminal court with those retained in
juvenile court, the research found that those in the “adultified” group were more likely to be
re-arrested and to commit more serious new offenses; they also re-offended more quickly.43
Another study compared the recidivism rates of youth in two states (New York and New
Jersey) that differed only by the age at which they prosecuted youthful offenders in the
adult system. In this study, the same results were found: youth tried in adult court were
much more likely to re-offend more quickly and with more serious offenses. The research
results provide overwhelming evidence that trying youth as adults does not work.44
In addition, the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development has
conducted extensive research for the past decade. At a national gathering in September
2006, they reported some of the following findings:45
• The court should take into account the level of competence of young defendants to fully
participate in criminal proceedings to better assess their capacity for emotional and
psychological maturity, because youth, particularly those under age 15, were more likely
to be incompetent to stand trial due to their developmental immaturity.
• Youth placed in adult correctional facilities are less likely to be treated fairly, less likely to
receive counseling and therapeutic services, and less likely to receive educational and
job training. The lack of services that youth receive can serve as a detriment to a young
offender when and if released into society.

• Youth in adult correctional facilities who suffer from mental health problems share many
of the same symptoms of soldiers who have returned from war and of survivors of
national disasters.
• Youth placed in adult correctional facilities face harsher settings than youth placed
in juvenile facilities, exposing them to decreased access to rehabilitation services
and resulting in a greater likelihood of these youth experiencing severe mental health
problems.
As a result, Network researchers recommend that court judges be given the authority
to make transfer decisions that take into consideration factors other than the age and
the offense of young offenders. They also found that current policies that encourage the
“wholesale transfer of adolescents from juvenile to adult courts” have been shown not to
reduce crime.46

#11 These laws ignore the latest scientific evidence on the adolescent
brain—the same evidence that informed the U.S. Supreme Court’s
decision to bar the juvenile death penalty.
“We can’t continue to see incarceration as a long-term solution...To sentence juveniles to
adult prison is ignoring the possibility that we are creating more dangerous criminals by
housing juveniles with hardened adults.”

#11 These laws ignore the
latest scientific evidence on
the adolescent brain—the same
evidence that informed the U.S.
Supreme Court’s decision to bar
the juvenile death penalty.
“We can’t continue to see incarceration as
a long-term solution...To sentence juveniles
to adult prison is ignoring the possibility
that we are creating more dangerous
criminals by housing juveniles with
hardened adults.”
—The Honorable Eugene Moore, presiding judge in

—The Honorable Eugene Moore, presiding judge in the case of Nathaniel Abraham, age 11, the youngest
individual ever to be convicted of murder (January, 2000)

the case of Nathaniel Abraham, age 11, the youngest
individual ever to be convicted of murder
(January, 2000)

In 2005, the Supreme Court made the landmark Roper vs. Simmons decision. It held
that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid the execution of offenders who
were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. In writing for the majority,
Justice Kennedy stated: “When a juvenile offender commits a heinous crime, the State
can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish
his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.”47 As a
result of the Court’s decision, 72 juvenile offenders located in 12 different states were
spared execution.
The Court’s decision relied heavily on new scientific research showing that certain areas
of the brain, particularly those that affect judgment and decision-making, do not fully
develop until the early 20s. State laws passed prior to these research studies do not take
into account these findings. The laws need to be reexamined to reflect this latest evidence
on the adolescent brain.

#12 Assessing the impact
of youth incarceration is
difficult because of a lack
of available data.
“If the goal is to decrease crime, we’re not
doing a very good job.”
—Representative Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven),

#12 Assessing the impact of youth incarceration is difficult because of a
lack of available data.

Co-chair of the Connecticut State Judiciary
Committee (New London Day, 2006)

“If the goal is to decrease crime, we’re not doing a very good job.”
—Representative Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven), Co-chair of the Connecticut State Judiciary Committee

PG. 15

(New London Day, 2006)

PG. 16

As already mentioned, every year thousands of young people are tried, sentenced, or
incarcerated as adults. Some researchers say that this could be as many as 200,000
youth every year.48 However, no one really knows how many young people this affects.
There is no one single, credible, national data source that tracks all the youth prosecuted
in adult courts.
Many studies focus on one or two statutes. For example, the federal Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released a comprehensive report in 2006
on juvenile crime that showed a significant increase in the transfer/waiver of youth to
adult court by judicial waiver between 1985 and 1994, from 7,200 to 13,200 nationwide.
The report also showed that transfer/waiver of youth to adult court by judicial waiver
significantly decreased between 1994 and 2002. The result is that waivers/transfers to
adult court by judicial waiver are 1% below the 1985 level of 7,200.49
These data help provide a picture of judicial waivers, but they only show part of the story.
They do not look at the number of youth tried in adult court from prosecutorial discretion/
direct file, automatic/statutory exclusion, or the reduced age of juvenile court jurisdiction.
Earlier reports, collected from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, show that the judicial
waiver/transfer mechanism, the traditional way that youth are tried in adult court, now only
represents 15% of the cases of youth in adult court.50 It is obvious that the number of
youth considered in adult court, mainly from mechanisms other than judicial waiver, has
increased, but we cannot yet know what the change in waivers/transfers to adult court is
without an update on this second set of data.

#13 The public should invest
its dollars by strengthening the
juvenile justice system.
“For too long, juvenile justice services
in Connecticut have been failing...our
children, particularly troubled children,
deserve better.”
—Governor Jodi Rell (R-CT, 2005)

We now know from these state reports that the numbers of youth prosecuted in adult
courts through various mechanisms other than judicial waiver are not fully recorded. And,
as noted in the Virginia chapter, often the numbers that are available do not exist in one
place but rather come from a variety of sources within a state. As a result, these numbers
often conflict and cannot be reconciled.
If researchers are not able to assess the magnitude of the impact of these state laws on
youth, policymakers lack the information to make informed decisions. There is a need to
collect more data so that we can understand just how many youth are affected.

#13 The public should invest its dollars by strengthening the juvenile
justice system.
“For too long, juvenile justice services in Connecticut have been failing...our children,
particularly troubled children, deserve better.”
—Governor Jodi Rell (R-CT, 2005)

The current juvenile justice system in states is a much more viable alternative than the
adult criminal justice system in treating young people in conflict with the law. Rather than
continuing to spend public dollars on the adult criminal system, federal, state, and local
policymakers should redirect public investments into the juvenile justice system to more
effectively treat youth currently in the adult criminal justice system. There are several
reasons why making an investment in a quality juvenile justice system makes sense.
First, the long-term benefits to society nationwide of returning youth to the jurisdiction of
the juvenile court far outweigh any short-term costs that may be incurred.

• In testimony at a briefing of the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut legislature,
the Urban Institute’s senior researcher and economist, John Roman, showed that there
would be costs associated with returning 16- and 17-year-olds to the juvenile court, but
that there also would be long-term benefits. This action would reduce youth recidivism
rates and future crime rates, as the likelihood of recidivating is lower for youth who are
maintained in juvenile court rather than transferred to adult court.51
• According to John Roman, “[i]f juveniles commit fewer crimes because they have
received more and better services, fewer community members will be victimized.” He
explains further that “less crime will mean fewer victims, fewer missed days of work,
lower medical bills and maybe most important, less fear and less suffering.” Overall,
John Roman estimates that returning 16- and 17-year-olds to juvenile court jurisdiction
will result in approximately a $3 savings benefit for the correctional and judicial systems
for every $1 spent.52
• In its recommendations to the General Assembly in December 2006, the North Carolina
Sentencing Commission reported that, “[i]n evaluating the cost/benefit balance of
programs, short-term costs must be weighed, especially with this age group, against
long-term benefits such as reduced future recidivism, gainful employment, or reduced
substance abuse.”53
Second, new research shows that programs, including ones that treat serious, chronic,
and violent offenders in the juvenile justice system, reduce juvenile crime.

No study to our knowledge
has been done that could
calculate what would amount
to an astronomical price tag on
the lost opportunities for that
young person or to society.

• In a recent brief by former state legislator and juvenile court judge Ted Rubin, Return
Them to Juvenile Court, Judge Rubin provided examples of several effective programs
that have worked to treat youth in conflict with the law that treat youth in the juvenile
justice system instead of the adult criminal justice system.54
Other promising approaches to promoting public safety and assisting youth include:
• the evidence and theory-based practices and programs set outside of a correctional
setting featured in Blueprints for Violence Prevention, released by the Center for the
Study of Violence Prevention in Denver, Colorado,55 and in Less Hype, More Help and
Guiding Lights56 by the American Youth Policy Forum;
• the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI);57 and
• the Missouri Youth Services model approach to juvenile corrections.58
Finally, the costs of simply keeping the system as is affects society in ways that cannot be
calculated in dollars and cents.
No study to our knowledge has been done that could calculate what would amount to an
astronomical price tag on the lost opportunities for that young person or to society. What
we do have is the testimony of individuals who were given a second chance in the juvenile
justice system, rather than an adult conviction, and who have achieved success in our
society. These include:59
• Olympic Gold Medalist Bob Beamon

• DC Superior Court Judge Reggie Walton

PG. 17

• Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson

PG. 18

• Singer Ella Fitzgerald
• Author Claude Brown
The list could go on.
These individuals were not subject to the same harsh laws that were passed in the wake of
the superpredator myth. There is simply no feasible way to fully calculate the contributions to
society of these and other individuals who have received a second chance.

THE OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE

“What’s it going to take for us to make the change? Why do we
wait for a tragedy? Why does someone like my son have to die
before we make a change we know is right?”
#1 All the new research
supports a change in
policy direction.

— Diana Gonzalez, parent of a 17-year-old boy who committed suicide in an adult prison
(March, 2006)

For today’s policymakers, there is a new direction that will increase public safety and
nurture the successful transition of our youth into adulthood.

“It’s time for the law to change course
and follow the science”
—Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University
(September, 2006)

#1 All the new research supports a change in policy direction.
“It’s time for the law to change course and follow the science.”
—Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University (September, 2006)

#2 The nation recognizes
the need for change, and
some states are implementing
reforms.
“We have the research that tells us what
to do. The tragedy is, we’re not capitalizing
on it.”
—Shay Bilchik, CEO, Child Welfare League of America

State and local policymakers did not have the benefit of this new compelling research
on recidivism, competency, adolescent brain development, and effective juvenile justice
programs when they were considering changes to their state’s laws on trying youth as
adults. Just as this research influenced the U.S. Supreme Court to eliminate the juvenile
death penalty, this new research also provides a strong basis for re-examination of and
substantial changes to state statutes and policies.

#2 The nation recognizes the need for change, and some states are
implementing reforms.

and former U.S. Department of Justice OJJDP
Administrator. (USA Today, September 21, 2006)

“We have the research that tells us what to do. The tragedy is, we’re not capitalizing on it.”
—Shay Bilchik, CEO, Child Welfare League of America and former U.S. Department of Justice OJJDP
Administrator. (USA Today, September 21, 2006)

State legislators; juvenile and adult court judges; juvenile and adult detention, jail, and
correctional administrators; and probation officials throughout the country are pushing for
reforms nationally and in individual states. These public officials are supported by scores
of prominent national, state, and local organizations who are calling for major changes
in national and state policy. A number of states have already begun to re-examine their
state statutes and in some cases have implemented policy changes. Some states, such
as Illinois and Delaware, have already repealed punitive statutes. Other states, such as
North Carolina, Connecticut, and Vermont, have established high-level commissions
to investigate the impact of these statues. Most of the states featured in this report
are taking action to reform their statutes and update their laws. In addition, youth, their
parents, and their families, who have been most affected by these policies, are speaking
out, organizing, and educating national and state policymakers.

#3 When we invest in young people, they can succeed.
“I got off the corner and into the community center and school.”
—Bob Beamon, Olympic Gold Medalist (Second Chances 2000)

On the 100th anniversary of the juvenile court, more than 100 prominent national
organizations gathered to recommit to the basic principles of the juvenile court:60

#3 When we invest in young
people, they can succeed.

• youth have different needs from those of adults and need adult protection and
guidance;

“I got off the corner and into the
community center and school.”

• youth have constitutional and human rights and need adult involvement to ensure those
rights; and

—Bob Beamon, Olympic Gold Medalist
(Second Chances 2000)

• young people are everyone’s responsibility.
State statutes that make it easier to try youth as adults have eroded these founding
principles and threaten to dismantle the court’s major goal to rehabilitate youth. The costs
of the current policy are simply too high.
How do we calculate the loss of life of a youth such as David Burgos who committed
suicide in an adult prison?
How do we calculate the contributions to society of an Olympic gold medalist such as
Bob Beamon, or a U.S. senator such as Alan Simpson, or an entertainer such as Ella
Fitzgerald?

PG. 19

As a society, are we only going to commit to providing our youth with a jail cell or a prison
bed? Or will we commit to reinvesting in our nation’s youth through policies, programs,
and laws that nurture their successful transition into adulthood and the realization of their
full potential? The choice is ours.

PG. 20

RECOMMENDATIONS
In every chapter of this report, experts from each state have developed their own statespecific recommendations on how the laws and policies in those states should be
updated. These recommendations are national in scope, and federal, state, and local
policymakers should adopt these as soon as possible.
1. State and local policymakers should consider immediately adopting the reforms
recommended in their state’s section such as:
• increasing the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18;
• banning the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons;
• providing waiver/transfer to adult court by judicial waiver only;
• redirecting resources to expand developmentally appropriate treatment and services
for youth in the juvenile justice system as an alternative to the adult criminal justice
system; and
• investing in quality and effective legal counsel for youth.
2. Federal policymakers should consider amending the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency
Prevention Act (JJDPA) in 2007 by:
• imposing a federal ban on placement of young people in adult jails and prisons; and
• strengthening the federal “Disproportionate Minority Contact” provision by requiring
states to invest federal and state resources in effective approaches to reducing racial
disparities in the justice system.
3. Starting this year, federal, state, and local policymakers should make significant
improvements in the juvenile justice system by investing in programs that are
developmentally appropriate and evidence-based, through the JJDPA and other federal
programs as well as through state appropriations.
4. This year, federal, state, and local policymakers should invest in and undertake
significant data collection efforts on the impact of prosecuting youth as adults.
5. Federal, state, and local policymakers should commit to visit youth regularly in adult jails
and prisons and hold public hearings on an ongoing basis to ensure that the youth and
families most affected by these policies are involved in policy deliberations.

Wolf pack’s prey. (1989, April 22). The New York Post.
Dilulio, J. (1996). How to stop the coming crime wave. New
York: Manhattan Institute.
3.
Woolard, J. (2005). Juveniles within adult correctional settings:
legal pathways and developmental considerations. International
Journal of Forensic Mental Health. 4(1), 18; Coalition for
Juvenile Justice. (2005). Childhood on trial: The failure of trying
and sentencing youth in adult criminal court. Washington, DC:
Author.
4.
Ibid.
5.
Uniform Crime Reporting Program, State of Connecticut
Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, Crimes
Analysis Unit. Crime in Connecticut 2003 [Annual report].
Hartford, CT: Author.
6.
Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois. (2006, April). Review of
Judicial Advisory Council Memorandum [Analysis]. Chicago,
IL: Author.
7.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance (2003). Adult jail
populations report. Madison, WI: Author, p.10.
8.
Goemann, M. (2007). Children being tried as adults: Statebased variations on pre-trial detention. Washington, DC:
Campaign for Youth Justice.
9.
Hartney, C. (2006, June). Fact sheet: Youth under age 18
in the adult criminal justice system. Oakland, CA: National
Council on Crime and Delinquency.
10.
Ibid.
11.
Ibid.
12.
American Jail Association policy statement, approved May
19, 1993.
13.
Nowak, L. (2006, July 20). Judge orders boy’s move out of jail.
Daily Progress. Available from www.dailyprogress.com
14.
Owens, M. (2006, July 20). OK given for teen to leave adult jail.
The News Virginian. Available from www.newsvirginian.com
15.
Juszkiewicz, J. (2000, October). Youth crime adult time: Is
justice served? Washington, DC: Building Blocks for Youth.
16.
The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, U.S.
Federal Government, 1974.
17.
See Goemann, M., 8.
18.
Beck, A. J., & Harrison, P. M. (2006, May). Prison and jail
inmates at midyear 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Department
of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
19.
Ibid.
20.
Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile offenders
and victims: 2006 national report. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. p. 237.
21.
Woolard, J. L., Odgers, C., Lanza-Kaduce, L., & Daglis, H.
(2005). Juveniles within adult correctional settings: Legal
pathways and developmental considerations. International
Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 4(1), 1-18.
22.
Fagan, J. (2006, September). The Changing borders of
juvenile justice: transfer of adolescents to the adult criminal
court [MacArthur Issue Brief #5]. New York, NY: Author.
23.
Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators’ policy
statement. Retrieved January 2, 2007, from www.cjca.net
24.
Coalition for Juvenile Justice. (2005). Childhood on trial: The
failure of trying and sentencing youth in adult criminal court.
Washington, DC: Author.
25.
See 20, p. 110, 114.
26.
See 20, p. 113.
27.
CA, unpublished data from the Department of Corrections,
February 2004.
28.
Data request filled by Connecticut Department of Corrections.
(2006, July).
29.
Data Request filled by Ted Tollett, Florida Department of
Juvenile Justice, Office of Data and Research.
30.
Puzzanchera, C., Finnegan, T., & Kang, W. (2006). Easy
access to juvenile populations. Available from http://www.
ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/ezapop/
31.
Collected from the Office of Research and Planning,
Department of Correction, North Carolina, on July 20 and July
24, 2006. All data and statistics concern youth under the age
of 18 during the calendar year of 2005. Of the 17-year-olds,
303 were males and 16 were females; of the 16-year-olds,
74 were males and 10 were females, and of the 15-year-olds,
three were males, and one female.
32.
According to data provided by Laura Cross at the Virginia
Department of Corrections, July 2006.
33.
Robert Nikolay, Budget Director, Wisconsin Department of
Corrections.
34.
While in California, Latino youth were shown to be three
1.
2.

times as likely to be transferred to the adult system as white
youth; in other places, Latinos seem underrepresented in
adult court. Research has shown that although Latino youth
do receive harsher treatment than white youth charged with
the same offenses, the data available are limited because
states do not routinely and systematically collect data that
separate Latino/a youth from white youth or distinguish among
Latino/a youth of Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, or
South American ancestry. The absence of comprehensive data
makes it impossible to determine the full extent of disparate
and punitive treatment of Latino/a youth at key decision points
in the justice system, or to fully develop more comprehensive
and effective policies to remedy the disparities. The failure
to collect separate data on Latino/a youth also inflates the
incarceration rate of non-Latino white youth, further masking
disparities in confinement of all youth of color. See Villarruel, F
A., & Walker, N. E. ¿Dónde está la justicia? A call to action on
behalf of Latino and Latina youth in the U.S. justice system.
(2002). Washington, DC: Building Blocks for Youth initiative.
35.
National Council on Crime and Delinquency. (2007, January).
And justice for some. Oakland, CA: Author. p.38.
36.
Ibid.
37.
Ibid.
38.
Overton, P. (2007, January 1). Seeking help for teen girls in
prison. The Hartford Courant, A1.
39.
The report from the investigation by the U.S. Department of
Justice, Civil Rights Division is available at http://www.usdoj.
gov/crt/split/documents/taycheedah_findlet_5-1-06.pdf
40.
Legal Action Center. (2004). After prison: Roadblocks to
reentry. A report on state legal barriers facing people with
criminal records. New York, NY: Author. p. 18.
41.
Ibid. p. 10.
42.
Ibid. p. 10.
43.
Bishop, D., Frazier, C., Lanza-Kaduce, L., and White, H.
(1999). Fact sheet #113: A study of juvenile transfers to
criminal court in Florida. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention.
44.
Fagan, J. (1996). The comparative advantage of juvenile vs.
criminal court sanctions on recidivism among adolescent
felony offenders. Law and Policy, 18, (1-2). Online requests
for the article can be made at: http://www.blackwellpublishing.
com/cservices/single.asp?site=1 (available as of February
23, 2007).
45.
MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent
Development and Juvenile Justice. (2006, September).
Available from http://www.adjj.org/ content/page.php?cat_
id=2&content_id=28
46.
Ibid.
47.
Roper vs. Simmons, U.S. Supreme Court, no. 03-633. October
13, 2004.
48.
See 3, p. 4.
49.
See 20, p. 186.
50.
See 15, p. 11.
51.
Roman, J. (2005, July). Assessing the economic
consequences of juvenile versus adult justice. Washington,
DC: The Urban Institute, p. 39.
52.
Ibid.
53.
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission,
Youthful Offender Subcommittee. (2006, December 1). Final
report. Raleigh, NC: Author.
54.
Rubin, T. (2006). Return them to juvenile court. Washington,
DC: Campaign for Youth Justice.
55.
Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. Blueprints for
violence prevention. For more information, go to http://www.
colorado.edu/cspv/blueprints/index.html
56.
Mendel, R. A. (1999). Less hype, more help: Reducing
juvenile crime, what works—and what doesn’t. Washington,
DC: American Youth Policy Forum; Mendel, R. A. (2001). Less
cost, more safety: Guiding lights for reform in juvenile justice.
Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum.
57.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation Juvenile Detention Alternative
Initiative, started in 1992. For more information, go to http://
www.aecf.org/initiatives/jdai/
58.
Mendel, D. (2006). Small is beautiful: The Missouri division of
youth services. Baltimore, MD: Annie E Casey Foundation.
59.
The Children’s Court Centennial Communications Project
(1999). Second Chances. Washington, DC: Author, p. 142.
60.
Conference Proceedings. (June 7, 2000). How shall we
respond to the dreams of youth. A National Juvenile Justice
Summit. Washington, DC. A Live National Satellite Broadcast.

PG. 21

NOTES

PG. 22

CALIFORNIA
WHAT IS THE LAW IN CALIFORNIA?

The following are the laws that govern young people in California.
Young people are required to be prosecuted
in the adult criminal system for certain offenses (statutory exclusion).
Proposition 21 requires district attorneys to file cases in adult criminal court for minors
age 14 and older charged with either murder with special circumstances (i.e., certain
aggravating factors) or certain enumerated sex offenses. In California, this type of transfer
provision is commonly known as automatic or legislative waiver.
Young people age 16 and older can face
judicial waiver to adult court for serious offenses.
From 1976 through 2000, the decision-making authority over the transfer process rested
exclusively with the juvenile court judge. Judges use the judicial waiver process, known in
California as a “fitness hearing,” in which youth 16 or over can be found “unfit” for (i.e., not
likely to benefit from) juvenile court. In this type of transfer, prosecutors can request a fitness
hearing, and they bear the burden of proof in showing that a 16- or 17-year-old minor is not
amenable to treatment in the juvenile court for any alleged offense, felony or misdemeanor.

Since March 7, 2000, when
California voters passed the
“Gang Violence and Juvenile
Crime Prevention Act of 1998,”
a ballot initiative commonly
referred to as “Proposition 21,”
youth have been tried as adults
for even minor offenses.

PG. 23

Since the beginning of California’s juvenile court in 1913, there has always been a
mechanism for transferring youth charged with serious violent offenses to the adult
criminal justice system. However, since March 7, 2000, when California voters passed the
“Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act of 1998,” a ballot initiative commonly
referred to as “Proposition 21,” youth have been tried as adults for even minor offenses.
Coupled with the state’s Three Strikes Law, disastrous consequences can result for a
young person with two prior violent felonies convicted and tried as an adult; if charged
with any kind of third felony (violent or non-violent), that young person can be sentenced
to 25-years-to-life in prison. Both Proposition 21 and the Three Strikes Law have
permanently altered several aspects of the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems in
California because they were ballot initiatives with strict repeal clauses. The only way
these laws can be changed is through a new popular vote or by a two-thirds majority of
the State Legislature passing a new law. Given the political dynamics related to criminal
justice policy in California, it is unlikely that the law will be changed in the near future.

PG. 24

There are five criteria used by judges to decide whether to transfer a youth:
• degree of criminal sophistication;
• whether the youth can be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile
court’s jurisdiction;
• the youth’s previous delinquent activity;
• the results of previous attempts to rehabilitate the youth; and
• the circumstances and the gravity of the offense alleged to have been committed.
Proposition 21 modified the original judicial transfer law by stipulating that any young person
16 or older charged with a felony would be presumed “unfit” if he or she had previously
been a ward of the court on the basis of two or more felonies committed after the age of 14.
This change effectively stacks the odds against youth and makes young people prove that
for each of the above-mentioned factors, they are “fit” to be in juvenile court.

Proposition 21 provided
substantial new powers
to prosecutors to try
youth as adults.

Proposition 21 gave prosecutors power to directly
file juvenile cases in the adult court (prosecutorial waiver).
Proposition 21 provided substantial new powers to prosecutors to try youth as adults.
There are now several categories of cases in which the prosecutor can choose whether
to file the case either as a juvenile delinquency petition or as an adult felony complaint.
Prosecutors may “directly” file cases in adult court against a young person 16 or older
if the youth is charged with one of several enumerated crimes. Prosecutors may also
“directly” file cases in adult court against a young person 14 or older if he or she is
charged with an offense punishable by death or life imprisonment;1 is alleged to have
committed any felony or attempted felony with personal use of a firearm; or is charged
with one of several crimes, and one of the following criteria applies:
• the youth has previously been a ward of the court on a serious offense;
• the pending offense was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in
association with a criminal street gang;
• the current offense is a “hate” crime motivated by the victim’s race, color, ancestry,
national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation;
• at the time of the offense, the young person knew the victim to be 65 years of age or
older, blind, deaf, quadriplegic, paraplegic, developmentally disabled, or confined to a
wheelchair; or
• the youth 16 or older has previously been adjudged a ward of the court for commission
of any felony offense committed when he or she was 14 or older, and where, on the
current offense the victim was elderly or suffering from an enumerated disability; it
was a “hate” crime; or it was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in
association with a criminal street gang.2
Criminal court judges have options to return young people
to juvenile court jurisdiction under a limited reverse waiver statute.
Even though there were no reverse waiver provisions included in Proposition 21,
advocates successfully added provisions giving judges some power to return youth to
juvenile court jurisdiction. In certain situations, criminal court judges have the authority to
send a case for disposition (i.e., sentence) to juvenile court or to directly order a juvenile
disposition. Under the first scenario, if a youth has been prosecuted without the benefit

of a fitness hearing (i.e., statutory exclusion or prosecutorial waiver) and is ultimately
convicted of an offense for which the youth could have proven amenability to treatment in
the juvenile system, the youth can request a post-conviction fitness hearing. If successful,
the criminal court must impose a juvenile disposition. Under the second scenario, if a
young person is convicted of an offense in criminal court that, in combination with the
juvenile’s age, would have entitled him or her to a fitness hearing without the presumption
of unfitness, the youth is entitled to a juvenile disposition unless the prosecutor requests
a fitness hearing. Finally, if the conviction is for an offense that, in combination with the
youth’s age, is not eligible for transfer, the youth must be given a juvenile disposition.
Young people tried as adults may be held in adult jails.
Under California law, it is unlawful to place young people (under the age of 18 regardless
of whether they are prosecuted in adult or juvenile court) in “contact” with adult inmates in
jails or prisons.3 However, in cases in which youth are being prosecuted in the adult criminal
system, they may be detained in a jail or a secure setting for the confinement of adults if:
• the juvenile or criminal court judge makes a finding that detention in the juvenile hall
would endanger the safety of the public or would be detrimental to the other minors in
the juvenile hall;
• contact between youth and adults is limited as mentioned above; and
• the youth is adequately supervised.
After discovering that juvenile probation officers routinely requested judges to order detention
in adult jail for minor discipline problems (e.g. typical annoying teenage behaviors), the
Youth Law Center, a national nonprofit advocacy organization in San Francisco, sponsored
legislation to modify the rules. Now the law requires that before a youth can be placed in a
jail, the court is required to find that the youth poses a danger to the staff, other minors in the
juvenile facility, or to the public because of the youth’s failure to respond to the disciplinary
control of the juvenile facility, or because the nature of the danger posed by the youth cannot
safely be managed by the disciplinary procedures of the juvenile facility.
Under new California policy, young people tried as adults serve their
sentence in juvenile prisons until age 18 and then may be sent to adult prisons.
Under California law, youth convicted in the adult criminal court can be housed in adult prison
provided that there is no contact between youth and adult inmates. Since California’s juvenile
court jurisdiction ends at age 25, California has an extensive array of state-run secure juvenile
commitment facilities as part of the California Youth Authority (CYA). However, Proposition
21 prevents many youth convicted in the adult system from being sentenced directly to
the California Youth Authority. As a result, many youth have been housed in adult prisons
in California despite adequate bed space within juvenile facilities. Until 2004, there were
approximately 130 young people housed at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi,
an adult prison run by the adult Department of Corrections. After a suicide and a subsequent
investigation that found inadequate conditions for youth, a policy decision was made and the
California Department of Corrections entered into an agreement with the California Youth
Authority to house all youth under the age of 18. At the present time, no youth under the age
of 18 is being held in a California adult prison.4

When Proposition 21 was passed, there was little data about the numbers and
characteristics of youth already being prosecuted in the adult criminal system. At the time
of Proposition 21’s passing, the only available data showed that arrest rates of youth were

PG. 25

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN CALIFORNIA?

PG. 26

actually lower in the late 1990s than at any time in the previous 25 years.5 The only other
data available was a study for the Building Blocks for Youth Initiative, The Color of Justice:
An Analysis of Juvenile Adult Court Transfers in California,6 which found that transfer
laws disproportionately affected youth of color.
In 2001, after passage of Proposition 21, Senate Bill 314 was enacted. It required
data collection from both juvenile and adult systems to document the impact of the new
adultification law. Data available from 2003 and 2005 provide the first comprehensive
look at the numbers of youth prosecuted in the adult criminal system in California.
In addition to court system processing data, there are two other sources of data collected
at the state level that provide some insight on the number of youth prosecuted in the adult
criminal system. Both the California Board of Corrections and the California Department of
Corrections collect data about youth housed in jails and juvenile detention facilities. These
three data sources do provide insight into the youth tried as adults issue, but since these data
are collected by different agencies using different methodologies, their findings are not easily
reconciled. Still, all the data reveal that transferring youth to the adult system disproportionately
affects youth of color. They also show that the practice varies widely by geography.

TABLE 1: JUVENILES IN THE ADULT CRIMINAL
SYSTEM IN CALIFORNIA7
STAGE

All the data reveal that
transferring youth to the adult
system disproportionately
affects youth of color. They
also show that the practice
varies widely by geography.

2003

2005

Arrests

221,875

100%

222,215

100%

Direct File in Adult Court

410

–

343

–

Total Juvenile Court
Dispositions

87,927

100%

98,919

100%

Fitness Hearings Ordered

586

–

431

–

Found fit

182

31%

113

26.2%

Found unfit

404

69%

318

77.8%

Total Adult Dispositions*

608

100%

422

100%

Arrest Offense: Felony

278

45.7%

399

94.5%

Misdemeanor

330

54.2%

23

5.4%

Convicted

414

68.1%

353

83.6%

Dismissed

166

27.3%

60

14.2%

Returned to Juvenile Court

10

1.6%

4

0.9%

Prison/CYA

110

26.6%

234

66.3%

Probation

79

19.1%

11

3.1%

Probation with jail

139

33.6%

101

28.6%

Jail

9

2.2%

5

1.4%

Fine

57

13.8%

–

–

Sentenced in Adult Court

* These numbers are artificially low because many youth had not completed their trials yet. For example, in
2005, probation departments reported information on 661 transfers to the adult system. The adult disposition
information cited here is for the 422 dispositions received in 2005 as not all cases were completed.

Offenses: The most serious youth?
A very small proportion of youth arrested each year are tried in the adult criminal system (as
shown in Table 1 above). Roughly similar numbers of youth get to the adult system via the

The data also counter the popular notion that youth are sent to the adult system for the
most serious crimes. In 2003, more than half of youth in the adult system in California were
prosecuted for misdemeanors (54.2%) and fewer than 30% of youth received a prison
sentence. The data for 2004 were incorrectly reported so those data are omitted here. The
2005 data indicate a possible positive trend of fewer young people being prosecuted for
misdemeanors (only 23 in 2005, as compared to 330 young people in 2003), yet many of
these young people are still being exposed to the dangers of jail time. In 2005, a third of the
young people deemed serious enough to be tried in adult court received sentences involving
probation or probation and jail. Across the three-year period, about a third of the youth
sentenced in adult court spent some time in jail and were exposed to many of the risks that jail
poses to young people, even when federal and state law protects against “contact” with adults.

TABLE 2: ADULT COURT DISPOSITIONS BY OFFENSE
2003

2005

OFFENSE TYPE

Arrested

Convicted

Arrested

Convicted

Homicide

23

16

31

24

Forcible rape

2

2

2

2

Robbery

60

49

133

116

Assault

73

56

126

98

Theft

20

13

8

6

Motor vehicle theft

12

9

6

6

Marijuana

N/A

N/A

1

1

Petty theft

N/A

N/A

5

5

Liquor laws

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

The disparate impact by jurisdiction–“justice by geography.”
Experience in California also shows the unfair effects of a system that relies so heavily on
prosecutorial discretion. In one of the worst demonstrations of “justice by geography,” the
likelihood of being tried in the adult system varies substantially by the county in which the
youth is prosecuted. In most counties across the state, district attorneys use their discretion
to directly file a youth in adult court in fewer than 2% of juvenile delinquency cases.
However, in several counties more than 10% of youth are directly filed into adult court.8
The data also show a disparate impact in terms of where young people might experience
jail incarceration when they are tried as adults. Data compiled from the California Board of
Corrections show that pre-trial youth are housed sporadically and infrequently within jails
across the state. Counties in which this has occurred in the past five years include Butte,
El Dorado, Los Angeles, Madera, Monterey, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. Some of these
locations are rural and lack adequate juvenile detention facilities. Some of these youth
have been court-ordered to remain in the adult jail pre-trial (e.g., they have had an escape
attempt or are otherwise a discipline problem in the juvenile hall), have been sentenced to

Judges consider about 30% of
youth to be “fit” for the juvenile
justice system. Stated slightly
differently, juvenile court judges
disagree with prosecutors’
decisions to try youth in adult
court at least 30% of the time.

In 2005, a third of the young
people deemed serious enough
to be tried in adult court
received sentences involving
probation or probation and jail.

The likelihood of being tried
in the adult system varies
substantially by the county in
which the youth is prosecuted.

PG. 27

direct file and fitness hearing processes. The data show that approximately 70% of youth
who go through fitness hearings are declared unfit for the juvenile justice system. This is not
surprising given the shift in burden of proof for certain types of fitness hearings as a result
of Proposition 21. But what is important to recognize is that judges consider about 30%
of youth to be “fit” for the juvenile justice system. Stated slightly differently, juvenile court
judges disagree with prosecutors’ decisions to try youth in adult court at least 30% of the
time. It is likely that many of the youth who are directly filed into adult court would also be
deemed fit for juvenile court if they were able to benefit from a fitness hearing.

PG. 28

the jail, or are awaiting transport to the CYA. From the data reported, it does not appear
that these youth stay in the jail for extended periods of time (i.e., they are typically removed
within a month).9
Race and ethnicity also play a factor
in the likelihood of a youth being tried in the adult system.
The California Department of Justice explored the disproportionality of the juvenile
and criminal justice systems in their 2005 report. The results confirm the earlier Building
Blocks study:
• African-American youth are 4.70 times as likely to be transferred to the adult system as
white youth;
• Latino youth are 3.44 times as likely to be transferred to the adult system as white
youth; and
• Asian youth are 1.84 times and Pacific Islander youth are 2.36 times as likely to be
transferred to the adult system as white youth.10
There is a disparate racial impact on youth sent to adult prison.
Historical data from the California Department of Corrections show that from 1989 to
2003, a total of 6,629 youth entered the custody of the CDC for an offense committed
prior to their 18th birthday. In 1989, the number was 172 youth, steadily growing to a high
of 794 youth in 1997, and then declining to 504 youth in 2003. Of those youth:
• 164 youth were female, 2.5% of the total;
• 1,922 youth were African-American, 29% of the total;
• 3,397 youth were Latino, 51% of the total;

Between 1989 and 2003,
of the 6,629 youth sent to
the CDC, 8 out of 10 were
African-American or Latino.

• 628 youth were white, 9.5% of the total;
• 682 youth were the race “other,” 10% of the total;
Although the public perception of youth housed in adult prison is that they are the “worst
of the worst,” only 32% of the youth from 1989 to 2003 were sentenced to the CDC
for crimes of first- or second-degree murder, manslaughter, or rape. The remainder were
convicted of crimes ranging from very serious (e.g., armed robbery) to less serious (e.g.,
simple drug possession).11
California lacks data indicating how many youth under the age of 18 have been held in
adult prisons across the state. Data are not available for us to know whether these youth
arrived in CDC custody before or after their 18th birthdays.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES AFFECTED BY CALIFORNIA’S LAWS
The Park Family: One strike and you are out.
Brian Park says he grew up in a “typical, middle-class” family in Alta Loma, California, a
suburb about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. The one main difference in Brian’s life: he is
serving a 45-year-to-life sentence for a drive-by shooting he committed at the age of 16
that injured one person and killed the other.
Brian Park was never a violent or difficult child. Like most teenagers, he started rebelling
when he entered junior high school and began hanging out with a “skateboarding crowd.”

When Brian entered high school, he started spending time with a friend his parents,
Stewart and Stella Park, believed was a bad influence; Brian and his friend would stay out
late, and once, police caught them out past curfew smoking behind a local drugstore.
Concerned for their son, the Parks sent him to live with an aunt in Salinas where he
attended a private high school and met with a counselor. After his freshman year of high
school, his behavior and grades improved and he returned home. While Brian was in
Salinas, his parents attended a parenting class that preached a “tough love” approach.
When Brian returned home, he and his parents started to conflict again. The Parks then
attended a second parenting class taught by a Korean-American social worker and
psychologist, who warned parents that not all children respond well to harsh discipline
and noted that the “tough love” approach could harm their relationship with their children.
As a result, the Parks changed their parenting style.
When Brian returned to school in Alta Loma, he became the target of Chinese gang
members at his high school. The reason was petty. Brian had broken up with his girlfriend,
who had indirect ties to the gang, and so the gang believed that he was disparaging them.
One Saturday, the gang tracked Brian down and assaulted him. On Brian’s 16th birthday,
the gang members drove by the family’s house and shot 12 rounds from a semiautomatic
weapon, hitting the water heater in the garage and shattering the windows in the house.
Fortunately, the gang had called and warned Brian of the attack, so the Park family was
not home. After the shooting, Brian became increasingly agitated and fearful. He told his
mother, “I’m not going to live past 18.”

Before his parents even knew
he’d been arrested, and without
the counsel of an attorney,
Brian confessed. In March
2000, after a three-week
trial the judge gave Brian the
maximum sentence: 45-to-life.

The night of June 18, 1995, Brian drove to a restaurant to meet up with friends. While in
the parking lot, a group of young white men asked Brian and his friends for a cigarette.
When they said they didn’t have any, the group began cursing and harassing them.
Brian and his friends decided to leave. As they left, one man from the group reached for
something from his car trunk. Brian and his friends believed the man was reaching for a
weapon, which turned out not to be the case.
Earlier in the day, one of Brian’s friends had given him a gun. That same friend told Brian,
“Why don’t you go cap ‘em?” Upset from the incident, Brian shot into the crowd of young
men as they drove off. Brian did not realize the bullets had hit anyone until the police
picked him up. One 18-year-old was shot in the arm but would recover. The other died of
his wounds.
Before his parents even knew he’d been arrested, and without the counsel of an attorney,
Brian confessed. His lawyer delayed going to trial for four years, but then had a stroke.
The family hired another attorney and started over. In March 2000, after a three-week trial,
the judge gave Brian the maximum sentence: 45-to-life.
In the post-three-strikes-world, the Parks understand that it is doubtful that Brian will be
released before serving at least 85% of his sentence. Stewart Park trains for triathlons to
stay fit so he will be alive and healthy when Brian gets out of prison. He wants to be there
to help Brian transition back into society.

My name is Brian Park, a 25-year-old inmate of Calipatria State Prison. Three months
after my 16th birthday I was shamefully involved in a crime that drastically affected the
lives of many people. I am truly remorseful for my actions, and I believe my guilt justifies
my ‘45 to life’ sentence. However a small part of me hopes that someone would give me
a second chance at life. I feel as if I have grown up so much over the years. Often, I look
back at my adolescence and realize how stupid some of my actions were.

PG. 29

In a recent letter to legislators considering Senate Bill 1223, a bill to allow youth a chance
to be re-sentenced after serving 10 years or turning 25 years old, Brian wrote:

PG. 30

Brian Warth: Parole always denied.
The following is an excerpt from A Fallen Youth Transformed by Spirituality, Education,
and a Caring Society by Brian Warth, a current inmate serving time at Chuckawalla Valley
State Prison in California.
I was the youngest of my mom’s children, growing up in a gang and drug-infested
neighborhood of Southern California. My family struggled early on when my oldest
brother was shot dead at age 15 and my second oldest brother was shot multiple
times in another gang shooting, but survived.
At age one, I became the focus of a long and bitter custody battle between my
parents. Sometimes the judge would order me to live with my mom, sometimes with
my dad....By the time I was 12, my siblings were gang members and I started to
develop a bad attitude. Soon I also joined the neighborhood gang and my life went
on a downward spiral. I got sent to juvenile hall a couple of times and then when I
was 14 I was shot in the arm in a gang shooting. My value system was all messed
up. I made the most terrible mistake of my life when I was 16: I participated in a gang
shooting, which resulted in the death of a rival gang member.
My crime hurt many people (for which I am greatly sorry). I was arrested the following
morning and sent to juvenile hall. My short life was over and I hadn’t even begun to
live yet. Eventually, I was tried as an adult and then transferred to the Los Angeles
County Jail. I was 17, slammed down in a cold, one-man cell. The majority of the
juveniles I was with were also facing life sentences. Many of them were immediately
crushed by the heavy weight of the hopelessness. Finally, when I was 17, I was
sentenced to 16-years-to-life in prison.

“At age 20, I was transferred
from the California Youth
Authority to state prison.
This was a big shock because
now people who had been
in prison for up to 30 years
surrounded me.”–Brian Warth

I could have given up and got worse, like many of my peers did. But a couple powerful
things happened that gave me hope. First, my dad told me that I still had a fraction
of hope left and that if I would change, one day society would have mercy on me
and give me a second chance. My dad firmly believed that America was the land of a
second chance.
Suddenly, I saw a small flickering light at the end of my tunnel. Then at age 18,
I renounced my gang and decided to change my morals and values. I started to
educate myself. Plus, I started to study and emulate the teachings and ethics
of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. As I demonstrated my remorse for my crime and a
determination to change, more and more people of society came to my aid. I started
to grow mentally and spiritually.
At age 20, I was transferred from the California Youth Authority (CYA) to state prison.
This was a big shock because now people who had been in prison for up to 30 years
surrounded me. Many of them would tell me that I would spend the rest of my life in
prison like them. Other youth I knew didn’t have the hope that I had because they had
no support or incentive to change. So they got worse. I continued to resist depression,
peer-pressure, and the violent prison culture.
By the time I was 26, my life was 95% restored. My relationship with my dad was
great and I had been married to my childhood sweetheart for many years. My wife has
played a key role in my rehabilitation. Plus, I earned several trade class completions
and was working toward my college degree.
In 2002, I went up for parole. At that time the parole board only granted parole to
.05% of the 1000s of inmates eligible for parole. The parole boardroom was filled with
a heavy cloud of pressure. The panel drilled me with questions about my upbringing,

crime, and prison time. I answered the best I could and at the end of the hearing I
pleaded for my life....
That was a miracle morning for me because the panel honored my change and
granted me a parole date. I became the youngest life-inmate to be granted parole. I
wish I could say that was the end of my struggle. But five months later then-Governor
Gray Davis reversed my parole grant. In opposition to me, he stated in part, that I had
grown up in gangs, I never had a full-time job and I had spent my entire adult life in
prison. It was a devastating blow, but my hope empowered me to keep standing. I
went up for parole again a year later and the panel gave me another parole grant. But
once again, the then-Governor reversed it. In 2004, I went back up for parole and for
the third time I was granted parole. Currently, I am waiting to see if our new governor
will reverse it or affirm it. Strangely enough, my crime partner (the actual shooter in my
case) has been paroled from CYA four years now. But he was tried as a juvenile with a
different set of rules.”
In a support letter for Brian Warth, Correctional Lieutenant, D.C. Schall, wrote, “Warth
has three times been found suitable for parole by the Board of Prison Terms. However,
all three times, twice by ex-Governor Gray Davis and once by Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger those decisions were reversed. Those decisions did not deviate Warth’s
productive outlook on life, nor stop him from being a model inmate. This continued effort
on his part proves to me that my recommendation two years ago is still valid today. I would
like to add, that during my 22 years with the Department of Corrections, currently as a
Correctional Lieutenant, I do not write cronos very often and I take my responsibilities to
insure for the safety and security of society very seriously. I also believe that if punishment
and rehabilitation is the goal of society, then Warth has been severely punished and he is
most certainly rehabilitated. In fact, he is the epitome of rehabilitation and will better serve
society by being released on parole.” Governor Schwarzenegger reversed Brian Warth’s
fourth parole grant in mid-2006.

After a media campaign
highlighted the conditions
that youth were living in at
the Men’s Central Jail in Los
Angeles County, including two
suicide attempts by youth,
policymakers were forced to
find a better solution.

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN CALIFORNIA?

In addition, poor conditions in the Tehachapi adult prison contributed to the suicide death
of Francis Ray on July 1, 2003, a teenager serving a three-year sentence for robbery. An
Inspector General Report investigation of the Youthful Offender Program at Tehachapi found
the conditions were not appropriate for youth. As a result, on July 1, 2004, a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) between the California Department of Corrections (CDC) and
the California Youth Authority (CYA) was entered into that stipulated that male youth under
18 years of age sentenced to the CDC would be housed at CYA until their 18th birthday.
Approximately 130 youth who had been living in the adult prison were moved to the Youth
Authority. Presently, youth are sent directly to the Youth Authority (versus spending any time
in a CDC facility) until the youth turns age 18, at which time the youth will be transferred
back to the CDC. However, if the youth can fulfill his sentence before his 21st birthday, he

PG. 31

Removing youth from adult facilities.
The most successful advocacy efforts for youth tried in the adult system in California
have been the efforts to remove youth from adult institutions, both jails and prisons.
After a media campaign highlighted the egregious conditions that youth were living
in at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County, including two suicide attempts by
youth, policymakers were forced to find a better solution. That solution was a negotiated
agreement with the nearby Norwalk facility operated by the California Youth Authority to
house the pre-trial youth. At the present time, approximately 40 youth are housed in the
“Drake Unit” at the Norwalk facility rather than in the adult jail.12

PG. 32

can request to stay at the CYA until release. Females younger than age 18 were already
housed at the CYA girls facility in Ventura pursuant to an MOU entered into in February
2001. The population of girls typically does not exceed 10 at any one time.
Legislative opportunities available after Proposition 21.
Proposition 21 restricts many advocacy strategies because the language of the initiative
requires that changes to the law occur via a new initiative or by obtaining a supermajority
in the legislature; both are very difficult to accomplish. In lieu of changing any existing
laws, advocates have attempted new and innovative methods to highlight the injustice of
youth tried in the adult system by adding new layers to the code.
The approach used in Senate Bill 1151, sponsored by Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa
Monica), was to clarify the criteria that judges would use in fitness proceedings. As
mentioned, one of the five factors that judges consider when deciding whether to transfer
a youth is “the circumstances and gravity of the offense.” Senate Bill 1151 sought to add
the sentence, “This includes the actual alleged behavior of the minor, the minor’s degree
of involvement in the crime, the level of harm actually caused by the minor, and any other
matter that may affect the circumstances and gravity of the offense.” This bill would have
helped limit the numbers of youth transferred to the adult system by actions perpetrated
by their peers. Although the bill passed the legislature, in August 2004 Governor
Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.
A second bill was also sponsored by Senator Kuehl, Senate Bill 1223. This bill
would have enacted a new mechanism for courts to review the sentence of a person
convicted as a minor in adult criminal court and sentenced to prison. After the person
had served 10 years of his or her sentence, or after the person had reached 25 years
of age, the person could have requested that the court review the sentence. The court
would have the authority to suspend or reduce the sentence. Unfortunately, this bill
never got out of committee.

Proposition 21 restricts many
advocacy strategies because
the language of the initiative
requires that changes to the
law occur via a new initiative
or by obtaining a supermajority
in the legislature; both are very
difficult to accomplish.

CALIFORNIA RECOMMENDATIONS
• Improve the quality of legal advocacy.
The best way to prevent youth from entering the adult criminal system in California is
to have effective legal advocates to help make the case for keeping the youth in the
juvenile justice system. The Pacific Juvenile Defender Center has been developing
resources to support public defenders in their individual case efforts to obtain
dispositions in juvenile facilities. However, many legal advocates are not public
defenders. They are often private counsel or panel attorneys not affiliated with a public
defender office. Other advocates, including the Loyola Juvenile Justice Clinic, have
launched an effort to improve the compensation for contract attorneys paid by the case
rather than by the hour.
• Investigate possibilities of sentence reduction/commutation.
Some youth will receive sentences forcing them to spend the bulk of their lives behind
bars for acts committed when they were very young and immature. Mentioned briefly in
Brian Warth’s story, California has a unique law that allows the Governor to override the
parole board’s decision in any murder case. Former Democratic Governor Davis used
this law to overturn any release possibilities for persons charged with murder. The early
indications of Governor Schwarzenegger suggest that he won’t be as categorically
opposed to parole, but we do not yet know how willing he will be to let parole decisions
stand. To aid in their release, youth prosecuted in California could benefit from postconviction advocacy support to highlight the progress they have made while in prison.

• Highlight and address post-conviction employment barriers.
Given the large numbers of youth who are prosecuted in the adult system for
misdemeanors, youth may face serious consequences from their conviction in terms
of future employment, financial aid, and other opportunities. The state should create
mechanisms permitting convicted youth to participate lawfully in certain government
programs and careers despite their criminal history.

NOTES
Independent calculations by the author using Department
of Corrections Jail Profile Survey. Although not a focus of
this chapter, there is a problem in California with significant
numbers of youth who have been adjudicated delinquent being
held in the county jail. When the author submitted a public
records act request to Fresno County, it was discovered that
an additional 30 youth were being housed in a “jail annex” not
recorded in the Department of Corrections database. Fresno
County Counsel Wes Merritt has commented, “You would
think that the toughest kids would be in the jail, but in fact
the lowest-level kids are in the jail. These are kids that can be
housed in an open dorm setting, so that is why they are there.”
According to materials provided through the records request,
the California Board of Corrections approved a pilot project for
Fresno County on February 3, 2003, to allow youth to be held
in the North Jail Annex to relieve overcrowding at the juvenile
hall. The Jail Pod houses up to 30 post-disposition male minors
who are 14 years of age and older. Those transferred to the
Jail Pod are selected from the ranks of the “better-behaved
minors.” The Santa Ana Sheriff’s Department in Orange County
runs a similar project and houses approximately 40 youth in its
jail annex.
10.
California Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Statistics
Center. Juvenile justice in California 2005. Available from
http://ag.ca.gov/cjsc
11.
Unpublished data from the Department of Corrections Data,
February 2004.
12.
For a discussion of the advocacy effort to remove youth from
adult jails in Los Angeles, see No turning back: Promising
approaches to reducing racial and ethnic disparities affecting
youth of color in the justice system. (2005). Washington, DC:
Building Blocks for Youth initiative. p. 61. Retrieved January 28,
2007, from www.buildingblocksforyouth.org
9.

PG. 33

The offense may be punishable by death; however, youth were
not eligible for the death penalty under a separate California
code provision in existence prior to the abolition of the juvenile
death penalty by the U.S. Supreme Court.
2.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 707. Available from
www.leginfo.ca.gov
3.
Contact does not include participation in supervised group
therapy, participation in work furlough programs, or participation
in hospital recreation activities so long as living arrangements
are strictly segregated and all precautions are taken to prevent
unauthorized associations. Under federal and state law, it is
unlawful to house youth adjudicated in the juvenile system in
adult jails, although there are at least two locations (Fresno and
Orange County) in California where this happens.
4.
The California Department of Corrections is now known as the
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The
California Youth Authority is now known as the Department of
Juvenile Justice.
5.
Males, M. (2006). Unprecedented drop in California youth
crime and incarceration rates. San Francisco, CA: Center
on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. http://www.cjcj.org/pdf/
unprecedented_drop.pdf
6.
Males, M., & MacAllair, D. (2000). The color of justice:
An analysis of juvenile adult court transfers in California.
Washington, DC: Building Blocks for Youth initiative.
7.
California Department of Justice, Criminal Justice Statistics
Center. Juvenile justice in California 2003 and Juvenile justice
in California 2005. Available from http://ag.ca.gov/cjsc
8.
Independent calculations by the author using Department of
Corrections data from 2002 and 2003 that compared the
proportion of direct file bookings to juvenile hall bookings per
month.
1.

PG. 34

CONNECTICUT
WHAT IS THE LAW IN CONNECTICUT?
In Connecticut, young people can enter the adult criminal justice system through
a number of different legal mechanisms. The following include the key features of
Connecticut’s adultification laws.
The upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction is 15.
Since 1971, when § 46b-120 of the Connecticut Juvenile Matters Code was amended
to make 16 the age of majority, every 16- or 17-year-old in Connecticut arrested for
any infraction, violent or nonviolent, is treated as an adult and is automatically under the
jurisdiction of the adult criminal court.1 Only three states in the country have such a young
age of adult court jurisdiction: Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina.2
Youth 14 and older face mandatory
judicial waiver to adult court for serious felonies.
In 1996, Connecticut also determined that 14- and 15-year-olds would automatically be
transferred to adult court for Class A or B felony offenses, which include crimes such
as murder, carjacking, certain sexual offenses, and first-degree burglary. Young people
charged with Class B felonies and one particular type of sexual assault, however, are
eligible for a reverse waiver in which the case can be returned to juvenile court. The
state’s attorney is the only one who can initiate this type of reverse waiver, and it must
be decided by the judge in the adult court to which the case was transferred. The statute
does not specify any grounds for such a reverse waiver or any factors to be considered.3

Every 16- or 17-year-old in
Connecticut arrested for any
infraction, violent or nonviolent,
is treated as an adult and
is automatically under the
jurisdiction of the adult criminal
court. Only three states in the
country have such a young
age of adult court jurisdiction:
Connecticut, New York, and
North Carolina.

PG. 35

Courts have discretion to transfer
14- and 15-year-olds charged with lower-level felonies to adult court.
For any Class C or D felony, such as eavesdropping or loitering on school grounds, a
state’s attorney may request, by motion, that the juvenile court judge transfer the young
person’s case to adult court. The court is required to transfer the case if it finds probable
cause that the young person committed the alleged offense (without notice, a hearing, or
any participation on the part of the youth or their counsel). Once transferred to adult court,
the judge, on his or her own initiative, may return any case to the juvenile court within 10
days after transfer.

PG. 36

Connecticut is a blended sentencing state.
In the case of young people 14 and older who are charged with a felony in juvenile court
and who have two previous felony adjudications,4 the prosecutor may request that the
court designate the proceeding a “serious juvenile repeat offender prosecution.” If this
happens and the youth is convicted of the felony, the court must impose both a juvenile
and an adult criminal sentence, with the adult sentence stayed or suspended as long as
the youth refrains from violating the conditions of the juvenile sentence or committing any
subsequent crime. This means that, even when youth are granted a juvenile sentence
in lieu of an adult sentence, they can still enter the adult criminal justice system and the
suspended sanction can then be imposed if they fail their probation or get re-arrested on
a new offense. A similar type of sentence is required for youth whose proceedings, at the
prosecutor’s request, have been designated as “serious sexual offender prosecutions.”
Youth convicted in such cases must be given a juvenile sentence–a special probationary
period of at least five years to follow this sentence—and an adult sentence that is
suspended as detailed above in serious juvenile repeat offender cases.

Although the youthful offender
statute is a step forward…
these youth are actually in a
Catch 22… They are unable to
access the services available in
criminal court, as programs are
designated for adults over the
age of 18, and… they are
also unable to participate in
juvenile services.

Youth in the adult criminal justice
system can be categorized as “youthful offenders.”
The youthful offender statute was designed to provide certain 16- and 17-year-olds, who
otherwise would be prosecuted as adults, with some of the protections of the juvenile
court, such as maintaining the confidentiality of records, a maximum sentencing limit
of four years, and the chance to expunge their records.5 Unfortunately, many of these
teenagers are unable to benefit from the statute. A young person is not eligible for the
youthful offender statute if he or she has previously been convicted of any felony in adult
criminal court, previously been convicted of a “serious juvenile offense,” or is currently
being charged with a Class A felony such as murder or kidnapping. Also exempted from
youthful offender status are those who have been charged or convicted of crimes such
as sexual assaults and risk of injury—an offense that include selling or trading a child for
goods, child endangerment, and any other activity that would physically harm or impair
the morals of a child. Pursuant to a new law passed in 2006, all 16- and 17-year-olds
are presumed eligible for youthful offender status, however many do not benefit from the
program because prosecutors can deny this status to any youth charged with a felony.
Prosecutors maintain discretion over youth with youthful offender status and can ask the
court to transfer any youth charged with a felony from youthful offender status to regular
adult status. Furthermore, if the youth violates probation, either with a new arrest or a
technical violation such as non-compliance with court-ordered requirements, the youthful
offender status, and thus its protections, can be revoked.
Although the youthful offender statute is a step forward toward a less punitive and more
rehabilitative way of dealing with older youth, these youth are actually in a Catch 22. Due
to federal legislation, they are unable to access the services available in criminal court,
as programs are designated for adults over the age of 18, and conversely, as they have
been deemed an adult due to age of majority, they are also unable to participate in juvenile
services. The limited services they ultimately receive are provided by the adult Department
of Correction, which has neither the resources nor the properly trained staff to provide
appropriate services to youth.
Young people detained while awaiting trial
in the adult court end up in the adult corrections system.
Connecticut is one of a few states in the country in which the jail system (pre-trial) and
prison system (post-conviction) are combined into one Department of Correction (DOC).
Male youth who enter the adult court, and who are not granted pre-trial release, are held
at the Manson Youth Institution (MYI). MYI is a high-security correctional institution under
the jurisdiction of the adult DOC that houses prisoners ranging in age from 14- to 21years-old. Female youth are held at Connecticut’s only women’s prison, York Correctional

Institution (YCI). Young people who have been designated as youthful offenders are
required to be segregated “to the extent of their facilities” from individuals over the age of
18 who are charged with a crime.6
Young people can be sentenced to the Department of Correction.
If convicted of a crime, youth can be ordered to complete a period of probation with
conditions of behavior and rehabilitative programming requirements, or they could be
sentenced to the DOC to complete a court-ordered period of incarceration.
For those individuals under the age of 18 who are sentenced—also described as being
committed to the custody of the Connecticut DOC—males are housed at MYI and
females are placed at YCI. All girls and women are also held at YCI pre-trial. In the words
of the DOC, MYI “houses chronic disciplinary inmates, close custody program, mental
health, high security, and general population inmates who are involved in a wide variety
of programs including educational, vocational, and addiction services.”7 According to
The Hartford Courant, the state’s largest newspaper, MYI, “despite its name ...is an adult
prison ringed with razor wire. Youths are incarcerated alongside adult criminals. They do
not get treatment equal to the type dispensed by the juvenile courts.”8 Youth 14 and older
also can be transferred from delinquency facilities to MYI and YCI at the request of the
Commissioner of Children and Families, for dangerousness, if permitted by the juvenile
court judge after a hearing on the matter.9
As of July 25, 2006, there were 3,478 youth under the age of 18 on adult supervision.10
There are no age-appropriate services available for youth under adult supervision. Further,
there is no adolescent development training provided to prosecutors, court staff, judicial
marshals, and adult court judges, let alone adult probation officers. As a result, those
under age 18 are provided only adult probation services.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN CONNECTICUT?
Nearly 8,000 youth in Connecticut enter the adult court system each year.
According to Connecticut’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, approximately 12,00013,000 Connecticut youth age 16 and 17 are arrested and fall under adult court
jurisdiction—the vast majority for non-violent offenses.11 In 2003, of 12,153 16- and

According to Connecticut’s
Uniform Crime Reporting
Program, approximately
12,000-13,000 Connecticut
youth age 16 and 17 are
automatically arrested and fall
under adult court jurisdiction—
the vast majority for non-violent
offenses.

Majority of arrests for 16-year and 17-year-old are non-violent offenses
Source: State of Connecticut Department of Public
Safety, Division of State Police, Crimes Analysis Unit.
(2003). Crime in Connecticut: Annual report of the
Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

96% non-violent offenses

PG. 37

4% violent offenses

PG. 38

17-year-olds who were arrested, only about 4% (535) were arrested for FBI-designated
violent index offenses (murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault).12

In Connecticut, youth of
color comprise fewer than
30% of the youth population,
but they make up 80% of
the young men in the adult
corrections system.

In Connecticut, youth of color comprise fewer than 30% of the youth population,
but they make up 80% of the young men in the adult corrections system.13
Approximately 14% of Connecticut youth age 14 to 17 are African-American and 14%
are Latino.14 As of July 20, 2006, MYI housed 407 boys between the ages of 14 and
17.15 An additional 23 female inmates under age 17 were housed at YCI. There were two
15-year-old girls housed at YCI in 2006, one white and one African-American. Of the girls
Majority
arrests
for 16-year
and 17-year-old
are non-violent
offenses
at the
YCI, forofevery
one white
female, there
were two African-American
or Latino
females
16
incarcerated. There were 124 16-year-olds and 282 17-year-olds at MYI in 2006; 18%
were white and almost 82% were African-American or Latino. Whereas there were 18
96% non-violent offenses
African-American and eight Latino 15-year-old boys, there were no 15-year-old white
prisoners at MYI. Of the three 14-year-olds at MYI, all three were African-American.
In terms of their convictions, only six offenders were serving time for murder and an
additional 67 were convicted of robbery. The other 364 inmates were incarcerated under
the youthful offender statute for lower-level, largely non-violent offenses.
Youth of color are overrepresented in juvenile
transfer cases and half are non-violent offenders.
In an assessment of juvenile transfers in Connecticut between 1997 and 2002,
researchers found that, on average, 90 cases each year were transferred automatically
and an additional 35 were transferred to adult court by prosecutorial discretion.17 Forty
4% violent offenses
percent of all transfer cases during that time period were of African-American
youth.18 Yet
in 2002, African-Americans made up only 13% of the 14- to 17-year-olds in Connecticut.19
Twenty-seven percent of juveniles transferred had no prior referral to juvenile court and
84% of those who had juvenile records had not fully exhausted the resources of the
juvenile justice system prior to their transfer to adult court.20 Even though only about half
of the youth transferred to adult court were transferred for a violent offense, 72% were
sentenced to more than one year of incarceration.21 Even youth convicted of non-violent
crimes received sentences that exceeded the length of time they would have received in
the juvenile system, where they would have had more rehabilitative services.
African-American and Latino youth overrepresented in adult institutions

Connecticut Department of Correction, July 2006.

% African American and Latino

80%
80%

62%

70%
60%
50%
40%

30%

30%
20%
10%
Total Connecticut
youth population

Young women
incarcerated at
York Correctional
Institution

Young men
incarcerated at
Manson Youth
Institute

Young people with mental health needs end up in the courts.
The vast majority of individuals who come into contact with the juvenile and criminal
justice systems have diagnosable mental health disorders. Sixty-two percent of the
youth detainees in Connecticut suffer from mental health issues and require appropriate
treatment.22 The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill says that for many youth with mental
health issues in the juvenile justice system, the behavioral manifestation of their mental
health disorder has led to the infraction for which they are arrested.23 Although the
proportion of youth under the adult corrections system who have mental health issues
is unknown, the case histories of young people who have spent time in adult institutions
reflect how the lack of age-appropriate mental health services contributes to delinquency,
and possibly contributes to their being tried as adults.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES
AFFECTED BY CONNECTICUT’S LAWS24
Chris: Mental illness and lack of services leads to prison.
A young, white mother of three, Johnna P. has tried everything to get services for her
oldest son, Chris W., who was diagnosed early with Attention Deficit Disorder. Chris’s
father was uninvolved in his life and Ms. P.’s family moved to Alaska just after Chris
was born, leaving Ms. P. with no family support in Stamford, CT. During his childhood,
Chris was hyperactive and a tutor was engaged to help him build his remedial skills,
particularly in reading. Chris’s disruptive behavior became a serious problem by the fifth
grade, landing him in an instructional behavioral modification class even though Chris
did not have a diagnosed learning disorder (Attention Deficit Disorder can, but does not
necessarily, constitute a learning disorder).
Throughout middle school, Chris felt extremely embarrassed to be assigned to a special
education class. The class was held in the basement of the school building and included
severely emotionally disturbed students. Further, his teacher “wrestled” with the students
on a regular basis, which made Chris uncomfortable.

Chris has been held in eight
different facilities, some multiple
times. Since turning 16 years
old, he has been detained or
incarcerated in various adult
facilities, including MYI, in
which he has contemplated
suicide multiple times and
received little or no counseling
or interventions from staff.

Subsequent to the initial domestic incident, Chris has been held in eight different facilities,
some multiple times. Since turning 16 years old, he has been detained or incarcerated in
various adult facilities, including MYI, in which he has contemplated suicide multiple times
and received little or no counseling or interventions from staff. While held at Bridgeport
Correctional Center, an adult detention facility, a fellow inmate committed suicide and
Chris witnessed staff dragging the deceased’s body through the common area of his
unit. Chris has continually been haunted by this image and regularly reflects that “minutes
go by like hours” while in custody. Chris’s bipolar disorder is in large part responsible for

PG. 39

Chris attended a different high school for ninth grade but was still not able to be
mainstreamed into a regular academic schedule. Although just 13 years old, Chris often
had trouble sleeping and would regularly sneak out of the house in the middle of the
night to ride his bike around his Stamford neighborhood. Ms. P. asked the police officers
escorting Chris home for assistance accessing services, but their advice was simply to
have him arrested the next time this happened. Trusting the police, Ms. P. called them
during the next family altercation and had Chris arrested for assault. This initiated his
lengthy contact with the juvenile and criminal justice system for minor infractions. Initially,
Chris was deemed a “child from a family with service needs” and received special
services, but only for a short time period. With the limited services available to him, Chris’s
mental health conditions worsened. When he was hospitalized at Riverview Hospital
for six months, Chris was misdiagnosed and overmedicated, leading to seizures. Once
stabilized, Chris was reevaluated and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

PG. 40

his violating the law; however, his punishments have done nothing to ensure his mental
stability. Instead, they have made his psychological state worse.

His mother has stated that
Chris “...was simply too
young for an environment like
[Manson Youth Institute]” and
he “needs treatment, he needs
services, he needs programs
that can help him catch up
educationally, get his disorder
under control and develop skills
he needs to get a job.”

Even when released on pretrial bond or probation, Chris has received little mental health
assistance. According to his mother, he was evaluated regularly but improperly medicated.
These medications interacted negatively with Chris’s bipolar disorder and initiated manic
cycles. It was during these manic cycles that Chris’s behaviors led to repeated arrests
for low-level offenses, such as trespassing, assault, and technical probation violations.
Yet once Chris turned 16, he found himself without access to the treatment and services
typical of juvenile court. During one period of detention in an adult facility, it took Ms.
P. three weeks to get the medication Chris had been prescribed approved by the
correctional facility staff. His mother has stated that Chris “...was simply too young for an
environment like [Manson Youth Institute]” and he “needs treatment, he needs services,
he needs programs that can help him catch up educationally, get his disorder under
control and develop the skills he needs to get a job.”25 Most recently, Chris was arrested
for assault stemming from allegations he participated in a neighborhood fistfight and was
subsequently incarcerated at MYI. When he was released in June 2004, Ms. P. picked up
a then-17-year-old Chris from MYI and was shocked at his appearance; she thought her
son “looked like someone from a POW camp.”26
While incarcerated at MYI, Chris was locked in his cell for up to 22 hours for the first two
weeks. Since academic programs apparently have lengthy waitlists, it was weeks before
he received any education. According to interviews with both incarcerated youth at MYI
and their family members, the food is said to be the worst of any Connecticut facility. To
supplement their diets, the youth use exposed cable wires to heat water to cook noodles
purchased through the commissary—an unsafe practice and an institutional infraction, but
a necessary survival tactic.
Although Chris has had the benefit of being deemed a youthful offender, the continued
deficiency in appropriate mental health services has led to his repeated involvement in the
criminal justice system. This has invalidated any protective factors the statute provides.
The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), which oversees both
the family court and part of the juvenile justice system, is obligated by statute to make
available mental health services for any youth under the age of 18 in need, but the agency
has restricted space in facilities throughout the state for these adolescent patients. Even
the youth who are committed to the DOC are entitled to mental health services provided
by DCF, yet services are largely unavailable to them.
This mandate to provide mental health services still holds for those under 18 who have
been committed to the DOC, as well as those who are committed to the juvenile justice
system, yet its reach has not spread effectively into correctional facilities where the youth
with mental health issues are forced to reside. According to Gary Kleeblatt of DCF, in
July 2005 there were 18 youth incarcerated at MYI who were already committed to
DCF as wards of the state due to abuse and neglect.27 Moreover, he said, the families
of 112 young males incarcerated at MYI had open abuse and neglect cases. However,
as Connecticut lawyer and advocate Martha Stone has said, “Adult prisons are not an
appropriate place for abused and neglected children to wait while DCF develops a
treatment plan for them.”28
Girls in Connecticut’s criminal justice system.
York Correctional Institute (YCI) is a high-security adult women’s prison run by the
Connecticut DOC. YCI houses all women committed to the DOC regardless of their
security level or age.29 Although they are a small portion of the youth under the jurisdiction
of the adult criminal justice system, girls face a series of specific challenges to their health,
safety, and opportunity for rehabilitation. Young women who have been placed in DOC
custody are not kept separate from older female inmates.

Katharine.
Katharine is one of the girls who has been incarcerated at YCI. As a child, she was
described as charming and bright, but her personality changed drastically as she grew up.
She isolated herself and was extremely withdrawn. Around age 12, she became secretive.
Her parents believed this was normal early adolescent behavior. Katharine began to
experiment with drugs, skipped school with her boyfriend, and was frequently suspended.
On different occasions, the police or her mother returned her to school.
Katharine did manage to complete the 10th grade, but her life was troubled. Not only did
this boyfriend introduce her to drugs, but he also physically, mentally, and sexually abused
her. Unfortunately, this relationship lasted for almost five years. During her 11th grade year,
Katharine requested to attend night school and her mother eventually agreed. She barely
passed 11th grade. During the following summer, she was taken to Saint Mary’s Hospital in
Waterbury for a heroin overdose. Two months later, she stole her sister’s car in order to have
transportation to a drug deal in New York where her stepbrother, a fellow heroin user, lived.
She was detained by the police in Bronx, NY, and was charged with disturbing the peace.
After this incident, her family helped get Katharine into a substance abuse treatment
program, but she did not stay and returned to the family home. Two days later, a neighbor
called the police, suspecting Katharine of burglarizing their home. The police searched her
parent’s home and found the neighbor’s possessions. Katharine was charged with larceny
for $13,000 worth of jewelry and electronic equipment.
Katharine met with a prosecutor and explained how depressed she had felt over the
recent years and how her drug use alleviated some of those feelings, but the prosecutor
did not feel that her explanation was sufficient. She was ordered to complete outpatient
drug rehabilitation, but she continued to test positive after two and a half weeks of
attending the program. She was placed in several inpatient treatment programs over
the next few months, but did not successfully complete any of them. It was believed that
Katharine was bipolar, but she had never been sober enough long enough to give an
accurate diagnosis.

Almost two weeks later, Katharine was taken into custody and held at YCI. Her cellmate
was incarcerated for stabbing someone. Katharine soon became hysterical and spent 10
days in the same clothing. She was not evaluated for mental health services or medication
for two weeks. Everyone, guards and inmates included, treated her inhumanely. Katharine
was horrified when she was strip searched and touched inappropriately by a male officer
because she was accused of having contraband. The contraband was soap provided
to her by another inmate because she did not have any. Older women also constantly
threatened to beat, rape, and kill her.
Vanessa.
When single, white, nursing college professor, Pam Dudac, adopted nine-year-old
Grace Dudac in 1980, she did not know what she would be getting herself into years
later. Ms. Dudac adopted a physically and psychologically abused Grace from the
Philippines. It was unknown whether Grace had been sexually abused, but a social worker
at the adoption agency informed Ms. Dudac that the standard protocol was to assume
that all the girls had been sexually abused. Grace had cigarette burns on her skin when
Ms. Dudac received her.

Katharine was taken into
custody and held at YCI.
Her cellmate was incarcerated
for stabbing someone.

PG. 41

Before she entered the fourth program, Katharine stole her mother’s car again—for the
10th time. Since Katharine had been involved in several accidents in her mother’s car,
her mother decided to finally call the police and report the car stolen. She agreed to
press charges, but she did not understand that Katharine would be dealt with in the adult
criminal justice system.

PG. 42

When Grace was only 15 years old, she began dating an 18-year-old Cambodian
named Sean. Grace had felt ostracized from the white, middle-class community she
grew up in. Grace’s therapist actually recommended the relationship, because she felt
that Grace would better understand her ethnicity. Ms. Dudac opposed the relationship
due to the age difference. On October 17, 1988, when Grace was 16, she gave birth to
Sean’s daughter, Vanessa.
Although Sean had a good job as a quality control inspector, he also had a gambling
problem. Unable to handle raising a child with him and upon facing eviction, Grace
relinquished custody of Vanessa to Ms. Dudac. Grace remained with Sean and they moved
in with a drug dealer friend of theirs. Shortly thereafter, the three were arrested. Grace
served nine months at YCI after Ms. Dudac spent $15,000 on attorney’s fees. Sean was
sentenced to two years and the drug dealer was sentenced to 30 years. He was charged
with a drug-school zone offense and Grace and Ms. Dudac testified against him.
Upon her release, Grace decided she would have nothing more to do with Sean.
However, the two reconciled when he was released from prison. He abandoned Grace
and Vanessa shortly after that and moved to Texas. Vanessa was molested by their
neighbor’s six-year-old son. When Ms. Dudac found out, she reported the incidents to the
police and social services, but nothing was done about the case. Subsequently, a number
of their neighbors turned against the Dudacs and Vanessa lost her childhood best friend.
Although these traumatic events had occurred in her early childhood, Vanessa was never
an angry child and always reached out to help others.
But things changed once Vanessa entered Madison Middle School. She began to sneak
sips of cough syrup and experimented with cutting herself. One day, she called her
mother, and Grace told her that she did not know who was calling and not to call again.
Distraught from the extreme abandonment, Vanessa began cutting herself regularly. She
attended a young women’s self-esteem group but the therapy provided was minimal.
Vanessa had a best friend, Jessica, and boyfriend, Joseph, she depended on for support.
During ninth grade, Vanessa and Jessica regularly went to the library after school to
complete homework, but one day Vanessa did not call Ms. Dudac to pick her up at the
normal time. Worried, Ms. Dudac contacted Jessica and found out that they had not been
together at the library that afternoon. While searching for her, Vanessa called but did not
say where she had been. Upon returning home she was grounded.
Ms. Dudac, worried about Vanessa, contacted her piano teacher to find out any information
about how Vanessa was doing and the piano teacher suggested that Ms. Dudac take
Vanessa to obtain a method of birth control. Shocked, Ms. Dudac confronted Vanessa and
Vanessa revealed that she had been date-raped by a 19-year-old student at her high school.
Ms. Dudac reported this to the police and the young man was arrested and was sentenced
to nine months in protective custody. Outraged by this slap on the wrist, Ms. Dudac was
even more troubled by the school’s support of the young man and its lack of support for
Vanessa. Vanessa continued to cut herself and began experimenting with drugs.
At the end of the school year, Vanessa began to spend a lot of time with her paternal
cousins. Most of this time was unsupervised and she met an older boy named Angelo.
Vanessa and Joseph broke up the summer after ninth grade when she found out that
Jessica and Joseph had been sneaking around behind her back. Once she found out,
Vanessa ran away for three days. She spent those three days with Angelo on a cocaine
binge. When she returned home, she was admitted for psychological testing to Hall
Brooke Psychiatric Hospital in Westport, CT. Vanessa received a referral for outpatient
counseling but no services were put into place. She continued to use drugs, skip school,
cut herself, and run away. She also developed bulimia and created an altar in her bedroom
made up of drawings of women engaged in sexual acts together.

A few weeks after Vanessa turned 16, Ms. Dudac came home to find her naked with
a fully clothed Angelo in her bedroom and two other friends in the house. Ms. Dudac
threw Angelo out of the home along with the other friends and she and Vanessa
got into an argument. Vanessa slapped her grandmother and Ms. Dudac called the
police. At the time of the incident, Ms. Dudac was over the age of 60 and Vanessa
was charged with a violent felony against an elderly person. Vanessa was taken into
custody and held at YCI for a week where older female inmates constantly groped her
inappropriately. She was released pending trial and was court-ordered to complete an
anger management program.
Vanessa met with a private psychologist around the same time who recommended an ageappropriate secure setting, but the recommendation was not adhered to. A few weeks later,
another family fight erupted when Grace was visiting and Ms. Dudac called the emergency
intervention services provided by the anger management program. Vanessa became
paranoid that they would remove her from the home and ran away before they arrived.
Vanessa eventually returned home and in order to deal with the court case expediently,
Vanessa pled guilty and obtained youthful offender status with a one-year suspended
sentence and three years of adult probation. Vanessa met with a probation officer weekly.
Although the probation officer refused to meet with Ms. Dudac, the officer incorporated
Angelo into Vanessa’s treatment planning. Although several assessments were scheduled
for Vanessa, none of the service providers followed through with treatment and Vanessa
did not do well on probation. She was sent to a crisis home for a brief period of time
before she was returned home with an electronic ankle monitor. She was permitted free
time on weekends and one weekend she ran away with Angelo.
A few months later, Vanessa found out that she was pregnant. In the meantime, Ms.
Dudac had obtained services from a private mental health care provider. The provider
agreed that Vanessa needed to be placed on medication for multiple diagnoses, including
bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and depression and anxiety related to
abandonment issues. However, since Vanessa was pregnant, she was unable to take the
necessary medications. Vanessa was sent to a home for pregnant teens, called Mi Casa,
where she managed to participate in the programming and attend school.

Vanessa was not admitted to the hospital and was returned to her grandmother’s home.
She was five months pregnant and decided to have an abortion. After the abortion,
Vanessa began to attend counseling through probation, but it was only every other week
and did not sufficiently treat her or help her to stop harming herself. After acting out
during a group therapy appointment, Vanessa was placed in Transitions, an adolescent
group home. She managed to stay at the placement for two months until she ran away
and violated probation. While on the run, Vanessa snorted so much cocaine that she
was admitted to the hospital due to erosion of her nasal septum. Her grandmother
returned her to Transitions before a warrant was issued, but Vanessa ran away again
and is currently in ascendance and a warrant has been issued for her arrest. She faces
a one-year sentence at YCI for a heated family argument with her grandmother that took
place almost one year ago. Had developmentally appropriate services been put in place

Vanessa was taken into
custody and held at YCI for
a week where older female
inmates constantly groped her
inappropriately.

PG. 43

Unfortunately, she eventually ran away to Angelo but learned he had been cheating on
her. She returned to Mi Casa and was accepted back into the program. Vanessa began
cutting herself more frequently and using marijuana. The drug counselor inspected
Vanessa’s sheets one day and found them caked with dried blood. Mi Casa attempted
to send Vanessa to the emergency room for a psychological admission, but by the time
Ms. Dudac arrived at the hospital, Angelo was talking with the nursing staff on Vanessa’s
behalf. Ms. Dudac could not believe that the hospital staff listened to Angelo, whom she
feels contributed to the delinquency of a minor, and not to her. Vanessa’s grandmother is
a licensed nursing professor.

PG. 44

for Vanessa a year ago, ones that addressed the many psychological traumas she had
experienced in her young life, she may have been able to avoid having the suspended
prison sentence imposed.
David: The ultimate sacrifice.
As noted in the introduction, youth incarcerated in adult correctional facilities are eight
times more likely to commit suicide than their peers in juvenile facilities.30 On July 24,
2005, 17-year-old David Burgos, a Latino, committed suicide at MYI while being held on
a probation violation. David’s mother, Diana Gonzalez, had been worried about her son
because his letters sounded desperate; the letters detailed the lack of mental services,
and how David was seeking counseling support from his fellow inmates.

On July 24, 2005, 17-yearold David Burgos, a Latino,
committed suicide at MYI
while being held on a
probation violation.

David grew up with both parents and three other siblings in Bristol, CT. David’s father was
an alcoholic who regularly abused Mrs. Gonzalez, both verbally and physically, in front of
their children. When David was nine, his parents divorced and the family court became
involved in a custody dispute. David went from his mother’s home to his father’s. While in
his father’s care, David began to act out. He was evaluated and diagnosed with Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, prescribed medication for the condition, and returned to
his mother’s care. Although happy to be back in his mother’s care, David always desired
the ideal father/son relationship and was continuously disappointed by his father’s lack of
interest and motivation to be a part of his children’s lives. As a result of emerging mental
health conditions and his familial stressors, David was hospitalized repeatedly and, as a
result of a neglect case, was placed under DCF guardianship at age 10.
David’s resentment towards his father compounded his limited cognitive ability and he
grew easily frustrated with tasks. He was in need of extra assistance regularly, particularly
in school. He underwent several inpatient evaluation and treatment interventions and, at
age 14, was placed in a residential treatment facility by DCF because of his active neglect
case. Accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder and severe depression, he received the
therapeutic structure and schooling he needed while in residential care. David became
a leader among his peers, experiencing both physical and psychological benefits. His
mother visited as often as possible and participated actively in his treatment regimen. To
his detriment, however, DCF discontinued payment for this placement, deeming it too
expensive. David hoped he would be placed in a therapeutic foster home, but his age
made him difficult to place.
Instead, David was sent to a group home in New Haven, CT. According to Mrs. Gonzalez,
the group home had very little structure and David was taunted by staff and encouraged
to run away. Eventually, he did just that. David was subsequently placed in another group
home but was threatened by a resident with a gun and ran away again. He went to his
mother’s home and she took him to the hospital to receive an updated evaluation. DCF
rejected his request to return to a prior placement, opting to take him back to the same
group home where his life had been threatened. While being transported, David jumped
out of the moving vehicle.
While in ascendance, David left the group home, and was arrested for stealing and
was released and placed on probation to comply with his family court order. Complying
with DCF was one of the restrictions placed on him under probation. However, David
exercised his civil right as a 16-year-old to remove himself from DCF services, prompting
probation violation proceedings in his criminal case. While awaiting his revocation hearing,
David was held at MYI. After four months of confinement compounded by the onset of
severe depression and with no mental health intervention, he took his life by hanging
himself with a bed sheet in his cell.

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN CONNECTICUT?
Spurred by reports of poor conditions at MYI, including suicides and assaults on youth, a
growing number of voices in the state are calling on legislators to raise the age of juvenile
court jurisdiction in Connecticut to 18. In light of the emerging scientific understanding
of brain development as it relates to chronological age, criminal justice practitioners,
including probation officers, judges, defense attorneys, and a small number of prosecutors
in Connecticut have called for greater discretion in juvenile transfer and for more in-depth
assessments of juvenile competency.31 The recent research findings on the frontal lobe,
the part of the brain that influences emotional decision-making, suggests it does not reach
its peak development stage until a person’s early 20s, is starting to have a positive effect
on juvenile justice policy and practice.32

At Walker’s request, Dr. Donna Bishop, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern
University, testified before the Judiciary Committee in February 2006 on the negative
implications of automatic waiver and transfer of youth to the adult court. During her
testimony, she said that “young offenders are generally not rational, calculating offenders...
a lot of their crime is impulsive.”34 Bishop further elaborated: “when we put them into the
adult system, we make it far more likely that the public will be harmed in the long run.”35
Representative Michael P. Lawlor (D–East Haven), co-chair of the legislature’s Judiciary
Committee, “would like to increase the age of so-called status offenses to 18, to allow
parents more control over delinquent behavior.”36 Although he supports raising the age
of juvenile court jurisdiction to18, Lawlor says that the youthful offender bill from 2005
is a compromise because, although it did not exempt 16- and 17-year-olds from adult
jurisdiction, it opened up the door for a review of the implications for both the juvenile and
criminal justice systems in Connecticut and their corresponding government agencies.
Additionally, an analysis of the resources that will need to shift from the Department of
Correction to the Department of Child and Family Services will be undertaken. According
to Dr. Steven Berkowitz and former MYI warden Leonard Barbieri, youth ages 16 to 18
are “neither children nor adults,” and raising the age of jurisdiction in Connecticut to reflect
the practices of most other states “would release the Department of Correction from its
difficult role of ensuring the safety of incarcerated 16- to 18-year-olds.”37
Among the most controversial parts of the debate over whether to bring 16- and 17-yearolds back under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court concerns the costs of the change.
According to John Roman, a researcher with the Washington, DC-based Justice Policy
Center at the Urban Institute who testified before the legislature on raising the age, these
reforms could prove more cost-effective. Although there will be costs associated with
returning 16- and 17-year-olds to the juvenile court jurisdiction, there also will be the
long-term benefit of saving future dollars through lower youth recidivism rates; the future
likelihood of recidivating is lower for youth who are maintained in juvenile court compared
with those transferred to adult court. “If juveniles commit fewer crimes because they have
received more and better services,” Roman says, “fewer community members will be
victimized....”38 He explains that “less crime will mean fewer victims, fewer missed days

Spurred by reports of poor
conditions at MYI, including
suicides and assaults on youth,
a growing number of voices
in the state are calling on
legislators to raise the age of
juvenile court jurisdiction in
Connecticut to 18.

PG. 45

Representative Toni Walker (D–New Haven) believes that a judge needs to have discretion
to transfer a youth for a serious offense, as opposed to having all youth of a certain
age possibly subject to the same outcome. She has said that youth who commit “silly
mistakes” should not suffer the same punitive consequences as a teenager who commits
a violent offense.33 Although legislation introduced by Walker to raise the age of juvenile
court jurisdiction did not pass in the 2006 legislative session, Section 16 of House Bill
5846 established a commission to evaluate the efficacy and implications of these transfer
provisions and to assess the cost of returning 16- and 17-year-olds to juvenile court
jurisdiction. The commission published its recommendations in February 2007.

PG. 46

of work, lower medical bills and, maybe most important, less fear and less suffering.” In
general, Roman estimates that returning 16- and 17-year-olds to juvenile court jurisdiction
will result in approximately a $3 savings benefit for the correctional and judicial systems
for every one dollar spent.39
Opponents to raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, such as Chief State’s Attorney
Christopher Morano, believe that the 2005 amendments to the Youthful Offender
Statute provide enough safeguards for adolescent offenders.40 Police Chief James
Strillacci, addressing the Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Connecticut Police Chiefs
Association, believes that increasing the age of juvenile court jurisdiction will actually
impede the ability of a police officer to interview a juvenile if a parent must be present, yet
there is little evidence to support this theory.41
“For too long,” Governor M. Jodi Rell has said, “juvenile justice services in Connecticut
have been failing...our children, particularly troubled children, deserve better.”42 Concerned
by the suicide of David Burgos in July 2005, Governor Rell identified $550,000 for
juvenile services in the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2007 to create a more functional
juvenile justice system. If 16- and 17-year-olds are returned to the juvenile court’s
jurisdiction, they will benefit greatly from the added services this money creates.

In recent years, Connecticut
has taken important strides
to improve its juvenile justice
system… These reforms make
a compelling case for keeping
16- and 17-year-olds eligible for
this system.

CONNECTICUT RECOMMENDATIONS
• Raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction.
As noted in this report’s introduction, studies have shown that public safety is best
preserved when youth remain in juvenile court and are provided with age-appropriate
services. In recent years, Connecticut has taken important strides to improve its juvenile
justice system. New services, pilot programs, and a conscious and concerted effort
to focus on rehabilitation and not simply punishment are working to make the juvenile
justice system more effective, equitable, and safe. These reforms make a compelling
case for keeping 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for this system.
• Invest in prevention and diversion.
Returning 16- and 17-year-olds to juvenile court is only one part of an effective juvenile
crime prevention strategy. Moreover, community alternatives such as afterschool
programs, substance abuse counseling, and mental health treatment save policing,
court, and correctional costs along with the costs, both financial and emotional,
incurred by victims. Programs to keep young people from becoming involved in the
courts also will help reduce disproportionate minority confinement.
• Decriminalize young people with mental health disorders.
As evidenced by the overrepresentation of individuals with mental health issues in the
criminal justice system, there is not enough suitable treatment available. Thus, when youth
act out due to their psychological complications, they find themselves in a system that has
little to no means of extracting them from the slippery slope of the criminal justice system.
• Commit to providing rehabilitative services to 16- and 17-year-olds
within the juvenile justice system and inter-agency collaboration.
According to longtime child legal advocate Ann-Marie DeGraffenreidt, “the perspective
of the two courts is different, in that adult court is focused on punishment for crime
as opposed to rehabilitation. The philosophy behind juvenile court is that kids aren’t
set in stone.”43 The juvenile court, working in concert with similarly interested youth
agencies, can provide a specialized level of service that will ensure successful futures
for Connecticut’s youth.

• Eliminate disproportionate minority representation.
Although all of these recommendations should help reduce the level of disproportionate
minority representation by reducing the overall number of young people in the justice
system, specific attention must be paid and funding allocated to determine the causes
of this disparity and make the changes necessary to eliminate it.

NOTES
2.

Poitras, C. (2006, February 21). CT: Teen crimes, adult
prisons. The Hartford Courant. http://www.hartfordinfo.
org/issues/documents/FamiliesAndChildren/htfd_courant_
022106_a.asp
27.
Ibid.
28.
Poitras, C. (2006, February 22). DCF fails to pay bail.
The Hartford Courant. http://www.courant.com/hcdcfbail0222.artfeb22,0,6894836,story
29.
Connecticut Department of Correction: York Correctional
Institution. http://www.ct.gov/doc/cwp/view.asp?a=1499&Q=
265454&docNav=
30.
Flaherty, M. G. (1980). An assessment of the incidences of
juvenile suicides in adult jails, lockups and juvenile detention
centers. Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign.
31.
See Spectrum Associates, 17.
32.
Henderson, W., & Brien, N. (2006). Rethinking the juvenile in
juvenile justice. Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Council on
Children and Families.
33.
Levine, D. (2006, February 21). A statement in orange.
Connecticut News. http://www.campaign4youthjustice.
org/MAR06/news/CT/CTNewsjunkie.pdf
34.
Mann, T. (2006, February 22). Groups seeking change in teencrime penalties. The Day. http://www.campaign4youthjustice.
org/MAR06/news/CT/NewLondonDay.pdf
35.
Ibid.
36.
Dixon, K. (2006, February 21). Drive on to expand
youthful offender status. Connecticut Post, http://www.
campaign4youthjustice.org/MAR06/news/CT/CTPost.pdf
37.
Berkowitz, S., & Barbieri, L. (2005, August 30). Treat young
offenders differently. The Hartford Courant. http://www.nccev.
org/us/press_releases/30aug2005.htm
38.
Roman, J. (2006, February 21). The economic impact of
raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction in Connecticut.
Remarks before the Judiciary and Appropriations Committee,
Connecticut General Assembly.
39.
Assuming services are consistently maintained for youth and
no new facilities are constructed.
40.
Joint Committee on Judiciary. (2006). Testimony of Chief
State’s Attorney Christopher L. Morano in opposition to (H.B.
No. 5782). Rock Hill, CT: U.S. Chief State Attorney’s Office.
41.
Salzman, A. (2006, April 2). Redefining juvenile criminals.
The New York Times. http://www.campaign4youthjustice.
org/files/news/NYTRedefiningJuvenileCriminals.pdf
42.
Haller, S. (2005, March). Report on the reform initiative
at the Connecticut juvenile training school. South Bend, IN;
The Justice Education Center.
43.
See Salzman, A., 41.
26.

PG. 47

State of Connecticut General Assembly. www.cga.ct.gov
National Center for Juvenile Justice. (2005). State juvenile
justice profiles: Connecticut transfer provisions as amended
through the 2004 legislative session.
http://www.ncjj.org/stateprofiles/
3.
This statute is known as Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-127
(formerly § 51-308). Transfer of child charged with a felony
to the regular criminal docket.
4.
Adjudication is the term used in juvenile court that is equivalent
to an adult conviction.
5.
Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 54-76b (2006 Supp.).
6.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-76h (2006 Supp.).
7.
Connecticut Department of Correction: Manson
Youth Institution. http://www.ct.gov/doc/cwp/view.
asp?a=1499&q=265428
8.
Don’t give up on youth [Opinion]. (2006, February 26).
The Hartford Courant.
9.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-12 (a) (2004).
10.
Data request filled by External Affairs Division of the
Connecticut Judicial Branch, July 25, 2006.
11.
Connecticut Uniform Crime Reports. Available from www.dir.
ct.gov/dps/ucr/ucr.aspx
12.
State of Connecticut Department of Public Safety, Division of
State Police, Crimes Analysis Unit. (December, 2003). Crime
in Connecticut 2003: Annual report of the Uniform Crime
Reporting Program. Middletown, CT: Author.
13.
Data request filled by the Connecticut Department of
Correction, July 2006.
14.
Puzzanchera, C., Finnegan, T., & Kang, W. (2006).
Easy access to juvenile populations. Available from
http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/ezapop/
15.
Data request filled by the Connecticut Department of
Correction, July 2006.
16.
Ibid.
17.
Spectrum Associates. (2006, April). A study of juvenile
transfers in Connecticut 1997 to 2002 final report. Milford,
CT: Author.
18.
Ibid.
19.
See Puzzanchera, C., Finnegan, T., & Kang, W., 14.
20.
See Spectrum Associates, 17.
21.
Ibid.
22.
CT Mental Health Policy Council: Children’s Issues
Subcommittee. (2002, February). Annual report. New Haven,
CT: Author.
23.
CT Voices for Children. (2006, March). Why CT should return
its juvenile court jurisdiction to age 18. http://www.ctkidslink.
org/publications/juv06juvcourtjur1617.pdf
24.
Permission was obtained to use real names.
25.
Coleman, T. A. (2006, February 22). Changes urged
on treatment of criminal youth. Southern Connecticut
Newspapers. http://www.greenwhichtime.com/news/local/scnsa-nor.juveniles2feb22,0,7327718.story
1.

PG. 48

FLORIDA
WHAT IS THE LAW IN FLORIDA?1
After the national news media broke the story of several 13- and 14-year-olds being
sent to adult prisons in the late 1990s, Florida’s adultification statutes gained national
and international notoriety. Florida prosecutors have a great deal of power over transfer
decisions, and during the 1990s, Florida prosecutors sent nearly as many youth to
adult court (7,000) through the judicial waiver process as judges in the entire U.S. did.2
In Florida, youth enter the adult system in five ways: prosecutorial waiver (commonly
known in Florida as direct file), judicial waiver, mandatory waiver, indictment, or because
the youth had a prior adult sentence. The following are the key features of Florida’s
adultification laws.
Prosecutorial waiver (direct file). Prosecutors have significant
power and discretion to transfer young people to adult courts.
Prior to 1994, prosecutors had discretion to transfer cases for juveniles age 16 and older
and had limited discretion to transfer cases for 14- and 15-year-old juveniles. In 1994, the
Florida State Legislature passed legislation that expanded prosecutorial discretion. Only 15
states or jurisdictions including Florida employ direct file (prosecutorial discretion waiver).3
This legislation grants prosecutors discretion to transfer to adult court youth who are 14
or 15 and charged with the commission, attempt, or conspiracy to commit certain serious
crimes (19 crimes apply). Prosecutors also have discretion to transfer cases in which the
prosecutor views that the public interest requires that adult sanctions be considered or
imposed. For any offenses other than misdemeanors, prosecutors may use direct file to
transfer cases involving youth who are 16 and 17 years old. Prosecutors also may use
direct file for misdemeanors for youth who are 16 and 17 and have at least two previous
adjudications (or adjudications withheld) for delinquent acts, one of which involved a felony.
Nearly 95% of Florida juvenile cases transferred in 2000 were via direct file.4

• previously adjudicated delinquent for acts classified as a felony and facing repeated
charges for violent crimes, or

PG. 49

Mandatory waiver (statutory exclusion).
Young people must be sent to the adult court for certain acts.
A prosecutor must direct file a case for young people who are 16 and 17 years old
if they were:

PG. 50

• charged for offenses classified as a forcible felony and previously adjudicated
delinquent—or had adjudication withheld—for three felonies that were committed within
45 days of each other.
Youth also are subject to mandatory waivers if:
• they are charged with the commission of a fourth felony offense for which they have
previously been adjudicated delinquent;
• a previous felony adjudication has been withheld; or
• one of three previous felony adjudications for committing, attempting to commit, or
conspiring to commit a felony involved the use or possession of a firearm, or involved
violence against a person.
A prosecutor must direct file cases in which youth of any age are accused of causing
serious bodily injury or death while stealing a motor vehicle or while in possession of
a stolen vehicle. For crimes in which the mandatory minimum “10-20-life rule” applies,
mandatory direct file must be used for youth who are 16 and 17 years old if their crime
involved discharging a firearm or destructive device and resulted in bodily harm or
death. Last, prosecutors must transfer the case to adult court via “indictment” in cases
in which youth, regardless of age, are charged with capital charges meriting death or life
without parole. In these cases, the juvenile court retains jurisdiction until the prosecutor
seeks an indictment. Once transferred, these youth are tried and sentenced as adults
in every aspect. Additionally, any cases still pending in the juvenile court for these youth
are also transferred from juvenile court to adult court. This practice is commonly referred
to as “coat tailing.” In the event that a youth is found guilty of a lesser felony charge than
alleged in the indictment, the young person is eligible for juvenile sentencing.

Young people who have served
previous adult sentences are
automatically tried as adults.

Judicial waiver. In Florida, regardless of the offense, the State
Attorney’s Office may file a petition for a discretionary waiver before a judge.
The waiver proceeding is a two-part hearing before a juvenile court judge who reviews the
evidence presented by the prosecutor and defense counsel and then decides whether to
transfer the youth to adult court. In order to transfer the case, the judge must find:
• sufficient probable cause to allege that the youth was involved in the delinquency act,
and
• background information supporting the transfer to adult court.5
Waiver hearings can be voluntary or involuntary. A young person or his or her parents or
guardians can request that the case be transferred to adult court for trial, or a prosecutor
may direct file a case, either because they choose to or because the crime dictates that
the youth be transferred.
Once an adult, always an adult.
As shown, young people who have served previous adult sentences are automatically
tried as adults.
Young people who await trial may be detained in juvenile facilities or adult jails.
Within 24 hours of arrest, young people must appear before a juvenile judge, who
determines whether the youth pose a public safety risk. Youth who are considered risks
to public safety must remain in physically secure detention centers while awaiting trial.
Generally, there is a 21-day limit to secure detention; however, young people who have
been charged with serious offenses may be detained for up to 30 days. When youth are

transferred to adult court, they must appear before an adult court judge within 48 hours of
their transfer from juvenile court. Most young people whose cases have been transferred
to adult court are detained in adult jails or freed on bond.
Although young people who are awaiting prosecution are generally kept separate from the
adult population, they can be held in adult jails. Young people who turn 18 while awaiting
prosecution in secure facilities are automatically transferred to adult facilities. If they are
exceptionally young, youth who face adult charges are sometimes detained in juvenile
facilities.6 Regardless of the situation, youth who are detained in adult facilities must be
separated from adult inmates by both sight and sound.
Trial judges have discretion about where and
how youth convicted as adults should serve their sentences.
In 1994, Florida’s State Legislature passed legislation that made it easier to transfer youth
to adult criminal court as well as provided broader discretion to the criminal court by
allowing the court to levy juvenile dispositions or adult sentences on youth who have been
tried as adults. Judges have two options:
1. Juvenile sentencing options. Some youth who have been convicted as adults may
serve their sentences in juvenile correctional facilities or residential rehabilitative
programs. In cases when adult courts are considering imposing juvenile dispositions,
the Florida Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice submit reports to criminal
court judges. These reports provide guidance to judges as they determine whether
to impose juvenile or adult sanctions on the offender.7 If their cases were transferred
to adult court due to a mandatory direct file, youth who are 16 and 17 may not be
eligible for juvenile sanctions.8
2. Adult sentencing options. Judges may sentence youth tried as adults to adult
probation, where they are closely monitored, or to adult facilities. Youth sentenced
to less than one year are incarcerated in county jails. Youth sentenced to longer than
one year are incarcerated in adult prisons. In addition, Florida’s Youthful Offender Act
provides sentencing options for youth between 18 and 21 years of age and convicted
of first-time offenses that are not punishable by the death penalty. These youthful
offenders may be detained in designated youthful offender facilities rather than in the
adult system.

Data from the Florida
Department of Juvenile
Justice profiles database
show that of the 2,794 juvenile
cases transferred to adult court,
58% were transferred for
non-violent (non-index)
offenses and 42% were
transferred for violent offenses.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN FLORIDA?
Most juvenile crime is not violent.
According to Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data found on Florida’s Department of Law
Enforcement website, in 2005, 35% of crimes committed by youth were “index” crimes
(which include violent crimes, and burglary, larceny, theft of a motor vehicle, and arson)
and the other 65% of youth crime were non-index crimes.9

PG. 51

Additionally, 2005-2006 data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice profiles
database show that of the 2,794 juvenile cases transferred to adult court, 58% were
transferred for non-violent (non-index) offenses and 42% were transferred for violent
offenses.10 This includes 127 cases that were transferred for misdemeanor offenses.
According to these data, more cases were transferred to adult court for drug offenses11
(475) than for armed robbery (404).

PG. 52

Fifty-eight percent of youth transferred
to adult court were for non-violent offenses
Source: the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s
Office of Research and Planning. (2007). 20052006 Delinquency Profiles. http://www.djj.state.fl.us/
Research/Delinquency_Profile/0506_Profile.html

58% non-violent offenses

42% violent index offenses

Furthermore, a 1991 analysis of young people transferred to adult court in two
representative
Florida
counties
showed
that of
only
of the
juveniles waived
by court
Youth of color
make
up about
7 out
1029%
youth
transferred
to adult
prosecutors to adult court were transferred for violent crimes. More than half (55%) of
the youth whom prosecutors sent to adult court were charged with property offenses that
involved
noAfrican-American
violence, and 5% were tried as adults for misdemeanors.
57%

In 2005-06, while AfricanAmericans represented 24% of
the general youth population,
African-Americans represented
57% of all the youth transferred
to adult court. All told, nonwhite young people accounted
for about 7 out of 10 young
people transferred to the adult
system in Florida.

Thousands of young people come into contact with Florida’s
12% Latino
adult criminal justice system, but the number of youth transferred has declined.
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2004-2005, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice handled
150,687 delinquency referrals and 95,263 individual youth.12 Of those, 3,279 referrals
3% Other
were transferred to adult court and 2,504 individual youth were transferred to the adult
criminal justice system.13 Between FY 2000-2001 and FY 2004-2005, transfers to adult
court decreased by 23%.14
Hundreds of young people are under
28% White
the supervision of the adult corrections department.
In FY 2003-2004—the latest year available—1,301 youth in Florida were sentenced to
adult prisons.15 On the average day in 2001, 465 juvenile males and 23 juvenile females
were held for pre-trial in local jails. In cases when particularly young youth were transferred
to adult court, rare exceptions were made to detain them in juvenile facilities.16
In Florida, African-American
youth315
are “best-matched” pairs
Felony recidivism,
disproportionately overrepresented in transfers to adult courts.
Statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice in 1996 found that,
in Florida, African-American young people were 2.3 times more likely than white young
200 to adult court.17 Although not calculated as a rate, the latest
people to be transferred
figures from Florida’s DJJ still show a racially disparate impact.
150

In 2005-2006, while African-Americans represented 24% of the general youth population,
African-Americans represented 57% of all the youth transferred to adult court. Although
100
the Latino figures may underestimate young people who are Latino but were categorized
as white, in 2005-06, Latinos accounted for 12% of the youth population and 12% of the
youth transferred. All 50
told, non-white young people accounted for about 7 out of 10 young
people transferred to the adult system in Florida.18
0
Adult
System

Juvenile
System

Recidivists
Successful

42% violent index offenses

Fifty-eight percent of youth transferred
to adult court were for non-violent offenses
Youth
ofnon-violent
color make
up about 7 out of 10 youth transferred to adult court
58%
offenses
57% African-American
12% Latino

3% Other

42% violent index offenses
28% White

Youth of color make up about 7 out of 10 youth transferred to adult court
Research has shown that young people who have been treated
Felony
recidivism,
315 “best-matched”
pairs
as juveniles are
less likely
to re-offend
than young people
treated as adults.
57% African-American
Research
funded and published by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Miami-Dade
County Public Defender’s Office has found that young people tried as adults are more
12% Latino
likely to re-offend than
200youth sent to the juvenile justice system, even when compared to
young people with similar offense backgrounds.
150

1. Academic and U.S. Justice Department studies of recidivism. A 2002
3%report
Otherfunded
and published by the U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice found that youth in the
100lower recidivism rates than youth in the adult system. One study,
juvenile system have
Juvenile Transfer to Criminal Court Study: Final Report, compared the recidivism rates
of 315 “best matched”
offense
50 young offenders—that is, young people with similar
28% White
backgrounds. As summarized in a report by Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice,
“The researchers found that youth who receive sanctions and rehabilitation in Florida’s
0
juvenile justice system have a lower rate of recidivism than their counterparts who are
Adult
Recidivists
transferred to adult criminalSystem
court.” The 2002 report also argued that “when
the youth
Juvenile
recidivate, those transferred to the adult System
system committed more felony Successful
offenses.”19

Research funded and published
by the U.S. Department of
Justice and the Miami-Dade
County Public Defender’s Office
has found that young people
tried as adults are more likely
to re-offend than youth sent
to the juvenile justice system,
even when compared to young
people with similar offense
backgrounds.

Felony recidivism, 315 “best-matched” pairs
Violation rates by sentence - Excluding technical violations

70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%

150
100
50
0

Adult
Adult
Probation
System

Boot
Camp
Juvenile
System
Sentence

Youth
Sanctions

Recidivists
Successful
Recidivists
Successful

Violation rates by sentence - Excluding technical violations

PG. 53

Percentage of Youth

200

Source: Bishop, Lanza-Kaduce, & Winner, as cited
in Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. (2002,
January 8). A DJJ success story: Trends in transfer
of juveniles to adult criminal court. p. 5. Retrieved
October 5, 2006, from http://www.sentencingproject.
org/PublicationDetails.aspx?PublicationID=56420

28% White

PG. 54

2. Findings of the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office Juvenile Sentencing
Advocacy Project. In 1998, the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office initiated
a program called the Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project. This project encourages
judges in the Felony
adult system
to “sentence
youth tried aspairs
adults by implementing
recidivism,
315 back”
“best-matched”
juvenile sanctions. In a 2001 study done on the program, the researchers compared rearrest rates between Florida youth sentenced to adult probation and boot camp versus
those given juvenile sanction (the “sentence-back” option). If technical violations—
200of a condition of supervision, not a new crime—are included, youth
generally, violations
receiving adult probation re-offended 89.2% of the time, while youth sentenced to boot
camp re-offended150
92.3% of the time. Youth receiving juvenile sanctions re-offended
39.4% of the time. This means that youth placed on adult probation or in boot camps
were twice as likely to re-offend as youth receiving juvenile sanctions. When the
100
researchers excluded technical violations, adult probationers re-offended more than
50% of the time and those sentenced to boot camp re-offended almost 60% of the
50 juvenile sanctions re-offended slightly more than 30% of the
time. Those receiving
time. Even when controlled for race, initial charges, and age, youth with adult sanctions
re-offended (excluding
0 technical violations) 2.26 times more than youth receiving youth
sanctions. When technical Adult
violations were included, youth receiving adult probation or
Recidivists
boot camp re-offended 4.90
times more Juvenile
than youth receiving juvenile sanctions.21
System
Successful

System

Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project:
Young people sentenced to the juvenile justice system re-offended less.

Percentage of Youth

Violation rates by sentence - Excluding technical violations
Source: Mason, C. A., & Chang, S. (2001, October
15). Re-arrest rates among youth sentenced in adult
courts: Evaluation report for juvenile sentencing
advocacy project. Retrieved October 12, 2006,
from http://www.pdmiami.com/JSAP_2001_Impact_
Evaluation.pdf

70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
Adult
Probation

Boot
Camp
Sentence

Youth
Sanctions
Recidivists
Successful

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES AFFECTED BY FLORIDA’S LAWS
In recent years, a few high-profile cases have spurred debate on juvenile justice policy and
reform in Florida. Some of these stories gained notoriety because they involved 13- and
14-year-olds engaged in serious crimes that resulted in long, adult prison sentences.
Other cases involved young people engaged in routine delinquency who were tried and
jailed as adults. These news stories have dominated the headlines and provided the public
with insight into the impact of Florida’s adultification statutes on young people, their
families, and communities.22

Anthony Laster.
When Anthony Laster was 15, his robbery case gained national attention. Laster, who
was mentally disabled and hearing impaired, came to the attention of law enforcement
for reaching into a classmate’s pocket and stealing two dollars in lunch money.23 Thanks
to the West Palm Beach Junior High School’s zero-tolerance policy, officials reported
the incident to the police even though Laster had no previous criminal record and was
not armed. Soon afterward, Florida prosecutor Barry Krischer filed three felony charges
against Laster in adult court: strong-arm robbery, extortion, and petty theft. The young man
faced the possibility of a 30-years-to-life sentence.
Laster spent three weeks in a detention center. On Christmas Eve, the judge in the adult
court set bond at $500, the minimum level for felony charges. Because Laster’s family could
not raise bail money, Laster spent the next four weeks, Christmas included, in county jail.
The county prosecutor explained his actions in The Palm Beach Post, describing Laster
as “this schoolyard bully, this mugger.” The prosecutor said that to treat “this forcible
felony, this strong-arm robbery, in terms as though it were no more than a two-dollar
shoplifting fosters and promotes violence in our schools.”24 Laster’s case made national
headlines, and the prosecutor dropped the case after a “60 Minutes” crew arrived in
town to investigate.
Lionel Tate.
For certain crimes, such as first-degree murder, Florida state law requires that youth of any
age be tried in adult court. If found guilty, the law requires these youth to be sentenced to
life without parole. In 2001, in a controversial case that garnered national headlines, the
impact of the Florida statutes came into sharp relief. The incident occurred in 1999. Lionel
Tate, who was 12 years old at the time, was “wrestling” with six-year-old playmate, Tiffany
Eunick. Tate’s actions resulted in Eunick’s tragic death. In 2001, Tate was convicted in an
adult court of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Tate’s attorneys appealed. In late 2003, the State Appeals Court overturned the
decision arguing that Tate, at 14, was not mentally competent enough to make
informed decisions about his defense. Lionel Tate was granted a new trial, where he
pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in
jail. After he was released on January 29, 2004, he faced up to a year of house arrest
and up to 10 years of probation. However, Tate did not successfully complete his
sentence. In 2004 he was caught carrying a knife, and in 2006 he was arrested and
convicted for an armed robbery of a Domino’s pizza delivery man. He was eventually
sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The question remains: did Lionel Tate receive sufficient rehabilitative services to
successfully reintegrate into society? Michael Brannon, the psychologist who evaluated
Tate for the court said, “We had a real chance. The right thing would have been to get this
young man some help.”26 After rendering the guilty verdict, some jurors expressed mixed
views on the options available to them under the law. “While they had sympathy for Lionel,
they could not give a more sympathetic sentence because the law required them to give
him life in prison without parole. Kathleen Pow-Sang, who was one of Tate’s jurors said,
`Nobody wanted to put down a guilty verdict, because it was a child.’”27

Laster came to the attention of
law enforcement for reaching
into a classmate’s pocket and
stealing two dollars in lunch
money… On Christmas Eve,
the judge in the adult court set
bond at $500, the minimum
level for felony charges. Because Laster’s family could not
raise bail money, Laster spent
the next four weeks, Christmas
included, in county jail.

PG. 55

The sentence caused many, including Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to publicly question
the state’s law. Bush stated, “As I have previously expressed, I am also concerned about
the law which can require a life sentence—without any possibility of parole—for a crime
committed by a 12-year-old child. I am not sure it is right to consign such a young child to
a life without any hope... This is a concern that I know is shared by many Floridians.”25

PG. 56

Anthony.
Anthony, an 18-year-old African-American male from Miami, Florida, is a middle child. He
has three sisters and one brother. At age 12, he was charged with stealing a car. Anthony
successfully completed his probation for that offense. In elementary school, Anthony was
diagnosed with a mental health issue. He began having trouble in school and, because
his exceptionality could not be addressed in one school, he moved from school to school.
Anthony has been to a total of eight schools. In January 2006, at age 17, he was arrested
for grand theft auto and fleeing the scene of an accident with injuries. He was processed
through the Juvenile Assessment Center where he was direct filed and charged as
an adult. Anthony was custody released to his mother and was able to go home while
awaiting the disposition of his case.

Every time Dominique had a
court hearing, she had to go
to the county jail where she
would be held in a two-byfour cell. She was held there
four or five times for up to 12
hours each time.

Upon conviction, Anthony was sentenced as a juvenile pursuant to Florida Statute
985.233 and committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice to await placement
in a moderate risk residential facility. He is expected to be at the residential program
for a period of six to nine months. Upon completion of the program, he will be placed
on conditional release for an anticipated period of two to four months and he will be
monitored by his juvenile probation officer and/or conditional release officer. If he does
not successfully complete the conditions of his program and conditional release, he can
be sentenced for up to 15 years in prison. While Anthony is awaiting placement in the
residential program, he is required to maintain weekly contact with his juvenile probation
officer. Anthony is not currently employed. His juvenile probation officer recommended
that he wait until he is released from the program to get a job. However, because Anthony
is on the waitlist for placement, he is unable to get on with his life until he gets placed into
a program. In December 2005, Anthony was placed at RAM-C, a program that serves
offenders with developmental disabilities.
Dominique.
Dominique, an 18-year-old Cuban girl from Princeton, Florida, is the oldest of four siblings.
When Dominique was young, her mother died, and during much of her youth her father
was in prison. She and her siblings lived with her grandparents, but her grandmother died
and her grandfather did not have enough money to support Dominique and her brothers
and sisters. Dominique moved in with her aunt and they moved frequently. In 2004, when
Dominique was 16, she was charged with armed robbery and transferred to the adult
criminal justice system via direct file. This charge was her first and only charge. Dominique
was sentenced to two months in jail and one year of probation.
Dominique was held at the Women’s Annex in downtown Miami for two months
(December 17 to February 28). Dominique described the facility as nasty and said
that “the guards don’t care about you. They do things on their own time.” She also
said that they were racist and gave extra privileges (food, extra phone minutes) to girls
they favored. The guards cursed and even flirted and acted inappropriately with some
of the inmates.
Dominique also described the conditions of the Miami Dade Jail. Every time she had a
court hearing, she had to go to the county jail where she would be held in a two-by-four
cell. She was held there four or five times for up to 12 hours each time. Not only was the
cell small, but the conditions of the jail were also poor. Dominique explained that when she
asked to go to the bathroom, the guards would not listen or respond to her request, so
she often had to go to the bathroom on the floor of the cell.
Dominique was held with three other girls. On a typical day, the four girls would wake up
at 4:00 a.m. to shower, and then go back to bed. School started at 8:00 a.m. and ended
at 2:00 p.m. From 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., they were locked down. At 4:00 p.m., they were
allowed to use the phone. Afterwards, they were supposed to have recreation; however,

whether they did depended on the officer. Dominique estimated that they had recreation
about four times a week. The rest of their night consisted of dinner, watching TV, and
being locked in their cell.
Federal law states that youth in adult facilities are to be separated by sound and sight
from adults. Therefore, the four youth in the Women’s Annex lived in the same unit, ate
together, and took classes together. However, this federal regulation often limited their
activities. For example, when the girls had recreation, the rest of the facility had to be
locked down. Oftentimes they did not get their recreation because the guards did not
want to lock down the rest of the facility.
Towards the end of Dominique’s sentence, a girl with chicken pox entered the facility and
contaminated it. As a result, everyone was locked down for 21 days and no one could go
to their court appearances. Dominique’s release date had to be pushed back because she
could not leave the facility to attend her court date.
Dominique has now finished her sentence and probation term. She attends Miami Dade
Community College and plans to go to a university to study Forensic Psychology. She is
currently a hostess at a restaurant. Dominique got this job on her own, with no help from
her probation officer or the system.
Dominique believes that the system could be improved markedly by improving staff. As
she mentioned, many officers did not care about the girls and some even interacted
inappropriately with the inmates. She notes that even when an inmate was asking for
help, an officer might turn his or her head to look at the inmate, but then not do anything
about the situation. Dominique gave the example of witnessing a girl in the facility
forcing another girl to have sex with her. When it was reported, nothing was done. Also,
Dominique noted that recreation and the day’s activities “depended on the officer.” Some
officers allowed the girls recreation, but some did not. Dominique also said that some
of the “officers do not deserve to be in there. They did not help you.” Dominique’s story
emphasizes that especially when dealing with incarcerated youth, whether in the adult
system or in the juvenile system, the officers need to be responsive to the needs of the
girls and care about them. Dominique says that this really makes a difference. The one
person she believes cared was her teacher. She “gave the girls hope and treated us like
she was our mom.” The teacher left a strong impact on Dominique because she performed
her job with a caring attitude.

In 2004, when Dominique
was 16, she was charged with
armed robbery and transferred
to the adult criminal justice
system via direct file. This
charge was her first and
only charge. Dominique was
sentenced to two months in jail
and one year of probation.

Dominique also recommends that the incarcerated should have better access to
medical care. She experienced two instances of delayed medical help and witnessed
many others. She hurt her knee and asked a guard to see a nurse, but the guard told
her the nurse was busy and that she would get to her when she could. Then the shift
changed and a new officer came on duty. It took two days for a nurse to get to her.
However, she witnessed much worse. A friend at the Women’s Annex had a lump
growing on her neck. She repeatedly asked for medical attention, but did not get it until
she went to court. The lump turned out to be a tumor. Another inmate had gingivitis
and was bleeding through her gums. The girl cried for days. Five days later, she was
admitted to the hospital. Dominique’s sister, who was also incarcerated at the Women’s
Annex, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was admitted. They gave her

PG. 57

Dominique’s story highlights the problem that sight and sound laws create when sending
youth to adult facilities. As Dominique noted, when youth are incarcerated in adult facilities
and have to be separated by sight and sound, it complicates the procedure. Having to
lock down the rest of the facility when the girls have recreation makes it more likely that
the girls will not get recreation. Dominique noted that while it was good to be held with
other youth, being in an adult facility, they were treated as adults.

PG. 58

medication to treat the disorder, but when she was released, she went to another
doctor who told her she did not have bipolar disorder. Now her sister has developed a
dependence on the medication and still takes it.

[In 2004,] Florida had a violent
juvenile crime rate of 468 per
100,000, making it the state
with the fourth highest juvenile
violent crime rate.

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN FLORIDA?
Policymakers expanded the ways in which young people could be tried as adults, in
part because of the belief that it would lead to lower crime. Based on 2004 arrest rates,
Florida had a violent juvenile crime rate of 468 per 100,000, making it the state with the
fourth highest juvenile violent crime rate.28 This is a distinction that has not changed much
since the 1990s, when the Justice Department reported that the state had a juvenile
violent crime rate 48% higher than the national average.29
Even though the juvenile justice system was created based on the notion that youth
should be given special consideration, some Florida judges assert that youth have no
right to special treatment. Commenting on Lionel Tate’s case, Judge Barry J. Stone
stated, “Florida courts have long recognized that there is no absolute right requiring
children to be treated in a special system for juvenile offenders.”30 Judge Martha C.
Warner said “there’s no discretion exercised at all in this—no societal judgment...Age
is not a consideration.”31 In a March 31, 2004, press release, Senator Geller reminds
us that “These are kids. They’re not old enough to vote, they’re not old enough to drive,
and they’re not old enough to drink or do all these other things. Why do we assume
that they’re able to make adult decisions?”32 Geller noted that “children are not simply
short adults. They are different from adults and should be treated accordingly. We
must impose punishments that fit the crime, but at the same time, we must also provide
opportunities for rehabilitation.”33

The Miami-Dade County Public
Defender’s Office believes that
97% of transferred youth are
not sentenced to appropriate
juvenile intervention.

Juvenile sentencing advocacy: How has the system
accommodated Florida’s ability to try thousands of young people as adults?
Many note that youth receive insufficient treatment in adult courts and prisons. The MiamiDade County Public Defender’s office believes that 97% of transferred youth are not
sentenced to appropriate juvenile intervention.34 As Florida added even more laws to make
it easier to transfer youth to the adult system, public defenders and local providers have
been working at providing the courts with appropriate ways of serving young people’s
needs without adult sanctions. The Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office Juvenile
Sentencing Advocacy Project (JSAP) provides young people with aggressive sentencing
advocacy, encouraging courts to provide juvenile dispositions to young people who are
being tried in the adult system. As shown, young people receiving juvenile sanctions under
the program have lower recidivism rates than young people receiving adult sanctions.35
Despite the evidence of the program’s effectiveness, the program is under-utilized. Many
transferred youth are ineligible to be sentenced back and a number of judges are unaware
of sentencing options. In addition, few defenders’ offices have disposition specialists
(social workers) to help attorneys develop sentencing options.36
Florida’s rigid punishments for adults means
that young people tried as adults can face life in prison.
The success of sentencing advocacy is tempered by the fact that these options are
unavailable to many prison-bound young people. In many cases, the rigid punishment
structure found in adult courts does not allow judges to consider a number of factors
when sentencing, including prior record, special circumstances (i.e., family situation),
willingness to change, age, and maturity. In some cases, once a young person is
sentenced as an adult, sentencing requirements leave criminal court judges with few
options. For example, the enactment of the “Tough Love” legislation trumped by then-

Governor Jeb Bush allows the automatic transfer to the adult system of young people
ages 16 and 17 who have at least three prior felony adjudications and have committed
an additional violent felony; or charged with mandatory minimum sentences.37 As the
10-20-life law requires the automatic transfer of youth who commit gun crimes, they face
long prison sentences. Some policymakers argue that sentencing requirements are meant
to punish rather than rehabilitate youth who are tried as adults. Senator Walter “Skip”
Campbell states that, “The purpose of the penal system is to punish, but I believe it’s also
to rehabilitate. If we don’t allow the rehabilitation side to be pursued, then we’re really not
a true, honest society.”38
Legislators press for reforms to Florida’s adultification statutes.
In 2003, in hopes that the media attention given to Lionel Tate’s case would draw
support, Florida State Senator Steven Geller introduced Bill 530. Far from being wide
sweeping, the bill would have continued to allow 16- and 17-year-old youth to be tried
and sentenced as adults and incarcerated in adult prisons. It also still allowed for youth to
serve life without parole. However, the bill provided parole eligibility for first-time offenders
who were younger than 15 years old and convicted of offenses that carried a death or
life sentence or a sentence of greater than 10 years. Following the bill’s defeat in 2004,
Senator Geller commented about issues that sentence guidelines create: “No member of
the Florida Legislature has ever been defeated for re-election or election to a higher post
because they’re seen as too tough on crime. You only lose because you’re seen as too
soft on crime.”39 And Senator Geller says, “While it is important that criminals receive the
punishment most suitable to their crime, we cannot continue to allow a ‘one size fits all’
policy to govern the way we prosecute children who commit bad acts.”40

FLORIDA RECOMMENDATIONS
Just as Florida has led the nation in the use of prosecutorial mechanisms to try youth as
adults, it has led the nation in documenting the impact of trying youth as adults through
groundbreaking research on juvenile re-offending. The high-profile cases of Tate and

“While it is important
that criminals receive the
punishment most suitable to
their crime, we cannot continue
to allow a ‘one size fits all’
policy to govern the way we
prosecute children who commit
bad acts.” Florida State Senator
Steven Geller

PG. 59

Concerns over adequacy of legal
representation for youth in Florida have been raised.
Because these laws have raised the stakes for young people before the courts,
questions have arisen about the quality of legal counsel young people receive.
According to a report released in the fall of 2006 by the National Juvenile Defender
Center, Florida: An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Representation
in Delinquency Proceedings, young people “were observed routinely waiving their
Constitutional right to counsel. This often occurs with a wink or a nod—or even
encouragement—from judges.”41 The report found that young people are under the
impression that waiving right to counsel makes the case easier to resolve because it
means less time, less inconvenience to their parents, and less cost. In addition, the
report notes that the legal counsel provided to youth is often inadequate. “Untimely
appointment of counsel” and “inadequate resources, and excessive caseloads” all
impede the effective representation of Florida’s youth.42 Furthermore, the report states
that because juvenile defenders carry “staggering caseloads,” many cases result in
guilty pleas rather than adjudicatory hearings. As Florida laws grant prosecutors the
discretion to file certain cases in adult court, this gives prosecutors additional leverage
to extract guilty pleas from youth who fear being transferred to adult court for trial and
sentencing.43 In October 2005, Senator Stephen Wise proposed legislation (S. 526)
that sought to ensure legal representation for youth and to protect youth from waiving
their right to counsel before consulting with counsel. After passing the Florida Senate
on April 26, 2006, the bill stalled in the House Committee on the Judiciary.44

PG. 60

Laster also have served as reminders of the effects these harsh laws can have on Florida’s
youth. As a result, a number of juvenile justice leaders, legislators, and policymakers in
Florida have made the following recommendations on how the state could change the way
it treats young people before the courts.
• Prohibit prosecutorial transfers of youth to adult court.
Judges should have sole discretion in the determination of whether to transfer a youth
to adult court. Prosecutorial transfers represent the bulk of Florida’s transfers to adult
court. Shifting decision-making power to judges would reduce the amount of cases
transferred to adult court and would ensure that more youth have access to ageappropriate services. This access reduces recidivism and increases public safety.
• Require judges to consider imposing juvenile
dispositions for youth tried and convicted in adult court.
Judges need discretion and flexibility when sentencing youth, particularly those in the
adult court. Judges also should have the discretion to sentence transferred youth to
juvenile treatment programs or adult court supervision. In addition, judges should be
given the ability to waive minimum mandatory sentences for juveniles transferred to
adult court.
• Implement protections for youth who
indicate a willingness to waive their right to counsel.
It is imperative that youth understand the long-lasting consequences of juvenile
adjudication or adult conviction. Well-trained, adequately resourced juvenile attorneys
have the expertise to guide youth throughout the complicated court process.
• Young people who are found to be
incompetent should not be transferred to adult court.
Under the adult system, the services available to individuals found incompetent are not
youth-specific.

Judges need discretion and
flexibility when sentencing
youth, particularly those in the
adult court. Judges also should
have the discretion to sentence
transferred youth to juvenile
treatment programs or adult
court supervision.

• Create a centralized database to track
prosecutorial transfer decision-making by circuit.
It is important to be able to understand the extent to which prosecutors exercise their
discretion to transfer juveniles to adult court, so that young people are not receiving
vastly different outcomes from place to place.
• Promote the public and social benefits
of the “sentence back” option to judges and defenders.
The JSAP program evaluation has shown that, despite the Florida adultification statutes,
when young people are sentenced to juvenile dispositions, they are less likely to reoffend than young people sentenced to adult dispositions.
• Expand eligibility and provide resources to allow
more youth who have been transferred to be “sentenced back.”
In sharp contrast to high recidivism rates associated with trying youth as adults in
Florida, the state has a number of promising programs that provide quality supervision,
services, and rehabilitative options for young people in the juvenile justice system. The
state should invest in expanding interventions such as those run by the Associated
Marine Institute, Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp,45 and the Culinary Education and
Training Program for At-Risk Youth.46 These programs have been shown to reduce reoffending among young people.
• Eliminate statutory transfer to adult court.
If this were eliminated, youth who pose a threat to public safety could still be placed in
the adult system if the judge felt it necessary.

NOTES
Twohey, M. (1999, June). The wrong answer to Littleton.
The Washington Monthly. http://www.washingtonmonthly.
com/features/1999/9906.twohey.littleton.html
24.
Ibid.
25.
Amnesty International. (2003, February 18). United States of
America (Florida): Legal concern, Lionel Tate. From Amnesty
International online library archive http://news.amnesty.org/
library/Index/ENGAMR510272003?open&of=ENG-USA
26.
Ibid.
27.
Charles, N., Morrissey, S., & Trischitta, L. (2001, February 12).
Judging Lionel. People Weekly, pp. 87-88.
28.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2006,
September 8). OJJDP statistical briefing book. http://ojjdp.
ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/crime/ qa05103.asp?qaDate=2004
29.
Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (1998). Juvenile offenders
and victims: Update on violence. Washington, DC: Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
30.
Critics challenge Florida law allowing child life sentences:
Court throws out teen’s murder conviction, life sentence.
(2003, December 11). Associated Press. Retrieved October
5, 2006, from http://www.nbc6.net/print/2698674/detail.html
31.
Ibid.
32.
Ibid.
33.
Office of Florida State Senator Geller. (2004, March 31).
Senator Geller remains dedicated to reforming juvenile justice
system despite legislative setback (Press Release). Retrieved
October 5, 2006, from http://www.flsenate.gov/cgi-bin/
View_Page.pl? Tab=legislators&Submenu=1&File=033104.
html&Directory=Legislators/senate/ 031/press
34.
Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office. Juvenile
sentencing advocacy program. Retrieved October 13,
2006, from http://www.pdmiami.com/ juvenile_sentencing_
advocacy_program.htm
35.
Mason, C. A., & Chang, S. (2001). Impacting re-arrest rates
among youth sentenced in adult court: An epidemiological
examination. Available from http://www.pdmiami.com/
juvenile_sentencing_advocacy_program.htm
36.
Information provided by Carlos Martinez at the Miami-Dade
County Public Defender’s Office.
37.
Executive Office of Governor Jeb Bush. (2000, January 14).
Governor Bush proposes tough love approach to juvenile
crime (Press Release). Retrieved October 20, 2006, from
http://www.flgov.com/release/644
38.
Schwartz, N. (2004, February 8). Child advocates call for
flexible juvenile justice system. Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved
October 5, 2006, from http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sfl0208gough,0,6471392.story
39.
Ibid.
40.
Office of Florida State Senator Geller. (2004, January 7).
Senator Geller: Justice and humanity eluded by ‘one size
fits all’ sentencing law (Press Release). Retrieved October
5, 2006, from http://www.flsenate.gov/cgi-bin/View_Page.
pl?Tab=legislators& Submenu=1&File=010704.html&Director
y=Legislators/senate/031/press/&p=2
41.
Crawford, C., & Puritz, P. (2006, Fall). Florida: An assessment
of access to counsel and quality of representation in
delinquency proceedings. Washington, DC: National Juvenile
Defender Center, p. 2.
42.
Ibid.
43.
Ibid.
44.
Florida Senate. Senate 0526: Relating to juvenile defendants/
public defender. Retrieved October 6, 2006, from http://www.
flsenate.gov/Session/index.cfm? Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&Ta
b=session&BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&BillNum=0526&Chamber=
Senate&Year=2006&Title=%2D%3EBill%2520Info%3AS%2
5200526%2D%3ESession%25202006
45.
Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp. Retrieved September 18,
2006, from http://www.afycamp.com/
46.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2001,
April). Culinary education and training program for at-risk
youth. Retrieved November 3, 2006, from http://www.ncjrs.
gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/fs200107.pdf
23.

PG. 61

Information on Florida transfer laws was compiled by Carlos
Martinez at the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office.
2.
Butts, J. A., & Harrell, A.V. (1998). Delinquents or criminals:
Policy options for young offenders. Washington, DC: The
Urban Institute.
3.
The other 14 states and jurisdictions are Arkansas, Colorado,
Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire,
Vermont, Arizona, Massachusetts, Montana, Oklahoma, Virginia,
and the District of Columbia. See Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund,
M. (2006). Juvenile offenders and victims: 2006 national
report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of
Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention. p. 113.
4.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. (2002, January
8). A DJJ success story: Trends in transfer of juveniles
to adult criminal court. p. 5. Retrieved October 5, 2006,
from http://www.sentencingproject.org/PublicationDetails.
aspx?PublicationID=564
5.
Fla. Stat. § 985.556.
6.
Data request filled by Ted Tollett, Florida Department of Juvenile
Justice, Office of Data and Research.
7.
See Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 4.
8.
Fla. Stat. § 985.557(2)(a).
9.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (2005). Arrest totals
by age and sex: Florida January-December 2005. Florida’s
uniform crime reports. Retrieved October 26, 2006, from
http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/FSAC/UCR/2005/CIFAge_
annual05.pdf. Index crimes are defined as one of the eight
crimes listed in Part 1 of the Uniform crime reports such as
rape, robbery, murder, and aggravated assault.
10.
The FBI designates violent index offenses as murder/nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated
assault. The non-violent offense category combines both
misdemeanor and felony non-violent crimes.
11.
Includes 33 misdemeanor drug transfers (28 marijuana,
three possession of drug paraphernalia, and two for “other
misdemeanor” drug cases) and 442 felony drug transfer cases
(389 for felony non-marijuana drugs, 53 for marijuana felonies).
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s Office of Research
and Planning. (2007). 2005-2006 delinquency profiles.
http://www.djj.state.fl.us/Research/Delinquency_Profile/
0506_Profile.html
12.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. (2006, February 5).
Fast facts. Key juvenile crime trends and conditions. Retrieved
October 3, 2006, from http://www.djj.state.fl.us/Research/
Trends.html
13.
Delinquency referrals count any charges on the same date as
one case. The individual youth category counts any charges
brought against a youth throughout the year as one referral.
Therefore, a youth referred twice or more during a year is
counted once for the most serious offense for the individual
youth statistic, but is counted twice in the delinquency referrals
statistic. See 2004-05 profile of delinquency cases and
youths referred, Office of Research and Planning, Florida
Department of Juvenile Justice.
14.
Data request filled by Ted Tollett Florida Department of Juvenile
Justice, Office of Data and Research.
15.
Ibid.
16.
Ibid.
17.
Department of Juvenile Justice. (1996, March 24).
Management report (No 42). Tallahassee, FL: Author.
18.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s Office of Research
and Planning. (2007). 2005-2006 delinquency profiles.
http://www.djj.state.fl.us/Research/Delinquency_Profile/
0506_Profile.html
19.
Ibid, p. 1.
20.
See Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 4.
21.
Mason, C. A., & Chang, S. (2001, October 15). Re-arrest rates
among youth sentenced in adult courts: Evaluation report for
juvenile sentencing advocacy project. Retrieved October 12,
2006, from http://www.pdmiami.com/JSAP_2001_Impact_
Evaluation.pdf
22.
See Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 9.
1.

PG. 62

ILLINOIS
WHAT IS THE LAW IN ILLINOIS?
In Illinois, most youth enter the criminal justice system without the benefit of an individualized
hearing by a judge. Instead, they are automatically transferred to the adult criminal system
based on age and charging offense. Some do enter the system after a judge has decided to
transfer the youth to the adult criminal courts, but the number of youth charged as adults this
way is much smaller. The following include the key features of Illinois’ adultification laws.
The upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction in Illinois is 16.
Seventeen-year-olds are automatically under the jurisdiction of the adult criminal court.1
In other words, every 17-year-old arrested for any infraction, be it violent or nonviolent, is
treated as an adult in the eyes of the law. Nine other states have the same “age of juvenile
court jurisdiction,” including Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New
Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.2

Judges have discretion to transfer any
youth age 13 or older to the adult court for any crime.
For any crime, a state’s attorney may ask that the case be transferred to adult court in a
discretionary transfer hearing. In making the transfer decision, the juvenile court judge
must consider certain factors including the youth’s age or participation in the offense and
his amenability for treatment. But any youth age 13 or older committing any infraction can
end up in the adult court system after an individualized hearing by a juvenile court judge.

Every 17-year-old arrested for
any infraction, be it violent or
nonviolent, is treated as an
adult in the eyes of the law.

PG. 63

Youth 13 and older face automatic transfer to adult court for certain felonies.
In 1982, the Illinois Legislature passed legislation requiring certain youth to be automatically
tried in the adult court based solely on age and the charging offense. These youth do not
get the benefit of an individualized hearing. The initial cases that triggered automatic transfer
were murders, armed robberies with guns, and aggravated sexual assaults for youth 15
years of age or older. Since 1982, other offenses have been added including drug crimes,
possession of guns on school grounds, aggravated battery with a firearm, and aggravated
vehicular hijacking. Most automatic transfers are for youth 15 and older, however Illinois also
automatically charges youth 13 or older in the adult criminal court for murder and sexual
assault charges. Youth who have been transferred and convicted in the criminal court once
are automatically transferred to the criminal court no matter their subsequent offense.3 As
will be detailed later in the chapter, since 2003, the Illinois Legislature and the executive
branch are allowing for more individualized discretion in the adult transfer decision.

PG. 64

Youth also may end up in the adult criminal court from a mandatory transfer or a
presumptive transfer. Under the mandatory transfer provision, prosecutors can ask to have
certain cases transferred. Upon a finding of probable cause, the juvenile court judge must
transfer the case to adult court. Youth age 15 or older can be presumptively waived to the
adult court for certain offenses (e.g., aggravated discharge of a firearm). The prosecutor
can ask to have the youth transferred to the adult court, and the youth is presumed to be
transferred unless he proves that he should remain in juvenile court.
Illinois is a blended sentencing state.
In the case of young people 13 and older who are charged with any felony in juvenile
court, the prosecutor may file a petition for an “extended jurisdiction juvenile” (EJJ)
hearing. If a prosecutor files the EJJ petition, the youth will have a hearing to determine if,
in the event of conviction, he or she will be given both a juvenile sentence and an adult
criminal sentence. If the youth loses the EJJ hearing, and is subsequently convicted, the
court will impose both a juvenile and an adult criminal sentence. The adult sentence will
be stayed or suspended as long as the juvenile refrains from violating the conditions of the
juvenile sentence or committing any subsequent crimes. If the youth does not successfully
complete the juvenile sentence, the youth must then serve the adult sentence. The EJJ
statute allows for youth to serve adult time without being transferred to the adult court.

All 17-year-olds charged in
adult court await trial in the
adult jail system unless they
pay their bonds or get one
of the limited alternatives to
incarceration.

Young people convicted in Illinois’ adult court
end up in the adult pre-trial detention and corrections system.
All 17-year-olds charged in adult court await trial in the adult jail system unless they pay
their bonds or get one of the limited alternatives to incarceration. These limited alternatives
are only available in certain counties. Any youth automatically charged as an adult but who
is not yet 17 will remain in the juvenile detention system until he or she turns 17. Then the
youth will be transferred to the county jail. In counties under 3,000,000, there is an option
for youth of any age tried as adults to be detained pre-trial in the county jails, provided
they are separated by sight and sound from adults until they turn 17. Once a 17-yearold is sentenced to prison, the youth will enter the adult corrections system, the Illinois
Department of Corrections. If a youth under age 17 is tried and convicted in adult court,
the youth will be sentenced to the Department of Juvenile Justice until the youth turns
17. At that time, the Department of Juvenile Justice has the option to ask the adult court
judge to transfer the youth to the Illinois Department of Corrections. At age 18, the Illinois
Department of Juvenile Justice has the discretion to transfer the youth, and at age 21
the transfer is mandatory. If a 15-year-old is charged with an offense, but convicted and
sentenced after turning 17, the youth is automatically in the adult corrections system.
There is no sight and sound separation between adults and 17-year-old youth
in Illinois prisons, because the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in Illinois is 17.
For those individuals under the age of 18 who are committed to the custody of the Illinois
Department of Corrections, all males go to the reception and classification center at Joliet
and then can be transferred to any one of the 20 facilities in the state. Youth age 17 can
be assigned to the maximum-security facilities as well as to the Supermax facility. There is
one facility designated for women.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN ILLINOIS?
An estimated 16,000 17-year-olds enter the adult system in Illinois annually. The total
petitions filed for all ages of youth in Cook County in 2003 was 9,168, and in the entire
state it was 21,151. Although accurate data are not available on the actual number of
17-year-olds arrested each year, the authors estimate that approximately 16,000 youth age
17 are arrested and could be charged as adults in Illinois each year.4 Seventy-one percent
of all arrests of young people of all ages are for non-violent crimes, and in Cook County,
fewer than 12% of 17-year-olds charged are charged with felonies, including non-violent

felonies such as drug crimes.5 The authors estimate that the majority of 17-year-olds in the
adult system are arrested and charged with non-violent crimes.
Eighty-eight percent of the 17-year-olds charged
in Cook County and who are under adult justice
supervision are charged with non-violent offenses
Source: Analysis of Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois
review of Judicial Advisory Council memorandum,
April 2006. Exhibits A, B, and C of the Circuit Clerk
of Cook County charges, March 29, 2005 to March
28, 2006.

88% non-violent offenses

12% violent offenses

Hundreds of young people are transferred to adult court
in Illinois, but due to reforms, the number of youth transferred is declining.
Data on transfers to adult court are more accurate and more readily available than
information on 17-year-olds who automatically end up in court. Starting in 1999, data on
the automatic transfers to adult court became available through the Law Office of the Cook
County Public Defender. The data showed that 66% of all automatic transfers were for
non-violent drug crimes;
all but one youth was
a youth
of color, and all but one was from
African-American
youth
represent
African-American youth represent
the city of Chicago. The research
showedofthat
than 60% of the youth had had no
44 percent
themore
youth
83 percent of the youth
prior services in juvenile court,
such as in
supervision
or probation, before being automatically
population
Cook County
in adult jails in Cook County
transferred to adult court. Whether they were youth charged with non-violent drug crimes or
serious violent crimes, almost two-thirds had no prior services before the automatic transfer.
83% African-American
43% African-American
Research over the next several years by the Juvenile Justice Initiative confirmed these
findings. Virtually all youth automatically tried were youth of color. Sixty-six percent were tried
for non-violent drug crimes, and two-thirds or more of the youth had had no prior services in
juvenile court before being automatically transferred to the adult court.

In 1999, the data showed that
66% of all automatic transfers
were for non-violent drug
crimes; all but one youth were
youth of color, and all but one
were from the city of Chicago.
3% White

41% White

Judicial waivers in the form of discretionary, presumptive, or mandatory transfers also
occur in Illinois, but they account for a much smaller number of youth in the adult court
system. Cook County reported 52 discretionary transfers in 1998, while the other
counties in Illinois reported 41. In 2003, all counties outside of Cook reported 10

14% Other

PG. 65

Based on this research, several rounds of changes were made to the automatic transfer
laws. This has substantially reduced the number of youth entering the adult system via
automatic transfer. Approximately 150 youth under age 17 are automatically transferred
to adult court each year, down from well over 400 per year as late as 2004. Currently,
the majority of these youth are tried in adult court for violent offenses, but there are some
cases of non-violent offenses being automatically charged in adult court. Throughout
16% Other
the state, fewer than 100 youth are transferred each year via a juvenile
court judge and
6
a discretionary hearing. Outside of Cook County, very few automatic transfers occur. In
fact, in 2001, fewer than 25 transfers were reported to the Administrative Office of the
Illinois Courts from all other counties other than Cook. When each case was analyzed
further, only 14 of these cases were actual automatic transfers.

in Cook County and who are under adult justice
supervision are charged with non-violent offenses
88% non-violent offenses

PG. 66

discretionary transfers and 25 automatic transfers.7 However, it is unclear if these data are
accurate. Since the laws on transfer are so complicated and easily misunderstood, it is
unclear if officials reporting the transfers know how to classify each transfer.
In Illinois, youth of color are about a third of the youth population,
but have represented nine out of 10 young people in the adult system.
Although prior to the reforms to the state’s transfer laws data were not available to show
the disproportionate impact statewide, there are data on Cook County. Over a three-year
period (2000-2002), 99% of the youth automatically transferred to adult court in Cook
County were African-American or Latino.

Source: Juvenile Justice Initiative analysis of data from
the U.S. Census and the Cook County Jail conducted
for July 3, 2006.

violent
offenses analysis of Census data, in 2004 approximately
According to the12%
Justice
Department’s
19% of Illinois youth aged 17 were African-American and 16% were Latino.8 Although racial
and ethnic information on 17-year-olds in the adult court system statewide is not available,
a picture of 17-year-olds in the Cook County Jail reveals disproportionate representation
of youth of color. White youth (defined as “Caucasian”) represent 48% of the youth
population9 in Cook County, but 3% of the youth jailed in Cook County on a given day are
white. African-Americans represent 44% of the youth population in Cook County, but they
constitute 83% of the youth jailed.10 Youth defined as Latino represent 14% of the young
people jailed in Cook County. This means that 97% of the youth in the jail are non-white.

African-American youth represent
44 percent of the youth
population in Cook County
43% African-American

African-American youth represent
83 percent of the youth
in adult jails in Cook County
83% African-American

3% White
41% White
14% Other

16% Other

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES AFFECTED BY ILLINOIS’ LAWS
“Armed robbery” of gym clothes lands Keith Pearl
in jail and puts an adult conviction on his record.
Keith Pearl was 17 years old when he was arrested for two counts of armed robbery and
one count of attempted armed robbery. The incident involved three young people who
were charged with taking two pairs of gym shoes, two white tee-shirts, two silver-colored
chains, and six pairs of socks.
Pearl was charged under a theory of accountability; he never had possession or use of a
weapon, nor was he an active participant in the robbery. According to Pearl, he was in the

wrong place at the wrong time. Pearl was the only “offender” apprehended, and he had no
weapon and none of the stolen objects in his possession when he was arrested minutes
after the robbery. He pled to one count of robbery, was placed on probation, and now has a
felony conviction permanently on his record. Had Pearl gone to trial and been convicted for
the original charge, he would have faced a mandatory minimum of six years in the penitentiary.
Pearl had no previous arrests in either the juvenile or the adult criminal justice system. As a
result of the charge, he was detained at the Cook County Jail for several weeks.
Pearl is the oldest of two children who were raised by their maternal grandmother. He
has strong support from his immediate and extended family who attended all scheduled
court dates. He has now graduated from high school and has every intention of attending
college. Pearl was a junior deacon in his church and an active member of the youth group
and youth choir. He is an avid basketball player who spends much of his spare time
playing in organized sports in the community and at the youth center near his home.
As part of the legal representation, Pearl’s lawyers solicited input from school and
church officials who interacted with him on a regular basis. His pastor said that he had
always known Pearl to be “an honest and good young man.” His teachers all saw him as
motivated, with great potential. In order to make up the several weeks he missed while he
was in jail on this charge, he went to night school in addition to his day classes. He made
up the credits and graduated on time.
The judge in this case was very impressed by the motivation and potential of this young
man, but the sentencing options of the charges and the position of the state’s attorney’s
office prevented him from modifying the sentence. The impact of the felony conviction on the
rest of his life continues to unfold. As a result of this conviction, Pearl’s ability to get student
loans will be extremely compromised, as will his job opportunities upon graduation.

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN ILLINOIS?
Over the past few years, the tide has shifted dramatically in Illinois’ juvenile justice policy.
Legislation has been enacted to reform the transfer laws and to create a new Department
of Juvenile Justice. The Legislature also has passed a bill to raise the age of majority to 18.

At first, there was some resistance to change within the prosecution community. But by
2003, the Illinois Legislature began a series of steps to create a positive change in the
transfer laws. The first change allowed a reverse waiver for drug offenders automatically
tried in the adult court. Youth charged with certain drug crimes were allowed to petition
the adult court judges to transfer them back to juvenile court. The bill was sponsored
by Senator Ed Petka, a Republican, pro-prosecution legislator, who was referred to as
“Electric Ed”11 for his pro-death penalty stance.
But legislators and advocates claimed the 2003 reverse waiver reforms did not
significantly affect the number of youth ending up in the adult system. To find consensus
for deeper reforms, the Legislature created a Task Force on Transfer in 2004. This task
force was co-chaired by Senator John Cullerton and Representative Annazette Collins.
Public hearings were held over the summer and fall of 2004 and discussions about

Over the past few years, the
tide has shifted dramatically in
Illinois’ juvenile justice policy.
Legislation has been enacted
to reform the transfer laws and
to create a new Department of
Juvenile Justice. The Legislature
also has passed a bill to
raise the age of juvenile court
jurisdiction to 18.
PG. 67

Reforming the automatic transfer laws.
Beginning in 2001, the Illinois Legislature began reviewing the automatic transfer laws.
With evidence that the policies had a much greater impact on youth of color from innercity Chicago and that these policies resulted in mostly non-violent drug offenders being
automatically transferred to the adult court without a hearing in front of a judge, the
Legislature began considering a number of bills to change the automatic transfer statutes.

PG. 68

possible changes were held in the spring of 2005. During these hearings, legislators
learned about new research on the brain and adolescent development.
The outcome of the bi-partisan Task Force was more change to the transfer statute,
including a return of drug offenders to juvenile court. It also clarified and corrected
some inconsistencies in discretionary and presumptive transfer statutes and extended
jurisdiction juvenile statutes. Although the reforms allowed more youth to have
individualized hearings in front of a juvenile court judge, it did not allow youth eligible for
transfer an individualized review. The Task Force also did not address raising the age
of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18. In August 2005, Public Act 94-0574, allowing the
changes to the transfer statute, was signed into law. By all accounts, this has lessened
the number of youth automatically transferred by almost two-thirds.
Raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18.
While the changes to the transfer statutes were happening, there was also legislation
proposed to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18. In 2004, a bill passed
the House of Representatives with a sizable margin of victory and bi-partisan support.
Interestingly, Representative Bill Black, a conservative out of downstate Illinois, was quoted
on the House floor as saying, “I don’t understand why anyone would oppose this bill. I think
it is a common-sense measure.”12 This particular bill was not called in the Senate that year.
In 2005, a “raise the age” bill was introduced in the Senate, S. 458. It passed the Senate with
bi-partisan support. The main opposition came from the Department of Corrections and Cook
County. They claimed that the fiscal impact of this reform would be too great, particularly in
Cook County. Indeed, symbolic of the new policy consensus around having developmentally
appropriate, individually tailored juvenile justice policies, the only major concern has been that
there will not be enough resources to service all youth. Legislators and local government were
mainly concerned about costs. Despite these concerns, the Senate still passed the bill, with
Senator Cullerton noting, “because it is the right thing to do.”13

“Using 17-years-old as the
cutoff in Illinois was an
arbitrary number. With all
of the research that we now
have regarding juveniles, the
juvenile court should be given
jurisdiction for 17-year-olds.”
Judge Curtis Heaston, presiding
judge of the Juvenile Justice
Division, Cook County.14

Will “raising the age” have a large fiscal impact on Illinois counties?
Throughout 2006, researchers, legislators, and advocates have been working to get a
clear sense of the true fiscal impact of raising the age, so that appropriate resources can
be allocated to local and state government to help with the changes. Some legislators
have said, “The problem now is inconsistency with the law. We should change it now
and deal with the dollars later. We won’t give new allocations before we actually change
the law.”15 Local legislators have raised the biggest concerns. The Cook County Board
of Commissioners’ Legislative Committee held a hearing in April 2005 regarding S. 458
where it was clear that the commissioners wanted to see the change but had concerns
about the fiscal impact. Because of these concerns, by November 2006 the County
Board had changed its position on the bill to neutral.
The concern over the potential costs of raising the age of majority in Illinois does not fully
account for the savings that would come from the lower recidivism rates, lower crime
rates, and the increased economic productivity of young people who successfully leave
a life of crime behind them. Although there is research from other states demonstrating
that young people tried as adult recidivate at higher rates, Illinois does not collect the kind
of data needed to make projections of the fiscal impact of these rates. Still, stakeholders
know that raising the age will help reduce crime, and hence reduce the costs associated
with higher crime rates. Judge George Timberlake, Chief Judge of the 2nd Judicial Circuit
in Illinois, has said that, “If you want to reduce crime in our society, then it makes much
more sense to include 17-year-olds in the classification of juvenile court.”16
S. 458 failed to pass in the House in 2006. Like the reform to the transfer statutes, Illinois
policy debate around the age of jurisdiction may take more time to come to conclusion.
Legislators who have spoken out against the bill say they are only concerned about costs.

Most stakeholders claim that they would like to see 17-year-olds in the juvenile court, but
they do not want a bill to pass without appropriate funding. But legislators prefer to pass
the bill first and then, once there is an actual fiscal impact, provide funding at that time.
There are plans to reintroduce another bill to raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in
the spring of 2007.

ILLINOIS RECOMMENDATIONS
Although Illinois is a leader in reforming adultification of youth statues, it can do more.
With further reform, Illinois can reform the juvenile court so more youth will benefit from
juvenile court services and avoid the consequences of adult convictions.
• Raise the age for 17-year-olds.
If passed, 17-year-olds will benefit from juvenile court services and communities will be
safer, because youth with more treatment have lower recidivism rates.
• Allow all youth individualized discretion in terms of transfer.
All youth who are transferred to adult court should have a neutral party or judge make
the decision on transfer. This would ideally be done by a judge familiar with adolescent
development.
• Review sentences in adult court for youth.
Although the adult court is about punishment and adult consequences, the system
needs to review the length of sentences for youth in adult court to make sure that they
are age-appropriate.
• Provide appropriate rehabilitative services in juvenile court.
As the juvenile court changes with a new Department of Juvenile Justice and as the
changes to the automatic transfer laws return more youth to the juvenile court, it is
imperative that the juvenile court provide rehabilitative services to these youth so that
they have opportunities to improve their lives.

NOTES
C of the Circuit Clerk of Cook County charges, March 29,
2005 to March 28, 2006.
Lan, Y. A, Hughes, E, & Stevenson, P. (March 2006). Juvenile
justice system and risk factor data for Illinois: 2003 annual
report. Chicago, IL: Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, Illinois
Criminal Justice Information Authority.
7.
Ibid.
8.
Puzzanchera, C., Finnegan, T., & Kang, W. (2006). Easy access
to juvenile populations. Retrieved January 28, 2007, from
http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/ezapop/
9.
Ages 10 to 19 in Cook County in 2003.
10.
Juvenile Justice Initiative analysis of data from the U.S. Census
and the Cook County Jail conducted for July 3, 2006.
11.
Collar County endorsements [Editorial]. (2006, November 2).
The Chicago Tribune.
12.
House Bill 4610, House Floor Debate, Final Action, March
25, 2004.
13.
Senate Bill 458, Senate Floor Debate, Final Action, April 14,
2005.
14.
Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois. (2006, October 19).
Dialogue highlights imperative to recognize developmental
differences with kids. Senate Bill 458 reflects current science,
brings Illinois in line with majority of states (Press Release).
Chicago, IL: Author.
15.
Discussion on raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction,
Northwestern University School of Law, October 13, 2006.
16.
See Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois, 14.
6.

