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December 2, 2007

New attitudes about juvenile crime and punishment

This long piece from the AP, headlined "States rethink charging kids as adults," provides a detailed examination of new views on juve crime and punishment.  Here is how it starts:

A generation after America decided to get tough on kids who commit crimes — sometimes locking them up for life — the tide may be turning.  States are rethinking and, in some cases, retooling juvenile sentencing laws.

They're responding to new research on the adolescent brain, and studies that indicate teens sent to adult court end up worse off than those who are not: They get in trouble more often, they do it faster and the offenses are more serious. "It's really the trifecta of bad criminal justice policy," says Shay Bilchik, a former Florida prosecutor who heads the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University.  "People didn't know that at the time the changes were made.  Now we do, and we have to learn from it."

Similarly, this article highlights a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that indicates that "youths who have been previously tried as adults are 34 percent more likely to commit crimes than those who are dealt with in the juvenile system."  The CDC study also shows that "youths transferred into the adult system commit suicide at higher rates than those kept in the juvenile system and are victimized by other inmates far more as well."

This important CDC study, which can be accesed here, is entitled "Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System: A Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services."

December 2, 2007 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Doh, as Homer would say. It's the "brutalization effect," depicted well in "Natural Born Killers" when the inmates riot after the "You're pieces of sh*t" speech.

Posted by: George | Dec 2, 2007 11:33:29 AM

"youths who have been previously tried as adults are 34 percent more likely to commit crimes than those who are dealt with in the juvenile system."

And from that we are supposed to infer that the transfer caused this group to be worse, rather than inferring that the transferred group was transferred because, on average, they were worse to start with?

If I were writing a textbook on social science methodology and wanted an example of an unjustified inference of causation, I couldn't do much better than that.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 2, 2007 11:56:39 AM

Kent, aren't you the same person who believes that because the death penalty rate country wide correlates to the murder rate country wide, use of the death penalty causes the murder rate to drop? (Even though, of course, most of the country doesn’t use the death penalty, but somehow murder decreases in the Northwest because there are more executions in Texas and Florida.)

Posted by: Confused | Dec 2, 2007 12:44:10 PM

Kent, sometimes there is some benifit in reading before spinning. From 8-9:

Discussion
The studies reviewed for this report assessed the effects of strengthened transfer laws in Washington, Pennsylvania, and regions of New York, Minnesota, and Florida. These states are geographically and demographically diverse, which suggests that the findings might apply in other states.

The effects of transfer policies on violence and other crime across levels of severity of crime for which the juvenile was initially charged (e.g., misdemeanors or felonies) require further study. To assure comparability, the reviewed studies control for the severity of the crime for which the juvenile is at risk for being transferred and, where possible, for the juvenile’s criminal history. These studies did not generally assess whether transfer had different effects for juveniles with more or less serious offenses and offense histories. Transfer might be more effective or less harmful if restricted to the most serious offenders. The Florida studies indicated that a large number of juveniles committing misdemeanors were transferred to adult court and found greater harm (i.e., recidivism) for these offenders than for juveniles transferred for more serious offenses. In any case, the possibility of transferring the most serious juvenile offenders was available in all court systems before the strengthening and formalizing of the transfer policies. The changes assessed in this review have resulted in lowering the thresholds for the seriousness of crimes for which juveniles are transferred, Vol. 56 / RR-9 Recommendations and Reports 9 thereby facilitating transfer. Because of methodologic controls for juvenile criminal background in studies of specific deterrence, juveniles at the most and least severe ends of the criminal severity spectrum are probably not included in these studies. Therefore, inferences from these studies should exclude these extremes.

The findings in this report indicate that transfer policies have generally resulted in increased arrest for subsequent crimes, including violent crime, among juveniles who were transferred compared with those retained in the juvenile justice system. To the extent that transfer policies are implemented to reduce violent or other criminal behavior, available evidence indicates that they do more harm than good.

Posted by: George | Dec 2, 2007 1:01:33 PM

"Kent, aren't you the same person who believes that because the death penalty rate country wide correlates to the murder rate country wide, use of the death penalty causes the murder rate to drop?"

Nope. At no time have I ever made a statement remotely like that. The studies I cite for deterrence are far more sophisticated.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 2, 2007 1:58:29 PM

Whenever a child is kidnapped and murdered(which is very rare), politicians always find new ways to punish sex offenders again, because we have to "protect" our children. However, if they are in state custody, it is acceptable for them to be raped and brutalized in the care of the state.

Kids tried as adults have to serve their time in an adult prison. some prison have them in the infermary at first until they turn 16, about a turn just throws them in to the general population right away.

