In recent years, a growing number of States have modified their laws to facilitate the transfer of certain categories of juveniles from the jurisdiction of juvenile courts to the jurisdiction of adult criminal courts.

This Summary describes four studies of juvenile transfers to adult criminal court conducted for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by the National Center for Juvenile Justice.

Two of the studies (South Carolina and Utah) reviewed all instances in which a prosecutor requested a judicial waiver to transfer the jurisdiction of the case to adult criminal court. Another study (Pennsylvania) compared the characteristics of juveniles waived in 1994 with their counterparts in 1986. The final study (also Pennsylvania) explored the decisionmaking process for cases with juvenile defendants originating in adult criminal court under new “statutory exclusion” legislation.

The Summary addresses such relevant questions as the following:

  • What criteria were used in the transfer decision?

  • Did the nature of transfer and decisionmaking change during the 1980’s and 1990’s over and above changes in legislation?

  • What was the impact of new legislation that excludes additional offenders from juvenile court jurisdiction?

The Summary features an overview of each of the four studies, and the key findings are outlined across study lines. Background on transfer mechanisms, past transfer research, and study methodology is also provided.

In sum, the information provided in these pages should enhance our understanding of the transfer of juvenile offenders to adult criminal court and its impact on recidivism and justice system decisionmaking.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Juvenile Transfers to Criminal Court in the 1990's:
Lessons Learned From Four Studies
August 2000