Web edition: June 18, 2007
Print edition: June 23, 2007; Vol.171 #25 (p. 399)
In "Violent Justice: Adult system fails young offenders" (SN: 4/21/07, p. 243), an association is found between young offenders being tried as adults and increased criminal offenses later. The implication is made that one thing causes the other. Perhaps a better interpretation of the data would be that, because not every young offender is treated as an adult, the system is good at picking the ones that need it the most. Not every association tells you that one thing causes the other.
When making a decision as to whether a minor should be tried as an adult or a juvenile, the seriousness and nature of the crime should be the overwhelming consideration. Murder or violent crimes are properly tried in adult courts, but there's a gray area for robberies. I am sure that if the statistics for future criminal activity for those minors convicted in adult or juvenile courts are analyzed, the lesser the crime the greater the likelihood that the juvenile offender will be hurt by being in the adult system.
Silver Spring, Md.
The researchers report that juvenile offenders remanded to the adult justice system were 34 percent more likely to be arrested for a subsequent charge than those who were kept within the juvenile justice system. How did the researchers control for the tendency to reserve adult-court referral for the worst offenders?
While I claim no expertise in the area, I have long held the belief that sending juveniles to adult prisons only allows their further education in criminal activity. However, the study as you presented it has a major flaw. Judges and courts in general do not allow the designation of juveniles as adults without strong evidence that they are likely unrecoverable. Thus, the rate of recidivism would be expected to be higher than for youths who committed similar crimes but were not sentenced to adult prisons.
Fort Davis, Texas
The studies used statistical controls for criminal history and other factors that influence decisions to transfer juvenile offenders to the adult system.B. Bower