Most of these legislative changes are too recent for research to provide much information about their impact either on practices regarding juvenile offenders or on the young people themselves. In addition, the many inadequacies in the data available on juveniles at various stages of the system make it difficult to examine their effect on changes in practice.

The number of juveniles who are sent to criminal (adult) court nationally is not known (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1995a). In 1994, about 21,000 persons under the age of 18 were convicted of a felony in a state criminal court (Brown and Langan, 1998). And 40 percent of them were convicted of a violent offense, compared with only 18 percent of all felony convictions of those over 18. An estimated 12,000 of the 21,000 were juveniles who had been transferred through judicial waiver, prosecutorial direct file, or statutory exclusion. The remainder were in states whose maximum age for juvenile court jurisdiction is 15 or 16 (i.e., states in which 16- or 17-year-olds are defined as adults). Bishop and Frazier (2000) suggest that the above figures may be a substantial undercount. Prosecutors alone reported filing 27,000 juvenile cases in adult court in 1996 (DeFrances and Steadman, 1998), and 10,000 cases were judicially waived in 1996 (Stahl et al., 1999).

Transfer to Criminal Court

Judicial waivers have been tracked for a number of years, but data on cases transferred by prosecutorial direct file or statutory exclusion are not systematically counted. Waivers by juvenile judges have remained fairly constant over the period 1986 to 1996, representing between 1.0 and 1.6 percent of all petitioned cases (Sickmund et al., 1998). There is some evidence that a similar percentage of cases was transferred in the early years of the juvenile court. About 1 percent of cases were waived by the Milwaukee Juvenile Court in the early 20th century (Schlossman, 1977). In a study of the Chicago juvenile court, Jeter (1922) reported that the percentage of boys transferred to adult court per year was usually less than 1 percent.

Despite some stability in the overall proportion of cases transferred through judicial waiver, there is variety by type of offense. Between 1986 and 1996, cases involving person offenses (i.e., homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, other violent sex offenses, and other offenses against persons) were the most likely to be sent to criminal court by juvenile court judges; about 2 percent of person offense cases resulted in judicial waiver (Sickmund et al., 1998; Stahl et al., 1999). In the late 1980s, there was a dramatic increase in waivers for drug offense cases,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement