prevention of violent crime, the juvenile justice system moved from its original purpose of
rehabilitation to a more reactive and punitive response to youth violence.32 The rise of juvenile
violent crime rates between the mid-1980s and early 1990s moved retribution to the forefront,
generating a series of policy proposals advocating for harsher and more frequent punishment of
juvenile offenders.33 The adoption of “get tough” policies and practices dramatically increased the
incarceration rate among juveniles and has disproportionately impacted minority youth
populations.34 Large numbers of youth have been incarcerated, despite research that finds that this
approach is not effective in reducing recidivism or curbing youth violence, and in some instances,
may actually increase a youth’s risk for involvement in violence.35
For example, the Community Preventive Services Task Force examined the effect on
violence of juvenile transfer laws and policies across states.36 The Task Force found strong
evidence that transfer to the adult criminal justice system increases the propensity for violence
among juvenile offenders, and recommended against such laws.37 Furthermore, transferred
juveniles had a thirty-four percent increase in felony rearrests compared with youth retained in
the juvenile justice system.38 Transferred youth may also experience violent outcomes, such as
elevated levels of pretrial violence, victimization during incarceration, and suicide.39
Unfortunately, laws allowing for the transfer of juveniles into the adult criminal justice system
have increased dramatically over the past few decades.40 An estimated 250,000 youth every year
are prosecuted, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults.41 In the face of countervailing evidence
demonstrating that such laws are ineffective in curbing violence and future delinquency, it is
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32 Billitteri, supra note 20, at 202–04.
33 See, e.g., John J. Dilulio Jr., Moral Poverty: The Coming of the Super-Predators Should Scare Us into Wanting to Get to the Root
Causes of Crime a Lot Faster, CHI. TRIB. (Dec. 15, 1995), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1995-12-15/news/9512150046_1_crime-
talking-bomb. “[W]e will probably need to incarcerate at least 150,000 juvenile criminals in the years just ahead. In deference to
public safety, we will have little choice but to pursue genuine get-tough law-enforcement strategies against the superpredators.” Id. at
5. Superpredator is a term used to describe morally-impoverished juveniles who are prone to violence and crime. Id. at 3. Predictions
of a large-scale youth crime wave in conjunction with the media’s selective attention of to a small number of particularly violent
crimes, which included school shootings, exasperated public fear of a youth violence epidemic. Emily A. Polachek, Juvenile Transfer:
From “Get Better” to “Get Tough” and Where We Go from Here, 35 WM. MITCHELL L. REV. 1162, 1169 (2009).
34 Billitteri, supra note 20, at 199 (discussing disproportionate minority impact); see also ANNIE E. CASEY FOUND., REDUCING YOUTH
INCARCERATION IN THE UNITED STATES 2 (2013), available at
DataSnapshotYouthIncarceration-2013.pdf (discussing trends in juvenile incarceration and identifying the disparity in incarceration
rates experienced by minority youth).
35 RICHARD A. MENDEL, ANNIE E. CASEY FOUND., NO PLACE FOR KIDS: THE CASE FOR REDUCING JUVENILE INCARCERATION 11-12
(2011), available at
oPlaceForKids_Full.pdf. Research shows that seventy to eighty percent of incarcerated youth recidivate within the first two to three
years of release. Id. at 10. Seventy-four percent of incarcerated youth are non-violent offenders. Id. at 10. Confined youth are exposed
to high levels of violence, abuse (a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics study reported an epidemic of sexual abuse in juvenile corrections
facilities) and maltreatment, which are all risk factors for violence perpetration. Id. at 6–9. States that have significantly reduced their
juvenile confinement rates have not experienced a subsequent increase in youth violence. Id. at 26–27; Angela McGowan et al.,
Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Juveniles from the Juvenile Justice System to the Adult Justice
System: A Systematic Review, 32 AM. J. PREVENTIVE MED. S7, S13 (2007) (discussing the effects of juvenile transfer policies on
violence among incarcerated youth).
36 McGowan et al., supra note 35, at S7.
37 Id. at S7, S13–15.
38 Id. at S14.
39 Id. at S17–18. Victimization rates of youth offenders during incarceration have been reported to be forty-six percent for those
confined to adult facilities and thirty-seven percent for juvenile facilities. Id. at S17. The suicide rate for youth detained in adult
correctional facilities is estimated to be 2041 youth per 100,000 and 57 per 100,000 for those in juvenile facilities. Id. at S17–18.
40 RICHARD E. REDDING, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, JUVENILE TRANSFER LAWS: AN EFFECTIVE DETERRENT TO DELINQUENCY? 1 (2010),
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/220595.pdf. For example, in 1979, fourteen states had automatic transfer laws
compared to thirty-one states in 2003. Id.
41 NEELUM ARYA, CAMPAIGN FOR YOUTH JUSTICE, STATE TRENDS: LEGISLATIVE VICTORIES FROM 2005 TO 2010 REMOVING YOUTH
FROM THE ADULT CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM 7 (2011), available at