Transfer of Juveniles to Adult Court to Be Charged As an Adult

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For the past twenty years, several States have considerably expanded legislation permitting the prosecution of juveniles in adult criminal courts (Bartol & Bartol, 2015). The trend has continued for the past years to allow for the transfer to adult courts at younger ages and additional offenses. The transfer of juveniles to adult court depicts that the demand for comparative punishment has trumped the objective of personalized rehabilitation existing within the Juvenile system. Juvenile courts with law-breaking jurisdiction handle cases that juveniles are accused of acts, which would be considered crime in case adults happened to have committed them.

Since the inception of the court, juvenile justice professionals and policy makers have tussled with the decision regarding when a juvenile should be transferred to an adult court. At the moment, different states have varying amalgamations of statutorily defined criteria for determining when a juvenile’s case may be moved to an adult court (Bartol & Bartol, 2015). This may include procedures such as certification, judicial transfer, direct file or automatic waiver. The statues of a state outline the kind of criminal acts that may be tried in adult courts. Several states also have a mechanism such as reverse waiver or decertification for reversing the case to a juvenile’s jurisdiction whenever deemed appropriate.

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In most cases, statutory established standards in many occasions have not driven the process of shifting juvenile to adult court. Most of the history of the children’s court, the conclusion to transfer a juvenile lawbreaker to an adult court rested solely on the discretion of the juvenile court judge. Transfer used to be possible in 1899 for a range of heinous law-breaking in case the juvenile court judge considered that the available resources were not enough to rehabilitate the adolescent. Juveniles have been committing crimes and community members were not happy with them roaming the streets. This prompted the authorities to establish a center where juvenile lawbreakers would face the law.

Several questions have been raised concerning juveniles being prosecuted in adult courts and to some extent ending up in adult prisons. As has been stated before, the juveniles should just face the law in case they committed crimes that are equivalent to what an adult may have committed. However, before any form of transfer, the judges always ensure that they have exhausted all avenues and that there is no option left but to transfer the juvenile (Hawkins, Lattimore, Dawes, & Visher, 2009). Trying juveniles in adult courts have also demonstrated that adolescents may come out while worse as compared to before they were tried. Several lobby groups have called on the government and the concerned bodies not to encourage the transfer of juveniles to adult courts.

Apart from immediate, psychological and physical perils resulting from incarceration, transferred juveniles may also experience harmful disruptions in their development during early childhood and late adolescent. It can be assumed that adolescent offenders to be diverse, as well as potentially delayed in many aspects of social development (Hawkins, Lattimore, Dawes, & Visher, 2009). Additionally, sufficient evidence exists that jail and prison settings to an individual’s sense of identity and self that even hardened criminals find traumatic, disorienting, and upsetting (American Psychological Association. 2013).

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  1. American Psychological Association. (2013). Guidelines for psychological evaluations in child protection matters. American Psychologist, 68(1), 20–31. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases
  2. Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2015). Introduction to forensic psychology: Research and application (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Chapter 11,
  3. Hawkins, S. R., Lattimore, P. K., Dawes, D., & Visher, C. A. (2009). Reentry experiences of confined juvenile offenders: Characteristics, service receipt, and outcomes of juvenile male participants in the SVORI multi-site evaluation.
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