PG. 69

Since 1906, boys age 17 have been tried automatically
as adults, and in 1973, after a legal challenge based on
‘equal protection’ issues, girls 17 years of age were treated
automatically as adults.
2.
National Center for Juvenile Justice. (2006). State juvenile
justice profiles. Pittsburgh, PA: Author. Retrieved January 28,
2007, from http://www.ncjj.org/stateprofiles/
3.
705 ILCS 405/5-130.
4.
The number of 17-year-olds charged in adult court statewide
is not available. Data do show that 10,183 youth age 16 were
arrested in Cook County in 2003, and 5,135 youth age 16
were arrested in the other 101 counties in the state. According
to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, 17-year-olds are
arrested at approximately 112% of the number of 16-year-olds,
and 102% over the number of cases for 16-year-olds. Although
there would be some variation in arrest patterns between
ages, the volume of juvenile arrests would increase much more
for some offenses than for others, and the differences would
cancel each other out. For example, because 17-year-olds have
more access to cars and alcohol than younger juveniles, the
largest percentage increase would be in juvenile arrests for
driving under the influence—226%. See Snyder, H., Sickmund,
M., Puzzanchera, C., & Griffin, P. (2005, April 27). Background
briefing paper: The impact of raising the upper age of juvenile
court jurisdiction from 16 to 17. Pittsburgh, PA: National
Center for Juvenile Justice.
5.
Analysis of Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois review of Judicial
Advisory Council memorandum, April 2006. Exhibits A, B, and
1.

PG. 70

NORTH CAROLINA
WHAT IS THE LAW IN NORTH CAROLINA?
In North Carolina, there are a number of ways young people under age 18 who commit
crimes can be tried and sentenced as adults. Since 1919, state law has given jurisdiction
of youth ages 16 and 17 to the adult criminal justice system. Since then, laws have been
enacted that allow cases for youth ages 13 to 15 to be transferred—automatically in the
case of alleged first-degree murder—to the adult criminal justice system. Once transferred,
the law provides limited access to appeal the transfer decision.
The upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction in North Carolina is 15.
In North Carolina, the age of majority is 18, but the age of juvenile court jurisdiction
allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be tried as adults.1 This means that all 16- and 17-yearolds arrested for any offense, regardless of whether the offense is violent or non-violent,
are automatically treated and tried as adults. North Carolina, Connecticut, and New York
are the only three states in the country that end juvenile court jurisdiction at age 16.2
Of the three, North Carolina is the only state that does not allow youth to appeal for a
reverse waiver so that they can be transferred back to the juvenile justice system.
Youth as young as 13 may face mandatory
waiver to adult court for Class A felonies (statutory exclusion).
In 19933 a Special Crime Session of the North Carolina General Assembly passed the
Structured Sentencing Act. The law included a provision that reduced the minimum
age that a youth’s case could be transferred to Superior Court (adult court) to 13. As
a result, young people ages 13 and over can be sentenced to life without parole. This
law took effect in 1994 and stated that following a probable cause hearing, youth ages
13 and over who face Class A felony charges must be transferred to adult court for trial
and sentencing.4

[In North Carolina,] all 16and 17-year-olds arrested for
any offense, regardless of
whether the offense is violent
or non-violent, are automatically
treated and tried as adults.

PG. 71

Young people age 13 to 15 may be transferred
to adult court for lower-level felonies (judicial waiver).
North Carolina’s discretionary judicial waiver statute allows juvenile court judges to
transfer into adult court young people as young as 13 accused of felonies. The process
of transfer is as follows. Within 10 days after a petition alleging delinquency has been

PG. 72

filed charging a youth with a felony, a hearing is held in juvenile court to consider a
young person’s continued custody, inform the young person of the charges, appoint
counsel, set a date for the next hearing, and contact the guardian. Then a second
hearing is held, where a juvenile district court judge determines whether probable cause
exists that the youth may have committed any felony other than first-degree murder.
Except for first-degree murder, the severity of the felony charges that these young
people face plays no role in the decision to transfer. If probable cause is established,
the district court judge determines whether the youth should remain in juvenile court or
be transferred to superior court for trial as an adult. Motions to transfer may be made
by the district court itself, prosecutors, or the young person’s counsel. A judge may
consider up to eight factors when considering whether to transfer certain felonies to
superior court:
• the youth’s age;
• the youth’s maturity;
• the youth’s intellectual functioning;
• the youth’s prior record;
• prior attempts to rehabilitate the youth;
• facilities or programs available to the court during the time it would have jurisdiction
over the youth and the likelihood that the youth would benefit from treatment or
rehabilitative efforts;
• whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or
willful manner; and

When youth who are 14 and
15 years old are arrested, and
if their case merits that they
remain in secure custody, they
can be detained in a county jail.

• the seriousness of the offense and whether the protection of the public requires that the
youth be prosecuted as an adult.5
North Carolina, unlike Connecticut
and New York, lacks a reverse waiver provision.
In North Carolina, youth whose cases are being prosecuted in adult court cannot be
transferred back down to the juvenile court system. A youth may appeal if he or she
believes there is abuse of discretion in the transfer decision to superior court. The superior
court judge can only review the transfer decision for an abuse of discretion; the judge
cannot review the probable cause findings.6
North Carolina is a “once an adult, always an adult” state.
After a youth is transferred to and convicted in superior court, he or she must be prosecuted
as an adult for any charge thereafter, no matter how minor the subsequent offense.7
Young people who are being detained
until trial may be housed in adult facilities.
When youth who are 14 and 15 years old are arrested, and if their case merits that they
remain in secure custody, they can be detained in a county jail. Youth detained in county
jails are closely supervised and separated from the adult population by both sight and
sound.8 Youth alleged to have committed certain felonies9 may be placed in “holdover
facilities” in jails for up to 72 hours, but only if the court, based on information provided by
the court counselor, determines that no acceptable alternative placement is available and
that the protection of the public requires that the youth be housed in a holdover facility.
The Department of Health and Human Services must inspect holdover facilities in jails to
ensure that they provide close supervision of youth in custody and that sight and sound

separation from the adult population is maintained.10 Once a youth is indicted, superior
court judges make the decision about whether to detain young people who have been
transferred to adult court in juvenile or adult facilities.11 Again, youth detained in adult
facilities must be closely supervised and separated from the adult population by sight and
sound.12 Efforts are also made to keep violent and non-violent offenders separated; they
also try to keep older youth separated from younger youth.
Once young people are tried and convicted in adult court,
they must serve their sentences in adult correctional facilities.13
North Carolina does not allow judges to sentence transferred youth, regardless of their
age, to serve any part of their sentences in juvenile facilities.14 Upon conviction, they
must immediately be transferred to the Department of Correction (DOC). The DOC
has six primary facilities in which “youthful offenders,” young people age 13 to 20, are
housed. Although the facilities vary in terms of age ranges and custody levels, all male
youth under age 18 are generally sent to the Western Youth Institution; female youth are
sent to the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women where many serve their
entire sentence but some are transferred at age 20.15 With few exceptions, inmates
younger than 16 are prohibited from being incarcerated in Central Prison.16 These youth
are generally incarcerated in one of five DOC facilities: Foothills Correctional Institution,
Morrison Correctional Institution, North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women,
Polk Correctional Institution, and Western Youth Institution.17 Although there are no
legal statutes governing the incarceration of youth under age 25, the North Carolina
DOC has a number of policies that it applies to this group. Male youthful offenders with
felony convictions are kept separate from inmates who are older than 25. Felons and
misdemeanants who are younger than 19 are processed and incarcerated at Western
Youth Institution. Males age 19 to 25 serving sentences for misdemeanors are housed
with their older inmates in minimum custody facilities.18 Since females represent a much
smaller portion of North Carolina’s youthful offender populations, there are no separate
youth prisons for female youthful offenders. Therefore, female youthful offenders are
incarcerated in women’s prisons with the general population.19

North Carolina does not allow
judges to sentence transferred
youth, regardless of their
age, to serve any part of their
sentences in juvenile facilities.

An April 2006 analysis of data from the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advocacy
Commission and the DOC showed that in fiscal year 2001/02 there were 13,038 youthful
offenders under some form of supervision.24

PG. 73

North Carolina no longer has a “youthful offenders” code.
Prior to the early 1990s, youth who were younger than 21 years old and serving
sentences in adult facilities were given “youthful offender” status. This status was
intended “to improve the chances of correction, rehabilitation, and successful return to
the community of youthful offenders sentenced to imprisonment by preventing, as far
as practicable, their association during their terms of imprisonment with older and more
experienced criminals, and by closer coordination of the activities of sentencing, training
in custody, parole, and final discharge.”20 In 1993, in an effort to address concerns
about rising crime rates, and to make sentencing more meaningful and equitable, the
North Carolina General Assembly passed the Structured Sentencing Act. Implemented
in 1994, the Structured Sentencing Act repealed provisions that established “youthful
offender” status. This change in the statute abolished parole for everyone but first-time
misdemeanants, and required all offenders (including youthful offenders) to serve their
entire sentence.21 The term “youthful offender” continues to be used in North Carolina,
however it now “refers only to offenders who commit offenses between their 16th and
21st birthdays, and youth transferred from the juvenile courts for trial as adults.”22 “The
DOC defines “youthful inmates” as being between the ages of 13 and 25. The lower part
of the age range contains youth between 13 and 15 charged with felonies and transferred
to the criminal court system for trial as adults. Due to a decline in the number of prison
admissions for youthful offenders over the last several years, the DOC has increased the
upper age range for youthful inmates from 21 to 25.”23

PG. 74

Nearly 70% of the young
people in the North Carolina
Department of Correction
were African-American,
Latino, or Native American.

The youth prisons used to incarcerate youthful
offenders focus primarily on retribution rather than rehabilitation.
The “youth prisons,” which are operated by the North Carolina Department of Correction
(DOC), differ from Youth Development Centers (YDC), which are operated by the North
Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (NCDJJDP). YDCs
are treatment-focused and embrace the philosophy of rehabilitation. As a way to promote
successful re-entry, youth who are committed to these facilities are able to maintain their
connections to the communities they will re-enter.25 And after they serve their sentences at
a YDC, their criminal records are expunged. In contrast, North Carolina law does not require
facilities operated by the Department of Correction to provide specific programs or services
to youth under its care. Youthful inmates in the DOC do have priority for participation in
educational, vocational, or technical training, but youth who have served their sentences in
Youth Prison Facilities leave with criminal records that cannot be expunged.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN NORTH CAROLINA?
Race and ethnicity:
The disproportionate impact of adultification on youth of color.
In 2005, there were 407 young people26 under the age of 18 in adult prison facilities in
North Carolina. Seventy-eight percent27 of these young people were 17, 20% were 16,
and 2% were 15. Non-white youth were overrepresented among the young people under
custody by the adult DOC. Nearly 70% of the young people in the North Carolina DOC
were African-American, Latino, or Native American.28

Among the number of young
people in the North Carolina
prisons in 2005, the majority
of young people under the
jurisdiction of the adult DOC
were there for offenses the
FBI would classify as nonviolent crimes.

Offense type: Half the young people
in adult custody are there for non-violent crimes.
Among the number of young people in the North Carolina prisons in 2005, the majority
(55%) of young people under the jurisdiction of the adult DOC were there for offenses
the FBI would classify as non-violent29 crimes. Among those under custody for violent
crimes, 5% of the young people were under the custody of the DOC for homicide, 6% for
rape, 15% for assault, and 19% for robbery. However, among the 55% of youth who were
under DOC custody for non-violent crimes, 19% were there for breaking and entering,
9% were there for drug offenses, and 14% were there for larceny. Twenty young people
were under the custody of the adult DOC for “other public order offenses,” and 10 were in
custody for traffic offenses.30
Adult corrections: Admissions,
releases, and community supervision (probation).
During the 2005 calendar year, 3,863 youth (3,109 males, 754 females) under the age of
18 were on probation/parole/post-release.31 In 2001/02, 2,832 youthful offenders entered
prison and 10,206 were placed on probation.32 Although it is not clear how many of the
10,000 young people under community supervision spent time in an adult jail or an adult
facility, these youth may face some of the collateral consequences of an adult conviction.
Recidivism and re-offending.
The DOC notes that youth under their supervision, whether in prison or not, represent
a significant correctional issue: “The challenge for the courts, corrections, and society
at large is to impose sanctions to deter recidivism with this age group while providing
programs to rehabilitate and reintegrate them, truncating an otherwise lengthy and
possibly escalating criminal career.”33 The DOC found that young people in prison had a
higher re-arrest rate than young people on probation. Of the three groups they looked at
(youthful prisoners, youthful probationers, and adult prisoners), youthful prisoners were
the most likely to be rearrested.34 Of the three groups studied, youthful prisoners were the

most likely to experience a recidivist incarceration.35 Although these data did not control
for offense background and other characteristics, they do suggest that sending young
people to adult prison is not achieving public safety goals.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES
AFFECTED BY NORTH CAROLINA’S LAWS
Although no one story can capture the impact of North Carolina’s adultification statutes, a
drug case that caused dozens of young people to receive drug felony convictions reveals
the issues at play.
In the fall of 2004, headlines in North Carolina were dominated by news of a six-school
undercover sting operation in the Alamance-Burlington high school system that resulted
in the arrests of 60 students under age 18. In accordance with the State’s 1919-enacted
“Juvenile Court Act,” of the 60 arrested in the sting operation, those 16 and over faced
felony charges and were automatically under the jurisdiction of the state’s adult criminal
justice system. Forty-five of the 60 youth pled guilty and were sentenced to three years’
probation. Although most did not serve prison time, some, including Jeff Webster, served
active sentences. Regardless, the convictions continue to seriously affect the lives of
these young people.
JamesOn Curry: A mistake narrowly redeemed.
JamesOn Curry was 17 years old when arrested for selling marijuana to an undercover
police officer posing as a fellow student as part of the sting operation. After the officer
purchased marijuana on previous occasions, the officer videotaped JamesOn selling the
officer marijuana in the school parking lot. The district attorney said Curry’s profit on these
two drug deals was $95.36
In April 2004, Curry pleaded guilty to six felony drug counts, including two counts each
of possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana; sale and delivery of marijuana;
and possession and selling and delivering a controlled substance on school grounds.37
Judge Kenneth C. Titus suspended his sentence, placed him on probation for 36
months, and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service. Because he was
not allowed to return to his high school, Curry attended an alternative school in the area
and graduated in May.38

Curry’s adult felony conviction
put much of his future at risk.
Because North Carolina law
places youth age 16 and over
under the jurisdiction of adult
criminal courts, Curry has
an adult criminal record that
is not sealed and cannot be
expunged.

Curry was a promising high school basketball player and he hoped to parlay that talent
into a college education. In fact, when Curry was just a sophomore, University of North
Carolina coach, Matt Doherty, committed an athletic scholarship to him. The year Curry
was arrested, he was ranked among the best high school players in the country, scoring
40.3 points per game in 2003, including 65 points in one game. Over his high school
career, he scored 3,307 points, exceeding the number of points James Worthy or Michael
Jordan scored in their high school careers.

PG. 75

Curry’s adult felony conviction put much of his future at risk. Because North Carolina law
places youth age 16 and over under the jurisdiction of adult criminal courts, Curry has an
adult criminal record that is not sealed and cannot be expunged. Subsequently, Curry’s
arrest and conviction was brought to the attention of the University of North Carolina’s
new head coach, Roy Williams. Williams decided to rescind the scholarship. Curry had
been recruited by Roy Williams’s predecessor and Williams had committed to honoring
Doherty’s offers to all incoming recruits unless they’d robbed “a bank or something.”
Williams stated later, “Well, he did rob a bank, or something.”

PG. 76

Curry understood Williams’s decision: “I had the scholarship as long as I didn’t screw
up. I screwed up.” Fortunately, three months after his arrest, Curry signed a new letter
of intent to attend Oklahoma State, which had reached the Final Four in 2004. Before
signing, Coach Eddie Sutton told Curry what Oklahoma State expected of him and that
his “margin for error was zero.”
Before offering the scholarship, Oklahoma State’s basketball coaches did a lot of
investigating into both Curry’s basketball abilities and his character. “Nobody had a bad
word to say about him,” said Assistant Coach James Dickey. “I’ve been around a lot of
kids, and some have expressed remorse and not meant it. I believed JamesOn meant it.”
“He sat in my office and tears came to his eyes,” Oklahoma State Athletic Director Harry
Birdwell said. “And he told me: ‘I embarrassed my family and all the people who trusted
in me. I want to make amends. If you give me a second chance, I will not let you down.’ I
thought the kid was telling me the truth.”
In summer 2005, Curry was one of 20 individuals selected to try out for Team USA.
Although an injury forced his withdrawal from the try-outs, the opportunity to play for
Team USA drew criticism from those concerned about Curry’s criminal record. However,
Sean Ford, the director for the men’s USA basketball program stated: “It seems like
he’s made tremendous progress from the bad decision he made... As a committee, we
didn’t feel—based on the progress he made, the season he had, the second chance he’s
taking advantage of—that we were putting ourselves at tremendous risk by including him
in these trials.”39
Curry’s story of redemption is an unfinished one. As Curry reflected after his first exhibition
game wearing a University of Oklahoma Cowboys’ uniform, “I had never been in trouble
before, but for the people out there that think I need to prove myself to them, I’ve got to
set a perfect example that I am not that type of person... History tends to repeat itself, so I
try not to look back as much and try to walk as straight as I can.”40
Jeff Webster: Second chances do not come easily.
Jeff Webster was 17 years old when he was arrested for selling marijuana to a female
undercover officer. Webster bought marijuana for her on three occasions in 2003:
October 30, November 4, and November 12. The officer gave him money, which he used
to purchase the drugs from known dealers at school. He did not profit from the sales.
Webster admitted to friends that he had a crush on the officer and testified that she flirted
with him, hinted to his friends that they planned to attend the prom together, and that
she even hugged him on occasion. Webster said they “often walked in school hallways
holding hands.” According to newspaper accounts of his testimony, Webster agreed to
sell her drugs within 10 minutes of their initial encounter. He testified, “I was trying to get
her good prices and impress her in a way... I had never purchased any drugs or received
any drugs for anyone before.” “I was attracted to her and was thinking about things that
17-year-old boys think about when being pursued by a very attractive girl who usually
wears very provocative clothes,” he said. “She zeroed in on me. Now I realize that she
used me to get in with the popular crowd.”41
Webster was arrested and charged with three felony counts: possession with the intent
to sell and deliver marijuana, selling marijuana, and delivering marijuana.42 Webster, whom
character witnesses described as a model citizen who attended church three days per
week, volunteered in the community, did well in school (3.7 grade point average and
12th in his class),43 and worked two jobs, asserted that he was entrapped because the
undercover officer flirted with him and led him to believe that she would go out with him.44
After his arrest, Webster was shocked by the realization that he was to be treated and
tried as an adult. In addition, he was surprised to learn that the charges he faced were

felonies. “I thought what I had done was a misdemeanor. Had I known that it was a
felony, it would have changed my decision to obtain marijuana for her.”45 Webster had
planned to join the military as a means to pay for his college education. Concerned that
a felony conviction would prevent him from joining the military, Webster offered to serve
an active sentence if the district attorney would reduce the charges to misdemeanors.46
The district attorney rejected the offer, and Webster elected to claim entrapment as his
defense in his trial.
When asked about his experience as a defendant, Webster identified several aspects
of the trial that appeared unfair and prevented him from proving entrapment. First, the
undercover officer had recorded all her conversations with Webster. However, a key
conversation—the conversation in which Webster informed the undercover officer that he
didn’t feel right about buying her drugs and that he would no longer buy them for her—was
“accidentally recorded over” before the jury had an opportunity to hear it. Webster said, “I
felt like I had been set up.”47
Second, before the defense had an opportunity to prepare Webster for questioning, the
judge stipulated that Webster be the first of the defense witnesses; he went before the
court without preparation.48 According to newspaper accounts, the prosecuting attorney
asked Webster, “So she didn’t persuade you in any way or trick you in any way on that first
occasion, did she?”49 Webster responded, “Not in any verbal way. No sir, she did not.”50
Third, the prosecution attempted to make the undercover officer appear less
attractive to the jury. In response to the defense’s request that the prosecution admit
into evidence examples of clothing that the undercover officer wore at school, the
prosecution produced baggy jeans and sweatshirts rather than the tight-fitting, lowcut halter tops that Webster had been accustomed to seeing her wear. “What [the
prosecution] produced was nothing I’d ever seen her wear before,” says Webster. And
last, Webster claims that the judge allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence in the
trial without first notifying defense counsel.51
After an hour of deliberation, the jury found Webster guilty on all nine counts.52 During
sentencing, in reference to Webster’s answer about whether the undercover officer had
tricked him, Judge J.B. Allen said, “You got on the witness stand and convicted yourself.”53

Judge Allen did not see any benefit to imposing the maximum sentence of six years for
all nine charges. Instead, Webster was sentenced to serve five to six months in prison
followed by three years of probation.55 Webster served a five-month sentence in Western
Youth Institution, where he was incarcerated in a minimum-security section with other
youthful offenders, most of whom were serving sentences for non-violent offenses, such
as breaking and entering and drug-related crimes.
“I willed myself to get through the experience... You never feel totally safe in prison... There
were fights everyday, and you always had to be careful about keeping others from stealing
your stuff... There was a lot of gang activity... It was a very difficult time not to be able to
see my family. You don’t realize how important your family is until you have them taken
from you...”56
Although his prison experience was very difficult, Webster developed positive
relationships with a corrections officer and a counselor. He learned to respect them
because of their willingness to help him and because they treated him with dignity. While
in prison, Webster was also able to complete the courses he needed to graduate from

“You never feel totally safe
in prison...There were fights
everyday.... You don’t realize
how important your family is
until you have them taken from
you...” –Jeff Webster

PG. 77

“I was shocked by the conviction. I didn’t think I’d be convicted. My head fell to the table.
It was like a slap in the face,” Webster says.54

PG. 78

Cummings High School, and he worked three different jobs, including Keeper of the Yard,
the highest-paying job ($1 per day) you could obtain in the prison.57
Webster was released in September 2004. Now his felony conviction creates a number
of barriers to employment and education. Luckily for Webster, after his trial one of the
jurors approached his parents and offered to help Webster find an Information Technology
(IT) job after he was released. Webster followed up with the juror immediately after his
release, but it took five months before the juror was able to help him get hired. After two
years, he continues to enjoy his job, but he notes that quitting is not an option because
finding another well-paying job would be extremely difficult.58
Webster’s felony conviction has also made it difficult for him to attend college. Before the
conviction, Webster had a partial academic scholarship to North Carolina State and had
planned on enlisting in the U.S. Air Force to help pay for the remaining college expenses.
As was the case with JamesOn Curry’s athletic scholarship, Webster’s scholarship was
rescinded upon his conviction. He is also no longer eligible to join the military. Unlike
Curry, no recruiters have approached Webster with offers of a second chance. However,
Webster wants to own his own IT business someday and knows that higher education will
help him to achieve his goal. So he is making his own second chance by taking courses at
the local community college. Unfortunately, he cannot quit his job to take classes full time.
Webster explains that often the courses he needs to take at the community college are
not offered at times when he can attend.
Webster was released from prison for good behavior, has paid all his restitution
(approximately $2,100), and continues to work to prove that he is a good person who
made a youthful mistake. As Webster notes, “Just because you made a mistake doesn’t
mean that you are a terrible person.”59

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA?

Webster was released in
September 2004. His felony
conviction has made it difficult
for him to attend college.

Sentencing Commission studies judicial
processing of young people, age 16 to 21 years.
The Almance-Burlington High School System drug sting discussed in this chapter’s
profiles occurred in the district of Representative Alice Bordsen, a member of the North
Carolina General Assembly. In 2005, Bordsen introduced legislation60 (H.B. 1298)
folded into an “omnibus” study bill (H.B. 1723) that was enacted on August 18, 2006.
The Act authorizes the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission to
“study issues related to the conviction and sentencing of youthful offenders aged 16
to 21 years, to determine whether the State should amend the laws concerning these
offenders, including, but not limited to, revisions of the Juvenile Code and/or the Criminal
Procedure Act that would provide appropriate sanctions, services, and treatment for such
offenders.” In anticipation of the passage of the study bill and at Bordsen’s request, the
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission established the Youthful
Offender Subcommittee in 2005. Chaired by Judge Fred Morrison and William Dudley
(Vice Chair), the Subcommittee met six times in 2005 and 2006. On December 1, 2006,
the Subcommittee approved its final report, including five policy recommendations (most
summarized in this chapter’s Recommendations section). The Act also requires the
Commission to consult with the state’s Departments of Health and Human Services,
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and Public Instruction and submit a report to
the General Assembly by March 1, 2007.61
North Carolina debates “raising the age.”
As previously noted, North Carolina is only one of three states where, regardless of the

severity of the offense, youth age 16 and 17 are automatically tried and sentenced as
adults. In September 1997, Governor James Hunt created the Governor’s Commission
on Juvenile Crime and Justice to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of North
Carolina’s juvenile justice system. It examined the implications associated with increasing
the age of adult jurisdiction to 18. At that time, the committee determined that the costs
associated with increasing the age to 18 would be prohibitive and would overburden
the State’s limited juvenile justice resources, and so it recommended keeping the age of
jurisdiction at 16.62
A decade later, policymakers are reconsidering the age of jurisdiction. During their
meetings in 2006, the North Carolina Sentencing Commission’s Youthful Offender
Subcommittee discussed how they should carefully consider changing the age of
jurisdiction. The Subcommittee’s final report recommended that the state “[i]ncrease the
age of juvenile jurisdiction to persons who, at the time they commit a crime or infraction,
are under the age of 18. Traffic offenses committed by persons 16 and older will remain
within the jurisdiction of the adult criminal courts.” They also recommended that the
state “delay the implementation of the change in juvenile jurisdiction by [two years] after
passage of the bill and create a task force to analyze legal, systemic, and organizational
changes required; to determine necessary resources; and to produce a detailed road map
for implementation of the new law.”63

Does North Carolina need more community programs for young people and does the
state need to improve their efficacy? During their meetings in 2006, several members
of the North Carolina Sentencing Commission’s Youthful Offender Subcommittee
were concerned about the lack of resources for youthful offenders, including
community diversion and reentry programs. Community programs, both adult- and
youth-specific, are important components in the state’s efforts to support offenders
who are likely to respond to therapeutic approaches that help these individuals
successfully reenter their communities. As stated, prior to the enactment of the
Structured Sentencing Act in 1994, young people 21 years old and serving sentences
in adult facilities were governed by statutes that intended “to improve the chances of
correction, rehabilitation, and successful return to the community of youthful offenders
sentenced to imprisonment by preventing, as far as practicable, their association
during their terms of imprisonment with older and more experienced criminals, and
by closer coordination of the activities of sentencing, training in custody, parole, and
final discharge.”66 Changes to the age of jurisdiction and sentencing statutes would
need to be made as part of a larger approach to delivering community-based services,
supervision, and alternatives to incarcerations.
Should North Carolina implement blended sentencing? North Carolina is the only
one of the states that transfers youth to adult court that lacks blended sentencing, a
sentencing tool that allows courts to impose juvenile dispositions in addition to adult
sentences for serious juvenile offenders who are 14 years of age or older. Whether

“I don’t think there’s any
question; yes, I think they
would.” —George Sweat,
Secretary of the North Carolina
Department of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention,
responding to whether youthful
offenders (16 and 17) would
have a better chance in the
juvenile system.

PG. 79

When asked whether youthful offenders (16 and 17) would have a better chance in the
juvenile system, George Sweat, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention answered, “I don’t think there’s any question; yes,
I think they would.”64 Sweat, however, has raised concerns about the state’s ability to
effectively absorb an influx of youth age 17 and 18 into the juvenile justice system. He
believes it would be a challenge to bring these young people into this system at a time
when the agency is in the middle of a reform process that includes attempting to move
young people, 16 and under, into smaller, more therapeutic facilities that are accessible to
families. “Research shows that raising the minimum juvenile age is the right thing to do,”
Sweat says. “However, the options for raising the juvenile age must be carefully weighed
in terms of cost, impact, and timing.”65

PG. 80

North Carolina could use blended sentencing is questionable. Some in the state
believe that the state’s constitution, which guarantees the right to trial by jury, would
prohibit implementation of blended sentences. Juvenile dispositions in North Carolina
are decided by bench trials rather than jury trials. This raises a question of whether the
constitutional rights of youth who go on to serve the adult sanctions of their blended
sentences would be violated; they are considered convicted as adults, yet were not
allowed trials by jury.67 Others disagree, believing that criminal models of blended
sentencing could be imposed in North Carolina, but the conviction in adult court would
still leave the offender with an adult criminal record.68
Collateral consequences and expunging
the records of juveniles convicted as adults.
Once convicted as adults, youth who are tried and sentenced as adults face life-long
barriers, including barriers to education and employment.
Since North Carolina’s age of adult jurisdiction is 16, students who have criminal
records may experience some barriers to postsecondary education. The University
of North Carolina system includes six standard questions about applicants’ criminal
histories. Students may be denied admission to North Carolina state universities if
they have been convicted of any crime other than a traffic-related misdemeanor or
an infraction; however, admitting to a criminal history does not result in an automatic
denial of admission.69 Although the decision to admit students with criminal histories
is left to each of the 16 constituent campuses, UNC officials assert that students are
more likely to be denied admission to the University of North Carolina for omitting
pertinent information about their criminal backgrounds on their applications than for
merely admitting their criminal backgrounds.70 Students may not be denied admission
to the state’s community colleges based on criminal background. However, community
colleges often discourage students with criminal backgrounds from pursuing certain
careers, such as nursing, that prohibit licenses and credentials to people who have
criminal backgrounds.71 People who have felony convictions also are not allowed to join
the military, an option young people often take to help pay for college.

Once convicted as adults, youth
who are tried and sentenced as
adults face life-long barriers,
including barriers to education
and employment.

In addition to the impediments youth face when attempting to go to college, background
checks make finding employment difficult. Furthermore, insurance companies are reluctant
to provide insurance for employers who hire convicted offenders.
Rep. Alice Bordsen, concerned about the stigma that inevitably supplements a criminal
conviction, has stated that early exposure to the criminal justice system builds a “complete
box” around youth. In response to the Almance-Burlington High School System drug sting,
the State House of Representatives passed a bill (H.B. 1084) in 2005 that would allow
first-offender youth who have been convicted of non-violent crimes before they turned
18 to petition the court to expunge their records. Petitions could be submitted two years
after the youths’ convictions or after the completion of sentences (including post-release
supervision), and after serving 100 hours of community service. The State Senate did
not consider the bill. According to Judge Ronald Payne, a member of the North Carolina
Sentencing Commission’s Youthful Offender Subcommittee, expunction is useful. Those
who favor expunction want to ensure that limits exist, including a waiting period for the
record to be expunged. If the case takes a long time to expunge, social, education, and
employment opportunities for youth who have been convicted as adults will continue to be
negatively impacted.72

NORTH CAROLINA RECOMMENDATIONS
As part of their 2006 report to the Legislature,73 the Sentencing Commission
recommended that legislators consider a number of changes to adult and juvenile statutes
that would reform how young people are treated.
• Increase the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to persons who,
at the time they commit a crime or infraction, are under the age of 18.74
To deal with concerns over the impact of the change on the juvenile justice system,
the Sentencing Commission recommends a two-year phase-in for the implementation
of the change in juvenile jurisdiction by creating a task force after passage of the
bill to analyze the legal, systemic, and organizational changes required to determine
necessary resources, and to produce a detailed road map for implementation of
the new law. Although the Sentencing Commission did not recommend it, the twoyear implementation phase-in could take steps to ensure that youth (16 to 18) who
are convicted of crimes during the long implementation period may be eligible for
retroactive juvenile dispositions, including sealing or expunging records.
• Develop a “transfer back” mechanism.
Adopt a post-conviction procedure for youth transferred to and convicted in Superior
Court by which the Court, in lieu of imposing a criminal sentence, may return the offender
to the exclusive jurisdiction of the District Court for entry of a juvenile disposition.
• Adopt a youthful offender status for sentencing in adult court.
The state should make it possible for a sentencing judge, upon plea or verdict of guilt,
to defer judgment for offenders under 21 for a period of special, supervised probation
that, if successful, would result in discharge of the defendant, dismissal of the charge,
and eligibility for expunction of the records of arrest and prosecution.
The Sentencing Commission recommendations to the legislature would represent
a significant step towards making North Carolina’s adultification statutes consistent
with other states’ statutes. It would take into account new research on adolescent
development, as well as the research on the impact of sending youth into the adult
system. The state could also consider other policy options to improve rehabilitation
opportunities for young people and promote public safety.
• Increase dispositional options for judges for young people.
Along with extending the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, the age of
extended juvenile jurisdiction for dispositional purposes for delinquent youth could
be extended from 18 to 21 to ensure that fair and meaningful dispositions can be
implemented for young people.
• Support the ability of young people to expunge their records.
The state could enact legislation to allow individuals who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes in adult court committed before they turned 21 to petition to expunge
their criminal records. These records could be sealed for the duration of the waiting
period to ensure access to employment and educational opportunities for youth who
are reentering the community.

