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Sunday 20th of September 2020

Documentation Center

The Child Not the Charge: Transfer Laws Are Not Advancing Public Safety

Justice Policy Institute; Campaign for Youth Justice


Over the last 20 years, elected officials and juvenile justice system stakeholders have changed policies and practices to create a more developmentally appropriate youth justice system, resulting in a reduction of the number of confined youth by 60 percent since the 1990s and reducing the number of youth automatically prosecuted as adults by 56 percent since 2007.

This change in course is largely the result of policies that restrict the use of secure detention facilities and limit prosecution of youth in the adult court system.

These trends in declining youth incarceration rates, while positive, have primarily focused on youth involved in nonviolent offenses. Moreover, despite a significant decline in the overall use of confinement, racial disparity in the juvenile justice system has worsened in many jurisdictions. This is due, in large part, to the fact that too many jurisdictions still rely on confinement and transfer to the adult system for youth who engage in violence.

The research clearly shows that youth are best served in the least restrictive setting, regardless of underlying offense type. However, state practices frequently do not follow these lessons, turning to secure settings and transfer to the adult criminal justice system when other interventions would be more effective at addressing the underlying cause of the behavior and delivering a better public safety return on investment. Instead, these punitive practices worsen racial disparities, saddle youth with the collateral consequences of a criminal record if they are prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, and contribute to recidivism.


North America - United States

Year Language

2020 English

Category Type

Grey Literature Report


Child, Justice, Public policies, Reform

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  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

    All rights reserved

  • Head Office: Rue Armand Campenhout, nº 72 bte 10. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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