In Texas people are oblivious to this. In Texas kids as young as 14 can be tried as adults. There was a case several years back of a 16 year old that was tried as an adult because he set a trash can on fire. he was convicted of arson and given 8 years.

by the time he was 17, he committed suicided because he was being raped daily. This happens every day in America, and people just don't care. But if a kid is kidnapped, molested, and murder, everyone is demanding something to be done, the reason for this is that kidnapping happens rarely, and kids being raped and brutalizd in prison is a common occurance and people see it as normal. Now, that's sad.

Posted by: EJ | Dec 2, 2007 3:03:30 PM

So you no longer support the results of the Adler study? (Perhaps I'm confusing you with federalist.)

Posted by: Confused | Dec 2, 2007 4:45:36 PM

EJ, I don't think anyone thinks that a 17 year old being raped daily in a Texas prison is acceptable.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 3, 2007 11:30:30 AM

Federalist,

I did in a survey in one of my class, and about half said is alright to try kids as adults. If we send them there with the knowledge of what will happen them to them, is the same as making it acceptable.

Posted by: EJ | Dec 3, 2007 1:32:55 PM

There's a difference between trying children as adults and allowing them to be raped in prison.

As an aside, your line of reasoning basically says that if one youthful offender is raped in prison, then we don't have the right to lock up certain juvenile offenders. That's not the type of reasoning you wish to advocate, as it is very easy for me to say that lenience for criminals creates new victims, and since you consistently advocate for such lenience, you find acceptable the predations of animals like Daniel Taveras.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 3, 2007 4:26:18 PM

There's a difference between trying children as adults and allowing them to be raped in prison.

As an aside, your line of reasoning basically says that if one youthful offender is raped in prison, then we don't have the right to lock up certain juvenile offenders. That's not the type of reasoning you wish to advocate, as it is very easy for me to say that lenience for criminals creates new victims, and since you consistently advocate for such lenience, you find acceptable the predations of animals like Daniel Taveras.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 3, 2007 4:26:24 PM

"So you no longer support the results of the Adler study?"

"Confused," your nom de blog is apt. On the day the Adler and Summers article was published I wrote a post skeptical of it and declining to endorse it.

On the CDC study, the authors claim to have controlled for the differences in the two groups of offenders by mathematically including the offense, priors, and demographic variables in their model. It doesn't fly. Making sure your groups being compared are the same in all but the independent variable is one of the trickiest problems in social science. When the groups have been intentionally selected on a basis strongly related to the dependent variable, the problem is far worse than usual.

As everyone who practices criminal law knows, a wide range of conduct is included in a single section of the penal code. It is not only possible that the transferred juveniles tend to be at the upper end of the range of culpability and the nontransferred ones at the lower end of the range, it is highly likely. Simply controlling for the offense doesn't hack it.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 3, 2007 7:50:40 PM

Federalist,

Putting aside studies that show that teenagers do not have the mental maturity of adults to make desitions, there is also studies that say that children in adults prisons are more likely to be raped than if they were in a juvenile facility.

People under the age of 18 should not be tried as adults in the first place, because they are denied all the rights that the adults enjoy. Particularly, they are denied the right to vote and elect the leaders that send them to jail for a big proportion of their lives.

I believe that the younger the offender, the better chance there are for rehabilitation. If you put a 15 year old with adult offenders, he will only learn the trade in a more effective way, rather than getting the counsling and education that he will need for the future.

Furthermore, I don't believe that any law sentences anyone to be raped. When a person is incarcerated, he/she is placed int he custody of government and the government is responsible for their safety. If politicians really wanted to eliminated prison rape, they would place young offenders from 18-23 in a seperate prison to help them rehabilitate.

"if one youthful offender is raped in prison, then we don't have the right to lock up certain juvenile offenders. "

You must also consider the fact, that politicians campaign on protecting "the children." When a child gets killed, they can't wait to see who can come up with the harshest pentalties on sex offenders that have already done their time, and the same time, these same politicians pass the laws that put far more children in risk of being abused. Do these children don't count?

Posted by: EJ | Dec 4, 2007 2:11:43 AM

hey im a stident

Posted by: lauren | May 5, 2008 12:32:23 PM

My son was tried and sentenced as an adult at 15, life without possibility of parole. He is now 24 and no counseling or rehabilitation of any kind has been offered or has taken place on how to handle time in or out of prison. His life has been threatened and he has been beat up pretty badly, put in isolation for long priods of time to "protect him from the brutality of the population inmates" and transferred from prison to prision to "keep him safe". Though to my knowldedge he has not been raped, suicide is heavy on his mind at times because of the stress of an unsympathetic government and laws. No help while he is in and no help to get out. But if he were to stay in and die in prison, crime goes on. He was 15 and youthful when he went in. Now he is 24, hardended, darkened and distanced. They give him false hope, like getting a GED and a carpentry certificate, but daily remind him those things serve only to occupy his mind and time INSIDE and therefore prove useless to him.

Posted by: Parent | Jun 26, 2008 3:10:43 PM

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