PG. 81

• Develop community-based alternatives to incarceration for young people.
The state should adequately invest in treatment and diversion strategies that provide
judges with suitable sentencing options that are proven to rehabilitate youth while
protecting public safety. They should do so by ensuring access to, and sufficient
resources for, youth (13 to 21) who are currently serving adult sentences.

PG. 82

• Abolish “once an adult, always an adult.”
This would ensure suitable access to services provided by the juvenile justice system
for youth 18 and under who have been previously convicted as adults.
• Increase the age that youth can be tried as adults from 13 to 15.
Very few jurisdictions see 13-year-olds entering the adult system. North Carolina has
already taken steps in this direction by raising the age in most cases to 14.

NOTES
Mason, J. (2004, October). Confidentiality in juvenile
proceedings. UNC School of Government, http://www.iog.unc.
edu/pubs/electronicversions/pdfs/ss19.pdf
2.
The National Center for Juvenile Justice. (2005, August).
State juvenile justice profile. http://www.ncjj.org/stateprofiles/
overviews/upperage.asp
3.
Minutes from North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory
Commission Youthful Offenders Subcommittee Meeting on
January 13, 2006, in the Correction Enterprises’ Conference
Room at the Department of Correction facility with Dr. James
Howell regarding American thinking on juvenile jurisprudence, p.5.
4.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2200 (2006).
5.
Mason, J. (1999, January 1). Juvenile justice reform act. Chapel
Hill, NC: Institute of Government, The University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://www.juvjus.state.nc.us/about/
reform.html
6.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1064 (b) (2006).
7.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1064 (b)
8.
See Mason, J., 5.
9.
Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felonies.
10.
See Mason, J., 5.
11.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2204 (2006).
12.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1501 (11) (2006).
13.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2204) (2006).
14.
Note, however, that the Governor may order the transfer of
any young person under 18 from any jail to one of the juvenile
residential facilities after consultation with the Department of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 7B-2517 (2006).
15.
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission
Youthful Offender Subcommittee [Meeting Minutes]. (2006,
March 31). Raleigh, NC: The North Carolina Department of
Correction. pp. 31-32.
16.
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission
Youthful Offender Subcommittee. (2006, December 1).
Final report. Raleigh, NC: The North Carolina Department of
Correction.
17.
Ibid.
18.
Ibid.
19.
Flinchum, T., Jones, K., Hevener, G., Moore-Gurrera, M., &
Katzenelson, S. (2006). Correctional program evaluation:
Offenders placed on probation or released from prison in
fiscal year 2001/02. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of
Corrections, Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission.
p. 79.
20.
The Committed Youthful Offender Code, N.C.G.S 148-49, et
seq. (repealed 1993).
21.
State Strategies to manage budget shortfalls. (2003, January).
National Conference of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.
org/programs/fiscal/fpssmbsnc.htm
22.
See North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory
Commission, 16.
23.
Ibid.
24.
See Flinchum, T., et al., 19.
25.
National Center for Juvenile Justice data. http://www.ncjj.
org/stateprofiles/profiles/ NC06.asp?topic=Profile&state=%2
Fstateprofiles%2Fprofiles%2FNC06.asp
26.
Collected from the Office of Research and Planning, Department
of Correction, North Carolina, on July 20, 2006 and July 24
2006. All data and statistics concern youth under the age of 18
during the calendar year of 2005. Fourteen [10 males, 4 females],
however, were “safekeepers”—defined as “individuals who
have been charged with a crime but have yet to be adjudicated
and who are court ordered into the custody of DOC. The 14
“safekeepers” are configured into the data results that follow.
1.

Of the 17-year-olds, 303 were males and 16 were females; of
the 16-year-olds, 74 were males and 10 were females; and of
the 15-year-olds, three were males and one was female.
28.
Of these 407 young people, 64% were African-American (243
males, 18 females), 5% were known to be Latino (18 males, 1
female), two were Native American, and seven were defined as
“other” (6 males, 1 female). One hundred and nineteen were
European/Caucasian (113 males, 6 females).
29.
The FBI categorizes homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated
assault as violent crimes.
30.
See Office of Research and Planning, 26.
31.
Ibid.
32.
See Flinchum, T., et al., 19.
33.
Ibid.
34.
Ibid.
35.
Ibid.
36.
Berkow, I. (2004, May 31). Basketball: A star. An arrest. A
second chance. The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.
com/gst/abstract.html?res= F40A12FE3D550C728FDDAC0
894DC404482&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%
2fOrganizations%2fO%2fOklahoma%20State%20University
37.
Huguenin, M. (2005, February 28). JamesOn Curry tries to
leave past behind. Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.
http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_02868442747_ITM
38.
See Berkow, 36. Unless otherwise noted, the remaining profile
of JamesOn Curry is from Berkow’s article.
39.
DeCourcy, M. (2005, July 8). Not the right choice for Team
USA: North Carolinians will be surprised to learn JamesOn
Curry still might represent them. The Sporting News
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1208/is_27_229/
ai_n14713612
40.
Landis, T. (2004, November 10). Curry shines in debut while
thoughts stray. Cowboy Book. http://www.ocolly.okstate.
edu/new_ocollycom/archives/show_story.php?a_id=24075
41.
Interview with Jeff Webster. Jan 5, 2007.
42.
Hayhust, B. “Judge sentences to 5-6 months in prison.”
Times-News.
43.
See 41.
44.
See Hayhurst. 42.
45.
See 41.
46.
Smith, T. Teenager was entrapped into crime. Times-News.
47.
See 41.
48.
Ibid.
49.
Hayhurst. 42.
50.
See 41.
51.
See 41.
52.
Hayhurst. 42.
53.
Hayhurst. 42.
54.
See 41.
55.
Hayhurst. 42.
56.
See 41.
57.
See 41.
58.
See 41.
59.
See 41.
60.
Bordsen’s bill was also sponsored by State Representatives
R. Phillip Haire, Earline W. Parmon, and Larry Womble.
61.
House Bill 1723 / S.L. 2006-248, http://www.ncga.state.
nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2005&B
illID=H1723
62.
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission,
Youthful Offenders Subcommittee Meeting Minutes.
June 23, 2006.
63.
See North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory
Commission, 16.
27.

Ibid
Interview with Robert Kanoy, University of North Carolina
System. December 15, 2006.
70.
Ibid.
71.
Interview with David Sullivan, North Carolina Community
College System. December 14, 2006.
72.
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission,
Youthful Offenders Subcommittee Meeting Minutes.
June 23, 2006.
73.
See North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory
Commission, 16.
74.
The Sentencing Commission exempted traffic offenses from
their recommended changes.
68.
69.

PG. 83

Minutes from North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory
Commission Youthful Offenders Subcommittee Meeting on
June 23, 2006, in the Correction Enterprises’ Conference
Room at the Department of Correction, p. 3. George Sweat,
Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice
Delinquency and Prevention.
65.
Right thing to do! Wrong time to do it: Secretary Sweat
discusses raising the juvenile age with North Carolina Youthful
Offender Subcommittee. (2006, June). DJJDP News Express,
http://www.ncdjjdp.org/newsletter/archives/2006/printable_
june06.html
66.
The Committed Youthful Offender Code, N.C.G.S 148-49, et
seq. (repealed 1993).
67.
North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission,
Youthful Offenders Subcommittee Meeting Minutes.
June 23, 2006.
64.

PG. 84

VIRGINIA
WHAT IS THE LAW IN VIRGINIA?
Virginia allows for young people to be sent to the adult criminal justice system, including
incarceration in jails and prisons, through a variety of legal mechanisms. Although
Virginia’s statutory scheme does not specifically reference discretionary waiver,
mandatory waiver, and direct file, it does allow for these practices through processes it
terms “juvenile transfer” and “certification.”1 The following include the key features of the
way young people end up in the adult criminal justice system in Virginia.
Juvenile justice jurisdiction runs until youth turn 18.
Juveniles are defined as persons under age 18. There is no minimum age in Virginia for
juvenile court jurisdiction, but youth must be at least 11 years old before they may be
committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.2
Transfer hearings.
Generally, youth who become the subject of juvenile delinquency petitions before their 18th
birthday are subject to the jurisdiction of Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
(J&DR Court).3 Before a youth may be transferred or certified to the adult Circuit Court,
the J&DR Court must hold a preliminary hearing. Depending on the status of the case, the
preliminary hearing can either be a full review of which court the young person can be tried
in, or it can be a perfunctory hearing in which competence is presumed and the prosecutor
only needs to establish probable cause to send the case to the Circuit Court.4
There are a series of factors the court can consider when determining if a young person
should remain in the juvenile court. (These factors only apply to judicial waiver decisions
and do not apply when the case is statutorily excluded.)

Virginia allows for young people
to be sent to the adult criminal
justice system, including
incarceration in jails and
prisons, through a variety of
legal mechanisms.

• The seriousness and number of alleged offenses;
• The record and previous history of the youth in this or other jurisdictions;

• Whether the youth has previously absconded from the legal custody of a juvenile
correctional entity in any jurisdiction;

PG. 85

• The youth’s age;

PG. 86

• The extent, if any, of the youth’s degree of mental retardation or mental
illness;
• The youth’s school record;
• The youth’s mental and emotional maturity;
• The youth’s physical condition and physical maturity;
• Whether the youth can be retained in the juvenile justice system long enough for
effective treatment and rehabilitation; and
• The appropriateness and availability of the services and dispositional alternatives in both
the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems for dealing with the youth’s problems.5
Judicial discretionary waiver.6
As stated, in some cases the juvenile court retains discretion over the transfer decision.
To do so, the court must first conduct a transfer hearing.7 If a youth is alleged to have
committed a crime that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult,8 the
prosecutor may move to have the young person tried as an adult. There is a rebuttable
presumption9 (i.e., it is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and
proves otherwise) that the juvenile is competent to stand trial as an adult. The burden of
proof rests on the young person to show that the state has not met the thresholds (that
a young person is competent, 14 or older, written notice was given, and that there was
probable cause that the youth committed the crime) for him or her to be tried as an adult.
If a judge finds probable cause, the court must decide whether the youth is “not a proper
person” to remain within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The court can then consider
the above factors when making the decision.10

The burden of proof rests on
the young person to show
that the state has not met the
thresholds for him or her to be
tried as an adult.

Prosecutorial waiver or certification.11
In Virginia, the “certification procedure,” which is similar to the direct file procedure in
other states, places the choice of prosecution in an adult or juvenile forum solely in the
hands of the prosecutor, who in Virginia is referred to as the “Commonwealth Attorney.”12
The prosecutor may elect to try a youth as an adult if the youth is charged with certain
crimes.13 The prosecutor must provide “written notice of his intent” to try the youth as
an adult,14 and a hearing must be held. Once again, it is up to the young person being
charged to prove that he or she is not competent15 to stand trial as an adult. If the J&DR
Court finds that the young person is at least 14 years old, that the prosecutor has
provided written notice of wanting to try the young person as an adult, and that there is
probable cause that the youth committed the crime, the charge is certified to Virginia’s
Circuit Court. If these thresholds are met, the court has no discretion to retain juvenile
court jurisdiction.16 The transfer factors used in discretionary waiver proceedings have no
bearing on this certification decision.
Statutory or legislative exclusion or mandatory waiver.17
If a youth is charged with certain forms of murder or aggravated malicious wounding,
and the same legal thresholds are met in a hearing (that a young person is competent,
14 or older, written notice was given, and that there was probable cause that the youth
committed the crime), the young person will be tried as an adult. Assuming that these
thresholds are met, the juvenile court has no discretion to retain juvenile court jurisdiction.
Again, the transfer factors described under the state’s discretionary waiver have no
bearing on this decision.
Reverse waiver.
If the young person is waived to the adult court under discretionary waiver, the youth may
appeal the decision and try to get transferred back to the juvenile court. A young person has

10 days to appeal the transfer decision. The adult Circuit Court has jurisdiction over this
appeal and may decide to keep the case or return it to the juvenile court for adjudication and
disposition.18 With the exception of the probable cause determination, which is not subject
to review on appeal, the Circuit Court may review the J&DR Court’s transfer decision to
determine if it was in compliance with Virginia’s transfer statute.19 Also, when a prosecutor’s
motion to transfer a youth to the adult court is denied, he or she may appeal this decision to
the adult Circuit Court, if it is in the public interest to do so.20

Other distinctive features of Virginia’s adultification statutes.
In Virginia, prosecutors may move to certify a felony or misdemeanor offense not otherwise
eligible for certification to adult court, to the adult court for trial if the offense is “ancillary”
or related to another offense that is subject to certification.25 “Ancillary charge” means that
any delinquent act committed by a juvenile as a part of the same act or transaction, or which
constitutes a part of a common scheme or plan with, a delinquent act which would be a
felony if committed by an adult.”26 If the juvenile court determines at the preliminary hearing
that a charge is ancillary to a certified charge, the charge will be sent to the adult court
for prosecution and disposition with the certified charge.27 Also, in Virginia, when certain
offenses are tried in the adult court, they are subject to mandatory minimum adult prison
sentences. For example, the crime of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony carries
three years of mandatory adult prison time for a first offense, and trumps the ability of the
Circuit Court Judge to order a juvenile sentence.28
Once an adult, always an adult.
Virginia’s Once an Adult, Always an Adult provision had created an alternative and
unfortunate avenue to adult court jurisdiction for juveniles who were certified or transferred
to the jurisdiction of the adult court in a prior proceeding. According to the Virginia Supreme
Court’s interpretation of this statute, the transfer of a youth to adult court would have kept
all future charges in adult court, even if the charges first brought in Circuit Court were
ultimately dismissed.29 Additionally, this statute did not distinguish between subsequent
felony and misdemeanor offenses.30 Therefore, a misdemeanor offense, which could not
normally be brought against a youth in circuit court, would have required prosecution in
the adult court if the youth was tried or treated as an adult in a prior proceeding. As this
report goes to press, a bill passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly to change
Virginia’s law to provide that only youth ‘convicted’ of crimes in circuit court had to be tried
again for subsequent offenses in circuit court. This amendment to the statute passed both
houses unanimously and is an example of how advocates and legislators can work together
to make common-sense improvements to the administration of juvenile justice.

In Virginia, when certain
offenses are tried in the adult
court, they are subject to
mandatory minimum adult
prison sentences.

PG. 87

Virginia is a blended sentencing state.
In Virginia, youth tried as adults are entitled to jury trials, but are sentenced by Circuit
Court judges. In most cases, young people who are tried as adults may be sentenced, at
least partly, as youth, but the availability of some juvenile sentencing options turns upon
whether the offense is categorized as a violent juvenile felony.21 If this threshold is met, a
youth may serve a portion of the sentence in the juvenile justice system and serve the rest
of the sentence in the adult system. Youth also may receive a suspended adult sentence if
they successfully complete their juvenile term. If the offense is not categorized as a violent
juvenile felony, the Circuit Court can then sentence the juvenile as either an adult or as
a juvenile. This can include a commitment as a “serious juvenile offender,” which allows
the court to sentence a youth to a longer term in a juvenile correctional facility than is
otherwise permissible under Virginia law. Typically, the maximum juvenile sentence is three
years,22 but a “serious juvenile offender” may be sentenced for up to seven years, or until
the juvenile’s 21st birthday, whichever occurs first.23 In these cases, the Court reviews
the progress of the youth on an annual basis beginning on the second anniversary of the
sentence, and has the authority, even when the youth has been sentenced as an adult to a
blended sentence, to suspend the remaining juvenile and/or adult time if the young person
has demonstrated necessary progress.24

PG. 88

Young people convicted in the adult court can end up in adult jails and prison.
Virginia permits, but does not require, that youth awaiting trial as adults can be housed
with the general population in adult jails without the sight and sound separation benefits
allotted to youth being tried as juveniles detained in adult jails.31 After a youth was
brutally beaten in the Virginia Beach Jail, the law, which previously mandated that youth
be placed in adult jails, was changed in 1997 to make this placement discretionary.
According to a recent report by Amnesty International USA, of the 2,225 youth in the
United States serving life without the possibility of parole, the adult Virginia Department
of Corrections (DOC) houses 48 of them.32

After a youth was brutally beaten
in the Virginia Beach Jail, the
law, which previously mandated
that youth be placed in adult
jails, was changed to make this
placement discretionary.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN VIRGINIA?
The Virginia Supreme Court, State Police, Department of Juvenile Justice, and
Department of Corrections each keep data relating to juvenile transfer and
certification. However, because youth who are tried as adults begin in the juvenile
system, move into the adult system, and may then be sentenced as either adults or
juveniles, the available data are not kept in one centralized or uniform depository. As
a result, it is difficult to determine the number of youth who are affected each year
by Virginia’s transfer and certification laws. The following statistics provide the best
available estimates of the number and characteristics of the young people who are
affected by Virginia’s laws.
Arrest and convictions data.
In 2005, there were 32,980 arrests of youth under the age of 18 in Virginia.33 Of those
arrests, just over 1,000 were for violent index offenses, classified by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.34 African-American youth
comprised fewer than half of all juvenile arrests in 2005.35
2005 youth arrests (All Offenses)

Source: Virginia Incident-Based Reporting System,
Virginia State Police. (2005).

46% White
1% Asian
5% Latino
48%
African-American

According to the Virginia Sentencing Commission, 325 youth were convicted of a felony
in adult circuit court in 2003, 306 youth were convicted in 2004, and 291 in 2005.36
According to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, in each year at least one-third
or more of these youth
were initially sentenced
to the Department
Juvenile Justice
African-American
youth constituted
fewerofthan
37
of aallportion
youthofarrested
in Virginia,
but represented
to serve all or half
at least
their sentence.
This percentage
represents a much
73% of youth entering the adult corrections system

5% Latino

larger percentage of sentenced juveniles than those are who are placed directly into the
Department of Corrections.
Specifically, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections,38 in 2003, 75 youth
2005 youth arrests (All Offenses)
were admitted to the adult corrections system. Seventy-two were sentenced in 2004
and 59 were sentenced in 2005. Since most young people who are sentenced are likely
sentenced to the adult system for more than a year, there is probably little double counting
in the sentencing figures.
46% White
Even though many youth appear to be sentenced as juveniles, it is important
to remember
that all youth convicted as adults, regardless of where they are placed, face the same
collateral1%
consequences
and barriers imposed by adult felony convictions.
Asian
5% Latino

The racial, ethnic, and offense profile of young people sent to the adult system.
48% in adult court
In 2005, of the 59 new court commitments (youth transferred and convicted
African-American
and sentenced to the DOC on an annual basis), 73% were African-American
and 24%
were for non-violent offenses. In 2004, 67% of new commitments were African-American
and in 2003, 69% were African-American.

In 2005, of the 59 new court
commitments to the Virginia
Department of Corrections,
73% were African-American
and 24% were for non-violent
offenses.

From 2003 to 2005, between 8% and 15% of youth incarcerated in adult prisons (the
standing population of juveniles in adult prison on any given day) were serving time for
non-violent offenses. Further, of those youth sentenced to serve time in the DOC from
2003 to 2005, approximately 4% were girls. Sixty-nine percent of new court commitments
during this period were African-American.
African-American youth constituted fewer than
half of all youth arrested in Virginia, but represented
73% of youth entering the adult corrections system
Source: 2005 New Court Commitments, All Offenses
Data provided by Laura Cross, Virginia Department of
Corrections (2006)

5% Latino

73%
African-American
22% White

The Reverend Jones,39 the father of six adult children, became a big brother to Jim40 when
he was 11 years old. For several years, he took Jim with him to church group meetings,
movies, and community activities. He was committed to providing Jim with a positive adult
male role model. Shortly after Jim turned 14, he was arrested and, though these were his

PG. 89

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES AFFECTED BY VIRGINIA’S LAWS

PG. 90

first alleged offenses, tried as an adult. Reverend Jones had this to say about Virginia’s
practice of trying youth as adults:
... I feel Jim is a young black male now caught up in a legal system not really looking out
for his best interest nor has taken the time to investigate the history of this young man.
My greatest fear about what has happened is that this criminal system is doing the
opposite of what it is designed to do and Jim will end up being another angry young
black male with no dream and no future. Because in his mind society has demonstrated
that he is of little value. It’s hard to believe we have a justice system that is designed to
strip a young man of his self-worth at such a young age and call it rehabilitation. When
and where does common sense come into play?

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN VIRGINIA?
Raising attorney’s fees: Findings of the American Bar Association assessment.
For several years, attorneys have advocated for an increase in payment for courtappointed attorneys and “issue-specific training” for attorneys who handle serious cases.41
In 2004, A Comprehensive Review of Indigent Defense in Virginia found that “Virginia’s
indigent defense system is deeply flawed.”42 Specific findings from the ABA report
include:
• “The unwaivable statutory fee caps for court-appointed counsel in Virginia are the
lowest in the country.”
• “The unreasonably low statutory fee caps act as a disincentive to many assigned
counsel from doing the work necessary to provide meaningful and effective
representation of their indigent clients. The judges, Commonwealth’s Attorneys and
juvenile court personnel...agree that low fees are a disincentive to zealous advocacy.”

“The fee caps for courtappointed counsel in Virginia
are the lowest in the country.”
—A Comprehensive Review of
Indigent Defense in Virginia,
American Bar Association
(2004)

• “There is great disparity in resources afforded to public defenders and
Commonwealth’s attorneys.”43
Despite the advocacy work done to improve pay for defenders, the pay gains for courtappointed and public defenders have been minimal. The maximum total fee per juvenile
charge is just $120, while each Circuit Court felony charge is capped at $445.44
There is an exception for felonies punishable by more than 20 years in prison; the fee
for representation in these cases is capped at $1,235.45 The fee caps are particularly
onerous in juvenile transfer cases where lawyers should perform diligent investigation and
preparation in advance of the transfer hearing, as well as the trial, but the fee—$120—will
remain the same.
A December 2005 newspaper editorial by Esther Windmueller, a Richmond, Virginia,
attorney, noted that “[e]ven though many court-appointed lawyers and public defenders
work tirelessly for their underprivileged clients, too often Virginians have received exactly
what we’ve paid for: a system where, as the [American Bar Report] put it, ‘substandard
practice has become the accepted norm.’” The governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, recently
proposed increased funding totaling nine million dollars to address this problem, but
this proposal awaits an uncertain fate in Virginia’s General Assembly. In addition, the
Virginia Indigent Defense Commission has recently approved rigorous standards for
lawyers representing accused youth. The combination of more rigorous standards and
improved compensation will address the persistent problems with Virginia’s indigent
defense system.

Introducing legislation to remove youth from juvenile
detention and send them to jail if they are awaiting trial as adults.
HB1332, legislation introduced in 2006, would have required that youth awaiting trial be
transferred to the adult criminal justice system and placed in adult jails, as opposed to
juvenile detention facilities. The bill failed to become law.
Conducting legislative studies on disproportionate
minority contact and access to legal representation.
Representative Brian Moran (D-Alexandria) introduced legislation that has led to
House Joint Resolution No. 136 which asked the Virginia State Crime Commission
to examine the juvenile justice system, paying particular attention to the following
issues: disproportionate minority contact, and quality access to legal representation in
accordance with American Bar Association recommendations.46 This study, due to the
legislature in November of 2007, will report on the Crime Commission’s findings.

VIRGINIA RECOMMENDATIONS
• Organize the collection of data on youth tried and sentenced as adults.
As mentioned, data relevant to studying the practice of trying and sentencing youth
as adults are hard to access in Virginia. Different agencies have different pieces of
information. It is very difficult to determine the exact number of youth tried in Circuit Court
and the exact resolution of their cases. The initial data collected for this report suggest
that Circuit Court Judges are, at least initially, treating more of the young people who
come before them as youth rather than as adults. More information might confirm this
trend and raise important questions for policymakers. In addition, it would be helpful for
researchers to understand the relationship between geography and juvenile transfer.
Given the latitude accorded prosecutors to decide which court will try juvenile offenders,
it would be useful to learn more about how this discretion is exercised.

• Provide judges with discretion to sentence youth as youth,
even if the charge carries mandatory minimum adult time for adults.
In Virginia, mandatory minimum adult sentencing provisions trump those portions of the
Virginia law that permit juveniles who are convicted by adult courts to be sentenced as
juveniles or given suspended adult time. Offenses that carry mandatory minimum adult
sentences, such as Virginia’s use of a firearm statute, are intended to deter “violent
criminal conduct” rather than reform “the most dangerous class of criminals.”48 Given
the impulsive nature of most youth, the deterrent purpose may be of minimal value when

PG. 91

• Ensure judicial discretion prior to certification to adult court.
Virginia’s legislature recognizes that there are varying degrees of criminal culpability and
concludes that not all juveniles have equal rehabilitative potential. Seriousness of the
offense is but one of 10 factors that a J&DR Court “shall” consider before determining if
transfer to adult court jurisdiction is appropriate.47 However, in certification cases, which
tend to constitute the more serious offenses, judges have no discretion in determining
if the adult forum is most appropriate for prosecution. In these cases, the juvenile court
must certify juveniles to adult court merely upon finding probable cause. In contrast,
transfer hearings provide a forum for these mitigating circumstances to be presented
and assessed when determining the appropriate forum for prosecution. Providing
discretion to J&DR Court judges, who typically occupy the bench for many years and
review thousands of cases, would leave the transfer decision in the more appropriate
hands of experienced evaluators of amenability to treatment and future dangerousness.
Deputy prosecutors, who often serve very short tours of duty in juvenile court, do not
have this type of experience.

PG. 92

applied to juvenile offenders and likely would be far outweighed by the availability of
appropriate rehabilitative services.
• Keep youth out of adult jails.
Jails are, by their very nature, short-term housing facilities. Because they do not tend
to serve many youth at any one time, they often lack the education and mental health
services so critical to a young person’s rehabilitation. They do not have adequate staff,
facilities, or experience to serve a juvenile population. By contrast, juvenile detention
centers are well-versed in their obligations to provide educational services, mental
health services, and other relevant services to juveniles.
• Increase the quality of the defense afforded
indigent youth facing transfer and certification.
Specifically, Virginia should improve the pay provided to defense counsel who represent
indigent juvenile defendants and waive the caps for those representing youth facing
transfer to Circuit Court.
• Require J&DR Courts to consider each of the
statutory transfer factors before a transfer decision is made.
The current statutory language states that although the J&DR Court “shall consider,
but not be limited to” the statutory transfer factors, “no transfer decision shall be
precluded or reversed on the grounds that the court failed to consider any of the[se]
factors.”49 This qualifying language needlessly chips away at statutory transfer factors,
including the age of the defendant, the number of prior court contacts, and the
appropriateness and availability of the services and dispositional alternatives in both
the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems for dealing with the youth’s problems.
These are factors that the legislature has concluded are relevant in determining
whether transfer is appropriate.
• Change the minimum age for prosecution of a youth as an adult.
The minimum age for prosecution as an adult is currently 14. The minimum age should
be raised to fit with what we now know about juvenile culpability. New research shows
that differences exist in young people’s brain functioning that contribute to their
cognitive abilities. Although 16-year-olds may have the same intelligence or ability to
reason as adults, in high-pressure crime situations, short-sighted decision-making, poor
impulse control, and vulnerability to peer pressure may undermine a youth’s decisionmaking capacity.50 These developmental differences between youth and adults are key
factors in justifying the special considerations made for youth and the existence of the
juvenile justice system.51

NOTES
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1.
Va. Code §§ 16.1-228, 16.1-278.8(A)(14).
Va. Code§ 16.1-241. This is true even if the delinquency
petition is initiated after the juvenile’s 18th birthday. However,
juveniles who reach the age of 21 before they are charged
with a felony that occurred before their 18th birthday are
adjudicated as adults.
4.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A)(4).
5.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A)(4).
6.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A).
7.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A).
8.
This provision relates to felony offenses that are not eligible
for certification pursuant to Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(B) or
(C)) (typically less-serious felony offenses) or felony offenses
that are eligible for certification pursuant to Va. Code § 16.1269.1(C), but that the Commonwealth did not choose to certify
to the Circuit Court. As a practical matter, Commonwealth
1.
2.
3.

Attorneys tend to use the Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(C)
procedure, where possible, as it is an easier standard to meet
and puts the Commonwealth in a better bargaining position for
possible plea negotiations.
9.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A) (3), (D).
10.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A).
11.
Va. Code §16.1-269.1(C).
12.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A).
13.
Robbery, malicious wounding, abduction, carjacking, rape, or
other specific charges set forth in Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(C).
14.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(C).
15.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A) (3), (D).
16.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A) (1), (C), (D).
17.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(B).
18.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.4.
19.
Schwartz v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 41 Va. App. 61, 70
(2003); Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A).

21.

Electronic data files from the Virginia Incident-Based Reporting
System, compiled by the Virginia State Police.
36.
Felony sentencing patterns for juveniles convicted in Circuit
Court (FY2001-2005), presentation to the Virginia State
Crime Commission by Richard Kern, Director of the Virginia
Criminal Sentencing Commission.
37.
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice report to the Virginia
State Crime Commission. PowerPoint Presentation on Juvenile
Justice Trends. (2006, October 18).
38.
Unless otherwise noted, all data from this section were
provided by Laura Cross at the Virginia Department of
Corrections, July 2006.
39.
Permission was obtained to use real names, except where
otherwise noted.
40.
Jim is a pseudonym.
41.
The American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center and the
Mid-Atlantic Juvenile Defender Center. (2002, September).
Virginia: An assessment of access to counsel and quality of
representation in delinquency proceedings. Washington, DC:
Author.
42.
Spangenberg, R. L. (2004, January). A comprehensive
review of indigent defense in Virginia (Executive Summary).
Washington, DC: American Bar Association Standing
Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants. Retrieved
January 29, 2007, from http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/
downloads/sclaid/indigentdefense/va-report2004.pdf
43.
Ibid.
44.
Va. Code § 19.2-163.
45.
Ibid.
46.
House Joint Resolution No. 136 (2006).
47.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A)(4).
48.
Bullock v. Commonwealth, 48 Va.App. 359, 377 (2006).
49.
Va. Code § 16.1-269.1(A)(4).
50.
MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent
Development and Juvenile Justice. (2006, September). Less
guilty by reason of adolescence. Philadelphia, PA: Author.
51.
Ibid.
35.

