panel data from the censuses of public and private juvenile facilities and censuses of adult prisons collected by the Department of Justice for the period 1978-1993, he found that in states in which the adult system was more punitive12 than the juvenile system, violent crime rates decreased significantly at the age of majority. In states in which the adult system was more lenient than the juvenile system, violent crime rates increased at the age of majority. This suggests that it is the relative punitiveness of the system, not whether it is the juvenile or adult system per se, that may deter crime among young people in the short term. Levitt did not find any long-term relationship between the punitiveness of the sanctions imposed on juveniles and their adult criminal behavior.

Blended Sentences

The number of juveniles affected by blended sentencing is not known on a national level. There is some information at the state level, suggesting that blended sentencing may result in relatively lengthy sentences. For example, in 1996 in Texas, the average blended sentence imposed for all offenses was 10.5 years, ranging from an average of 5 years for burglary to 31 years for capital murder (Texas law permits blended sentences up to 40 years). The percentage of commitments to the Texas Youth Commission that were blended sentences increased from about 2 percent in 1990 to nearly 8 percent in 1996. The addition of 16 offenses eligible for blended sentencing in 1996 led to an increase from 4.7 percent of commitments in 1995 to 7.6 percent in 1996. The majority of juveniles receiving blended sentences in 1996 in Texas were Hispanic (42 percent) and black (32 percent). Nearly one-third of those receiving blended sentences in 1996 were 14 years old or younger (Criminal Justice Policy Council, 1997). The impact of these laws on ultimate sanctions for juveniles sentenced under them will not be known for some years to come; this is an area that is ripe for research to begin.

The effect of these legislative changes, overall, appears to be an increase in the number of juveniles held in adult state prisons. That is not to say that all juveniles who are tried as adults and found guilty end up in adult prison. States have adopted a variety of means to deal with sanctioning these juveniles, including blended sentences that allow juveniles to begin serving time in a juvenile facility and finish their sentence in an adult facility. Some states (e.g., Texas, New York) have created special secure facilities under the auspices of the juvenile or adult corrections

12  

Levitt defined punitiveness as the number of juveniles (adults) in custody per reported violent crime by juveniles (adults).



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