Sentencing

One reason given for transferring juveniles to criminal court is that the juvenile court cannot provide adequate sanctions for some offenses. Research on the likelihood and length of sentence in criminal versus juvenile court has mixed results. Brown and Langan (1998), in a national sample, found that a higher percentage of juveniles transferred to adult court were sentenced to incarceration than were those who remained in juvenile court: 63 percent of juveniles transferred to criminal court were sentenced to prison terms and 16 percent to jail terms. Prison sentences averaged 9.25 years. Only 21 percent were given probation. In comparison, only 31 percent of juveniles found guilty of person offenses in juvenile court were sentenced to out-of-home placement, and 53 percent were put on probation (Stahl et al., 1999).

A comparison of robbery and burglary cases in New Jersey and New York suggested that processing juveniles in the criminal court resulted in higher rates of incarceration, but not lengthier sentences than processing in the juvenile court (Fagan, 1995). Fagan also found higher rates of rearrest and reincarceration among young people processed for robbery in the criminal courts than in the juvenile courts; no such differences were found for burglary cases. A comparison of cases transferred to adult court with those adjudicated in juvenile court in St. Louis found that transferred youth did not receive greater punishment than they would have received in juvenile court (Kinder et al., 1995). The U.S. General Accounting Office (1995a) study of transferred juveniles found great variability in incarceration rates by state. In Vermont, for example, one-third of juveniles convicted of violent, property, or drug crimes in criminal court were incarcerated, while Minnesota incarcerated over 90 percent of the transferred juveniles convicted of those three types of crime. Pennsylvania incarcerated 90 percent of transferred juveniles in violent and drug offense cases, but only 10 percent in property cases.

There is some evidence that length of sentence varies in the juvenile and adult systems according to type of offense. For example, Podkopacz and Feld (1996) found in their Hennepin County, Minnesota study that for youths adjudicated of property offenses, the juvenile courts imposed longer sentences than did the criminal courts, while youths convicted of violent offenses in criminal courts received substantially longer sentences than their juvenile counterparts. Length of sentence and actual length of stay in a facility may differ, however. The length of stay in a juvenile facility appears, on average, to be much shorter than that in adult prison. Although national data on length of sentences given in juvenile court are not available, national average length of stay in long-term juvenile facili-



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