PG. 93

Va. Code § 16.1-269.3.
A “violent juvenile felony” is defined as any offense that is
subject to certification to the adult court pursuant to Va.
Code § 16.1-269.1(B) or (C). The statute reads that, under
this provision, a juvenile may “serve a portion of the sentence
as a serious juvenile offender ... and the remainder of such
sentence in the same manner as provided for adults”; (ii) “...
serve the entire sentence in the same manner as provided
for adults”; or (iii) a suspended adult term “conditioned upon
successful completion of such terms and conditions as may be
imposed in a juvenile court upon disposition of a delinquency
case....” [see Va. Code § 16.1-272(A)(1)].
22.
Va. Code § 16.1-285.
23.
Va. Code § 16.1-285.1
24.
Va. Code §§ 16.1-285.1, 16.1-285.2.
25.
Va. Code §§ 16.1-269.1(D), 16.1-272.
26.
Va. Code § 16.1-228.
27.
Va. Code §§ 16.1-269.1(D). “If a juvenile is convicted of a
violent juvenile felony, for that offense and for all ancillary
crimes the court may order that” the juvenile be sentenced
as an adult for a violent juvenile felony. Va. Code § 16.1272(A)(1). If a juvenile is convicted by the Circuit Court of
a felony offense, other than a violent juvenile felony, he may
be sentenced as a juvenile or an adult. Va. Code § 16.1272(A)(2). “If the juvenile is not convicted of a felony but
is convicted of a misdemeanor,” he will be sentenced as a
juvenile. Va. Code § 16.1-272 (A)(3).
28.
Va. Code § 18.2-53.1.
29.
See, for example, Cook v. Commonwealth, 268 Va 111
(2004).
30.
Va. Code § 16.1-271.
31.
Va. Code § 16.1-249(D).
32.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. (2005). The
rest of their lives: Life without parole for child offenders in the
United States. New York: Author.
33.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, 2005.
34.
Ibid.
20.

PG. 94

WISCONSIN
WHAT IS THE LAW IN WISCONSIN?
In Wisconsin, juvenile court jurisdiction runs until the age of 17.
Since 1996, 17-year-olds have been excluded from juvenile court jurisdiction by law.1 After
youth crime spiked in the early 1990s, then-Governor Tommy Thompson initiated a change
in the juvenile laws for the state of Wisconsin. With the change, Wisconsin became one of
only 13 states to statutorily exclude 17-year-olds from juvenile court jurisdiction.

In practice, youth as young as 13 have been tried as adults in Wisconsin. Some of the
youngest people tried in the adult system are there because of a provision that mandates
that youth who commit an assault in a juvenile correctional facility be automatically treated
in adult court.4
Once an adult, always an adult.
After having been tried as an adult, an individual under age 17 cannot return to juvenile
court for subsequent offenses.5 This provision affects youth disproportionately in counties
that use the prosecutorial waiver provision more often. There is a wide disparity between
counties in how the waiver is used. Some counties have not waived a youth in several

Since 1996, 17-year-olds have
been excluded from juvenile
court jurisdiction by law.

In practice, youth as young as
13 have been tried as adults in
Wisconsin.

PG. 95

Young people 10 and up can be tried in adult court. Under Wisconsin’s statutory
exclusion provision, youth as young as 10 years old must have their cases filed in criminal
court for the following violent offenses: first- or second-degree intentional homicide,
attempted first-degree intentional homicide, or first-degree reckless homicide. A young
person who is accused of committing assault or battery while detained in a secure
correctional facility also must be tried in criminal court.2 Under the state’s prosecutorial
waiver provision, prosecutors can request that cases be waived to criminal court when
youth as young as 14 are accused of felony murder, second-degree reckless homicide,
first- or second-degree sexual assault, taking hostages, kidnapping, burglary, robbery
with a dangerous weapon, manufacturing or distributing controlled substances, or the
commission of a felony at the request of a gang.3 Under the same provision, youth 15 and
older can be waived into adult court for any crime. Once a young person is in adult court,
there is an opportunity to attempt a “reverse waiver.” This waiver allows the youth to return
to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The burden of proof for these cases rests on the
youth; these cases are rarely successful.

PG. 96

years, while others waive upwards of 50 per year. In 2005, of the 377 juveniles waived
into adult court, 10 out of the 72 counties accounted for 276 of the waivers.6
Young people convicted in the adult court end up in the adult jails and prisons.
In Wisconsin, youth age 15 or older under adult court jurisdiction can be detained pretrial in the general adult population in local jails without the sight and sound separation
allotted under federal law to youth held as juveniles.7 After sentencing, the Department
of Corrections (DOC) has the final authority in matters concerning placement of
waived youth. Any youth who has not reached the age of 15 can be placed in a juvenile
correctional facility even if that youth has been sentenced to the DOC.8 However, the
DOC can sentence youth as young as age 10 to adult prisons.

Youth held in adult facilities do
not have access to the same
programs as their counterparts
in juvenile facilities. In juvenile
facilities, youth must attend
school. However, in adult jails
and prisons, education, if
available, is voluntary.

In Wisconsin, as is generally the case elsewhere, juvenile and adult correctional facilities
operate with different presumptions and purposes. This affects the conditions and types
of services a young person might encounter. Youth held in adult facilities do not have
access to the same programs as their counterparts in juvenile facilities. For instance, in
juvenile facilities, youth must attend school. However, in adult jails and prisons, education,
if available, is voluntary. Additionally, group and individual therapy sessions are not
provided in the vast majority of adult facilities but are mandatory in the bulk of juvenile
programs. Rehabilitative programming such as conflict resolution classes or substance
abuse treatment is more accessible in juvenile facilities than in jails or prisons.
In 2005, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) undertook
an investigation of conditions and practices at the Wisconsin DOC’s Taycheedah
Correctional Institution in Font du Lac, Wisconsin. That facility currently houses more than
700 maximum and medium security female inmates, including girls age 14 and older. The
DOJ commended the state’s efforts to detect, minimize, and prevent sexual misconduct,
but it also concluded that “certain conditions at Taycheedah violate inmates’ constitutional
rights by failing to provide for inmates’ serious mental health needs.”9 Among the specific
failures cited by the DOJ are:
• “Failure to provide a minimal array of mental health programming, crisis services, and
specialized treatment for inmates with acute mental illness.” Because the one inpatient
psychiatric facility in the area is overcrowded and ill-equipped to handle inmates
who pose a danger to themselves or others, “Taycheedah staff resort to the use of
segregation and observation status to control inmates’ dangerous behavior, which not
only fails to solve the problem, but often exacerbates it.” In June 2005, shortly after
being discharged from the inpatient facility because “her behavior was too difficult
to manage,” an 18-year-old inmate fatally asphyxiated herself while in administrative
segregation. When investigators from the DOJ visited Taycheedah in July 2005, they
found 44 out of the 59 individuals in segregation had serious mental illnesses and
appeared to be in significant distress. They also met a 15-year-old inmate who was
placed in long-term segregation as a result of “problematic behavior.” She had been
diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, but
was not receiving medication, mental health treatment, or educational services. They
concluded that the Monarch Special Treatment Unit at Taycheedah is supposed to
“provide specialized treatment to those inmates...with the most acute mental illnesses,”
but the unit provides “almost no programming,” leaving “the vast majority of inmates...
unoccupied for most of the day.”
• “‘Grossly inadequate’ staffing of mental health providers.” Taycheedah employs only two
part-time psychiatrists and each carries a caseload of more than 400 patients at a time.
As a result, “inmates with serious mental health needs are left untreated, sometimes for
as long as several months.” The ACLU’s National Prison Project recently filed a class
action lawsuit on behalf of four prisoners at Taycheedah who suffered invasive surgeries

and permanent disablement as a result of the prison’s neglect of their medical needs.10
The suit is pending. The ACLU also noted a discrepancy in treatment options for
seriously mentally ill women in the WI DOC.
• “[Wisconsin Department of Corrections]’s February 2006 Status Report on adult
correctional health care, produced at the request of the Joint Committee on Finance,
concedes that although a much greater percentage of the female prison population
has mental health needs, women prisoners do not have access to inpatient mental
health care that is “comparable” or even “similar” in quality to the care available to
incarcerated men at the Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC).”11 And although juvenile
boys with serious mental health problems have the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center,
operated by the Department of Health and Family Services, available to them for
specialized treatment and inpatient care, the ACLU found that females under the age
of 18 with serious mental health issues only have access to mental health treatment
at Southern Oaks Girls’ School. This facility is operated by the juvenile corrections
division, not the Department of Health and Family Services. Although women and girls
constitute the minority of incarcerated people, many of these inmates have special
needs that require more attention than male inmates. Incarcerated women are more
likely than men to come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods and to be single parents
of minor children.12 Furthermore, female prisoners are at least three times as likely as
their male counterparts to have experienced physical or sexual abuse, and are more
likely to use drugs or have substance abuse problems.13 Denying services to this
vulnerable population could negatively affect the children of incarcerated women, the
community, and the prisoner herself.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY THE LAWS IN WISCONSIN?
In 2002, there were almost 14,000 admissions of 17-year-olds to adult jails; the vast
majority was arrested for non-violent offenses.14 Only 15% of these youth were arrested
for violent crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.15 Seventy
percent of these youth were held in adult jails prior to trial and 28% (more than 3,000
youth) were sentenced to serve time in jail. Almost half of all 17-year-olds in adult jails
were housed in jails in a different county than where the crime was committed.16 This
means that when in jail, youth are away from their homes, families, and community.

In 2002, there were almost
14,000 admissions of 17-yearolds to adult jails; the vast
majority was arrested for nonviolent offenses. Only 15% of
these youth were arrested for
violent crimes such as murder,
rape, aggravated assault, and
robbery.

In 2003, 87% of all 17-year-old admissions
to adult jails in Wisconsin were non-violent crimes
Source: Office of Justice Assistance. 2003 Adult Jail
Populations Report.

50%

41%

40%
Violent

30%
20%

23%

23%

Property
Other

13%

Public Order

10%
0%

PG. 97

Arrest Type

Arrests of African-American youth increased 27.9%

PG. 98

Compared to 2004, youth arrests for both violent and non-violent crimes were down
in 2005. In 2004, there were more than 28,000 arrests of 17-year-olds in Wisconsin,
but only 1.5% of these arrests were for violent index crimes.17 Violent crime arrests for
all youth under age In
182003,
were down
almost
12% and property
crimes were down 18%;
87% of
all 17-year-old
admissions
overall there was
8.9%jails
decrease
in all juvenile
arrests
in 2005, crimes
mirroring a 10-year
to aadult
in Wisconsin
were
non-violent
trend of decreasing juvenile arrests.18 In Milwaukee, “where prison terms are handed
down on a daily basis to young men and women convicted of selling a gram or less of
cocaine,
” officials have cracked down on drug crimes in the last decade, prosecuting
50%
41% 71 Wisconsin counties
more people for non-violent drug offenses than the other
40%19 In 2005, Milwaukee waived 20 youth to adult court.20 As of July 2006, there
combined.
Violent of these
were 46 youth age 17 and younger in adult prisons in Wisconsin.21 Forty-three
30%
23%
youth were male, and one out of every five 23%
youth in adult prisons was 16
years old or
Property
younger.
Further, 15% of the youth held in adult prisons were arrestedOther
for non-violent
20%
13%
offenses such as property and drug offenses.
Public Order

10%

Despite the decrease in juvenile arrests, arrests of African-American youth are increasing.
0%
Between 2000 and 2004, violent crime arrests of white youth fell by 6.4% and overall
Arrest Type
white youth arrests decreased by 17%. However, during this time, African-American
juvenile arrests for violent offences increased almost 28% and overall arrests increased
13%.22 These increases are cause for concern and constitute possible evidence of racial
disparities in policing practices. National research from the Justice Department has shown
no significant difference between youth of differing races and their propensities toward
criminal behavior.23
Arrests of African-American youth increased 27.9%
Source: Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.
Crime and Arrests Reports. 2000-2004.

In 2004, there were more than
28,000 arrests of 17-year-olds
in Wisconsin, but only 1.5% of
these arrests were for violent
index crimes.

Number of violent crime arrests

1100
1000
900

White Youth
Black Youth

800
700
600
2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

In 2002, the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Commission started the Disproportionate
Minority Confinement Reduction Initiative to address Wisconsin’s juvenile justice
system’s growing racial disparities. At that time, youth of color made up only 17.3% of
Majority
of arrests
for 16and 17-year-olds
are waived
non-violent
the youth
population,
but they
accounted
for 37% of youth
to adultoffenses
courts and
52.5% of youth in adult lock-ups.24 Youth of color continued to be overrepresented
in the number of youth waived to adult court in 2004; in some counties, youth of
color were more than twice as likely to be waived as white youth.25 In Milwaukee
County, Wisconsin’s most populous county, of the 13 youth waived
2004, only one
17% in
Hispanic
was white.26 Despite Wisconsin’s DMC Reduction Initiative, youth of color are still
38% Black in adult facilities.
overrepresented
7% Native American

7% Asian

7% Unknown

Number

700
600

2002
2003
2004 population,27 but they
2000 make2001
African-American youth
up just 10%
of Wisconsin’s
youth
represent 38% of all youth in Wisconsin adult prisons and 43% of non-violent juvenile
offenders in adult prisons in 2006.28 When combining Asians, Latinos, Native Americans,
and African-Americans, non-white youth constitute 15% of the state’s youth population,
but they represent nearly 70% of youth in adult prisons.29

Majority of arrests for 16- and 17-year-olds are non-violent offenses
Source: Robert Nikolay, Budget Director, Wisconsin
Department of Corrections.

17% Hispanic
38% Black
7% Native American

7% Asian

24% White

7% Unknown

African-American youth make up
just 10% of Wisconsin’s youth
population, but they represented
38% of all youth in Wisconsin
adult prisons and 43% of nonviolent juvenile offenders in adult
prisons in 2006.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND FAMILIES AFFECTED BY WISCONSIN’S LAWS30
Jane: Running Late.
Jane, the first-born in her family, was raised by her mother in a small town in Wisconsin.
Her working-class, Caucasian parents divorced when she was a toddler and throughout
her life Jane’s only regular contact with her father was over the phone. Her father is an
alcoholic and cocaine addict who has been jailed for a number of misdemeanors. He is
currently facing jail time for failing to pay back child support.
Jane attended Catholic school and earned good grades, but she was picked on alot.
She was on the honor roll until eighth grade. Then she befriended a new crowd, began
skipping school regularly, and her grades began to suffer. When she was 14, Jane started
drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. She got into trouble with the law, receiving tickets
for truancy, disorderly conduct, trespassing, underage drinking, and cigarette possession.

To help Jane treat her depression and marijuana use, Jane’s mother got her admitted to a
two-month outpatient drug program. While in the program, Jane met a young man, Steve,
and they began dating. In the middle of the program, Jane stopped attending meetings,
became depressed, and began drinking excessively. She never wanted to be at home. Her
mother placed her in a 13-day inpatient program, but Jane didn’t respond to the treatment.

PG. 99

Despite this early delinquency and her reported negative self-image, Jane managed to
pass eighth grade. Upon entering ninth grade, in hopes of starting high school off right,
she joined the cheerleading squad, but she was kicked off for smoking a cigarette in
uniform. Jane continued skipping school and her academic performance suffered. She
also got into fights with her brother because she was stealing money from him and other
family members.

PG. 100

At the same time, Steve moved to a different town and they stopped dating. Jane
continued to date other young men, drink alcohol, and she frequently ran away from home.
To get a fresh start, Jane moved in with her aunt to another small town in Wisconsin. While
there, she attended school, but again she befriended another “negative crowd.” After three
months of improvements, she began to date a young man in secret and skip school. Jane’s
aunt made her leave the home, and Jane moved back in with her mother. It was then that
she reconnected with her ex-boyfriend, Steve, and the two resumed their relationship.
Jane described Steve as very “controlling.” Steve was a drug user and the two of them
began to use ecstasy pills at least one to two times per week. She also experimented
with cocaine, smoked crack a few times, snorted Attention Deficit Disorder medications,
smoked opium, and occasionally smoked marijuana.
During this time, she took her mother’s car without permission. Her mother reported
the theft to the police and Jane was arrested, charged as an adult, and spent the night
in jail. She was later found guilty of the misdemeanor offense and was sentenced
to probation and an ankle monitor. She later ended her relationship with Steve, who
himself ended up in jail.
After this run-in with the law, Jane returned to school, got a job at Burger King, and by
the time she turned 17, she had repaired her relationships with her mother and brother.
She also began dating a young man whom she described as responsible. He held a
steady job and encouraged her sobriety. Although she met her probation obligations,
Jane said she did not take them seriously. Jane did try to get into a women’s issues
group to help with her self-esteem and depression problems, but since she was 17,
it took 10 months to get into this program. She was also supposed to go to anger
management therapy and drug treatment. Jane, by her own account, was overcoming
many of the issues she’d been facing.

One day when she was late for
school, Jane took her neighbor’s
bike from their yard and used
it to get to class. The police
charged Jane with a probation
violation and she was jailed in
adult jail. This incident led to
Jane being incarcerated for 75
days in two different jails.

Then, one day when she was late for school, Jane took her neighbor’s bike from their yard
and used it to get to class. Later that day, she left the bike at school and got a ride home
from a friend. Her neighbors, who had seen her using the bicycle, called the police and
when confronted, Jane was told to apologize to her neighbor. It seemed as if the incident
would be settled informally, but then Jane’s probation officer found out about the “theft.”
The police charged Jane with a probation violation and she was jailed in adult jail.
This incident led to Jane being incarcerated for 75 days in two different jails. Jane was
housed with adult women offenders where she had to try and avoid their negative
influences. Every day, she watched television, claiming there were no “good” books
to read in the jail. Although she attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and church
services every week, Jane was not able to resume school. Her request for mental health
services also went unanswered. She was often cold at night, having only two sheets,
two thin blankets, and a thin mattress for sleeping. Every day for lunch the inmates were
served a bologna sandwich: Jane said the dinners were disgusting and that the jail was
unsanitary. After spending 75 days between the jails, Jane was sentenced to time served.
The probation violation and her misdemeanor conviction will remain on her record.
John: Nowhere to go.
At age 11, John moved to Wisconsin with his family. He first came into contact with the
juvenile justice system at 12, when he was arrested for driving without a license. As a
result, he spent time in a juvenile detention facility and was placed on probation. At that
point, his parents had split up and neither was able to care for him, so he lived in various
group homes for five years.

John stopped attending high school at 16, and at 17 he was no longer eligible for services
in the juvenile justice system. As a result, when he needed a place to stay, he could not
access any group home placements. Because he stopped attending school, he did not
have a school identification card, and he never was able to get a driver’s license. Because
he did not possess an identification card, the food pantry would not distribute food to him.
One late, cold winter night, John didn’t have a place to spend the night. Seeking a warm
place to sleep, John climbed into a car in a downtown parking lot. A few hours later, he
was woken up by a police officer who charged him with breaking and entering. John
was placed in the local county jail and released the next day. Once released from the
county jail, he went to stay at a relative’s house. While there, he didn’t receive the court
documents notifying him of his upcoming court date. As a result, he missed his court
date and the local law enforcement agency put out a warrant for his arrest. After he was
arrested, John was sent to the county jail again, this time for six months.
All of his “cellies” were older than him. John says he tried to keep to himself so he
wouldn’t get into any trouble. John spent most of his daily time sleeping. Although
he was interested in getting his high school equivalency degree, he didn’t attend
educational courses at the facility. He had difficulty reaching his lawyer. In addition, he
often went hungry because he was not getting enough to eat in the jail and he didn’t
have anyone on the outside that could put money on his ”commissary” so he could
purchase additional food.
John doesn’t believe that 17-year-olds should be automatically tried as adults and believes
that youth like himself need additional support from the community. John would like to see
more subsidized housing and food assistance programs in the community, especially for
young men who are not eligible for services in the juvenile justice system or for programs
that serve adults.
Jeffrey: Searching for a safe place.
Jeffrey, a 17-year-old white male, was born in a Wisconsin town of fewer than 2,000
people. As an elementary school child, Jeffrey attended classes for youth with emotional
disabilities. He was regularly in trouble for not being able to sit still in class. He has been
diagnosed with chronic depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
and has battled drug and alcohol dependence since his early teens.

After John was released from
the county jail, he went to stay
at a relative’s house. While
there, he didn’t receive the
court documents notifying him
of his upcoming court date.
As a result, he missed his
court date and the local law
enforcement agency put out a
warrant for his arrest. After he
was arrested, John was sent to
the county jail again, this time
for six months.

Prior to his 15th birthday, Jeffrey had several juvenile arrests for minor infractions. In an
attempt to get him services through the juvenile court, his parents had him arrested for
using marijuana. He was placed in an alcohol treatment center for a year. During that year,
his mother died.

At age 17, after being arrest-free for two years, Jeffrey was arrested for misdemeanor
disorderly conduct. Because of his previous arrest, he was sentenced to six months of jail
time. Upon entering the jail at 17, he was placed with a 25-year-old awaiting trial for sexual

PG. 101

When Jeffrey was released, he moved to his aunt’s house in a larger city. That
arrangement did not work out and so he moved from foster homes to group homes.
Because he wanted to dull the pain of being rejected by his aunt and of his mother’s
passing, his use of alcohol and marijuana escalated. While in a group home, at 15
years old, Jeffrey was caught with marijuana. He was charged with possession and
the district attorney moved to have his case waived into adult court. Jeffrey felt that
it wasn’t his choice to be waived – he remembers a short hearing on the issue, but
recalls only the district attorney and his attorney testifying on the issue. He was given
probation, but he didn’t understand that his subsequent arrests would result in his
being charged as an adult.

PG. 102

assault. The cellmate talked about his sexual assault constantly. Jeffrey was intimidated
by the size and demeanor of his cellmate and feared being assaulted by him. Rather than
wait for this to happen, Jeffrey struck his cellmate. Jeffrey now awaits new charges for
felony assault.
Jeffrey did succeed in getting a single cell, but he still does not receive alcohol or drug
treatment nor does he attend any school classes. Jeffrey spends his entire day in his
cell, sleeping for much of it. Although he is eligible for work release, he is unable to get
a job. He is on a waitlist for a job within the jail and in the meantime has nothing to fill up
his days.
Jeffrey wanted to join the military, but knows that his arrest history will prevent that.
He hopes to receive the drug treatment that was ordered by the court, as well as grief
counseling to deal with the death of his mother. Although he wants a second chance, he
sees a very bleak future for himself at 17 with a felony record.

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS IN WISCONSIN?
Between 1993 and 1994, youth violent crime arrests increased by 16%.31 Yet, during his
tenure, then-Governor Thompson did not support funding for juvenile code reforms.32 The
concern over rising crime caused Governor Thompson to appoint a commission to change
the waiver statutes. This commission was assisted and supported by a number of juvenile
court judges and prosecutors as well as officers of the court. Dennis Barry, Racine
County Circuit Court Judge and the chairman of the 1995 commission enacted by former
Governor Tommy Thompson and the Legislature, continues to affirm that the adult court
should have jurisdiction over 17-year-olds.33

Jeffrey was intimidated by
the size and demeanor of his
cellmate and feared being
assaulted by him. Rather than
wait for this to happen, Jeffrey
struck his cellmate. Jeffrey now
awaits new charges for felony
assault.

Today, the impact of these decade-old changes has caused some court officials to
rethink this approach. Initially, Assistant District Attorney Don Garber, from Dane County,
supported the legislation in 1995.34 However, he now believes it was a mistake. He sees
this legislation as harmful to youth because it reduces their access to education and
because adult court proceedings strip them of their confidentiality rights. He believes
judges should retain the power to decide whether a youth should be prosecuted in
juvenile or adult court. Mr. Garber is not alone in Dane County. Jim Moeser, the juvenile
court administrator for Dane County, comments on the legislation, saying: “I think it was
bad policy for the wrong reasons at the time it was made, and there is more and more
evidence to assume it wasn’t good policy.”35
Juvenile crime in Wisconsin peaked in 1994, prompting the more punitive legislative
agenda in 1996.36 But since 1995, juvenile crime has been on the decline in both
Wisconsin and across the nation. In 2005, Assembly Bill 82 was introduced to the
Wisconsin State Legislature to change the upper age of the juvenile court jurisdiction
from 16 to 17 years old, removing 17-year-olds from adult court jurisdiction. Because AB
82 failed to pass before the end of the legislative session in May 2006, it will have to be
reintroduced in future sessions to remain on the legislative agenda.
Prior to the introduction of AB 82, the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance published
a report by the University of Wisconsin, What Works, Wisconsin, which analyzed the
effectiveness of youth programs in preventing crime.37 This report reviewed evidencebased prevention and juvenile offender programs to determine the most valuable and
cost-effective programs for reducing crime, saving money, and providing youth with
the opportunity for a positive future. The report concluded, “The strongest empirical
evidence of cost-effectiveness is for diversion programs and therapeutic interventions that

provide a range of intensive services over relatively long periods of time.” The researchers
put forth numerous recommendations, including changing how funding decisions are
made, providing a greater balance between prevention and intervention programs, and
investing in more research, evaluation, and development for these programs. The media
commended the report, saying that “We need more of this hard-headed approach,” rather
than one of despair.38
Although most human services’ officials and workers agree that 17-year-olds should
be treated as juveniles, budgetary issues are a concern. In 1996 when the Legislature
declared the age of juvenile cout jurisdiction as 17, they removed a large portion of their
juvenile justice population. Today, despite its Youth Aids funds, the juvenile justice system
does not have enough money to adequately fund programs for its youth population.
Unfortunately, the state budget does not have extra money to allot to these funds. Those
against changing the statutes argue that these programs will have even less money to
spend per youth if 17-year-olds re-enter the juvenile justice system. If this budgetary
impediment remains unsolved, it will dominate the debate surrounding raising the age
of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18, distracting those involved from focusing on the best
measures to take to stymie youth crime and ensure public safety. Perhaps the best
solution would be to find a better funding mechanism that would ensure developmentally
appropriate services for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Once those services
are available, 17-year-olds could be folded back into the juvenile system.

WISCONSIN RECOMMENDATIONS
• Return 17-year-olds to juvenile court jurisdiction.
Research on adolescent brain development has shown that adolescents do
not demonstrate the maturity of an adult when making decisions. Youth need
developmentally appropriate services to ensure rehabilitation. Adult prisons and jails do
not provide adequate rehabilitation programs for this age group.
• Revise the Juvenile Justice Code so that only a juvenile court judge
can waive jurisdiction and determine appropriate placement of youth.
It is important that youth be given the chance to be evaluated for the appropriate
sanctions on their behavior on a case-by-case basis by a judge. Juvenile court judges,
who have been trained to evaluate culpability, are best able to determine where a
youth in conflict with the law should be placed, not prosecutors. When youth lose
the opportunity to be placed in juvenile court, they are denied access to adequate
rehabilitative services as well as the safety provided within the juvenile court.

PG. 103

• Expand services available to youth
and ensure they are developmentally appropriate.
Rehabilitative opportunities that have been evaluated and deemed successful have
the greatest positive impact on recidivism rates. Furthermore, a large number of
incarcerated youth suffer from mental health problems. While they are in custody,
these issues could be addressed by trained and qualified youth support staff.
Education and other rehabilitative programs can greatly reduce the likelihood that a
youth will return to court. This ensures a better life for the child upon release and also
enhances public safety.

PG. 104

NOTES
Wis. Stat. § 938.02 (2006). http://www.legis.state.wi.us/
statutes/stat0938.pdf
2.
Wis. Stat. § 938.183 (2006).
3.
Wis. Stat. § 938.18 (2006).
4.
Wis. Stat. § 938.183 (1)(a).
5.
Wis. Stat. § 938.183 (2006).
6.
Wisconsin State Circuit Court Statistical Reports. Juvenile
caseload summary 2005. http://wicourts.gov/about/pubs/
circuit/circuitstats.htm
7.
Wis. Stat. § 938.209 (2006).
8.
Wis. Stat. § 970.13(3m) (2006).
9.
Letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to Wisconsin
Governor Jim Doyle Re: Investigation of the Taycheedah
Correctional Institution. (2006, May 1). http://www.usdoj.
gov/crt/split/documents/taycheedah_findlet_5-1-06.pdf
10.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). (2006, May 2). Women
at Wisconsin’s Taycheedah Prison suffer medical neglect and
receive worse mental health care than men. http://www.aclu.
org/prison/women/25405prs20060502.html
11.
Ibid.
12.
Frost, N., Greene, J., & Pranis, K. (2006). Hard hit: The growth
of the imprisonment of women: 1977-2004. New York, NY:
Women’s Prison Association. Available from www.wpaonline.
org
13.
Snell, T., & Morton, D. (1994). Women in prison. Washington,
DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved December 20,
2006, from www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/wopris.pdf
14.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. [2004]. 2003 adult
jail populations report. Madison, WI: Author.
15.
Ibid.
16.
Ibid.
17.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. (2006). Madison, WI:
Author.
18.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. (2006). Preliminary
crime and arrests in Wisconsin 2005. Madison, WI: Author.
19.
Greene, J., & and Pranis, K. (2006). Treatment instead of
prisons: A roadmap for sentencing and correctional policy
reform in Wisconsin. Washington, DC: Justice Strategies.
20.
Wisconsin State Circuit Court Statistical Reports. Juvenile
caseload summary 2005. Available from http://wicourts.gov/
about/pubs/circuit/circuitstats.htm. However, this number does
not include 17-year-olds who automatically fall under adult
court jurisdiction or youth under 17 subjected to mandatory
1.

waiver for certain offenses. These groups constitute a large
portion of youth who are tried as adults.
21.
Robert Nikolay, Budget Director, Wisconsin Department of
Corrections.
22.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. (2000-2004). Crime
and arrests reports. Madison, WI: Author.
23.
Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile offenders and
victims: 2006 national report. Washington, D.C.: Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. http://ojjdp.ncjrs.
org/ ojstatbb/nr2006/downloads/NR2006.pdf
24.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. 2002. Wisconsin’s
3-year juvenile justice plan 2003-2005. Madison, WI: Author.
25.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. 2005. Wisconsin
2006-2008 Three-year plan. Madison, WI: Author.
26.
Ibid.
27.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2005 American community survey.
Available from www.factfinder.census.gov
28.
Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
29.
Robert Nikolay, Budget Director, Wisconsin Department of
Corrections.
30.
Names have been changed to protect the individuals profiled.
31.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. Statistical Analysis
Center. Crime and arrests reports 1994. Available from
http://oja.state.wi.us/
32.
Lisheron, M. (1995, March 1). Thompson budget fails on
juvenile issues, Doyle says. The Milwaukee Journal. http://
www.findarticles.com/p/articles/ mi_qn4207/is_19950301/
ai_n10187128
33.
Schuetz, L. (2006, March 9). Report: Juvenile system is
broken. Wisconsin State Journal. http://www.madison.com/
archives/read.php?ref=/wsj/2006/03/09/0603090044.php
34.
Ibid.
35.
Ibid.
36.
Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.
37.
Small, S. A., et al. (2005, June). What works, Wisconsin:
What science tells us about cost-effective programs for
juvenile delinquency prevention. Madison, WI: University of
Wisconsin–Madison.
38.
Stanford, G. (2005, October 16). Good programs exist,
contrary to myth. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. http://www.
findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4196/is_20051016/ai_
n15710395

 

 

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