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Juvenile Waiver and Transfer
Instructor: Mr. Gardner
May 12, 2014
The use of waiver and transfer provisions in juvenile court statutes has become more
common. Critically analyze this trend toward a criminalization of the juvenile court
“One of the mostimportant actions that can occur in the early court processing of a
juvenile offender is the transfer process, or also known as waiver”(Siegel & Welsh, 2011).
Before they had a juvenile court system, juvenile offenders were treated in the Adversarial
Criminal Justice System, in the same manner as adults. These influenced legislators in many
countries to think of alternative procedures that could be used in dealing with youthful offenders
instead of subjecting them to the harsh treatment in the criminal justice system(Siegel & Welsh,
2011). So, this led to the establishment of juvenile courts that focused more on rehabilitation
rather than punishment.Court proceedings were made more informal, and youthful offenders
were since distanced from the Adversarial justice system. Manystates developed Juvenile court
systems across the helpedoffenders below the age of 18 were tried for their offences.
The American judicial system has experiencedchanges in the recent years mostly inthe
juvenile system. This has been as a result of complaints from the public for the states to be tough
on crime(Seiter, 2011). Somestates have advanced different approaches that supportfor juvenile
waiver and transfer. Juvenile transfer and waiver laws are statutes allowing young offenders to
be transferred from juvenile courts to criminal courts. This means that they are prosecuted as if
they are adult with the range of penalties being great.
After a whiledifferent states have adjusted their waiver laws. The following are the
classification of the various waiver laws that have been advanced.Discretionary waiver is the
provision that allows juvenile court judges to transfer a case involving a minor from a juvenile
court to an adult criminal court. Mandatory waiver is when the state demands that juvenile
offenders under the juvenile courts be transferred to adult criminal courts. The state directs the
juvenile courts to carry out this function(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). Presumed waiver involves the
state classifying cases into categories such that certain cases must be transferred to adult criminal
courts under the law. Statutory exclusion entails excluding cases that involve youths from
juvenile courts if the statutes do not support such an offence to be tried under the juvenile courts.
The final class that of once an adult always an adult(Seiter, 2011). This involves statutes in
which the state stops juvenile courts from trying offenders who have ever been tried under the
adult courts for being tried in juvenile justice system.
In the end, states have advanced on their waiver laws to updatethe movement of cases
from juvenile courts to criminal courts so that prosecution becomes easier. This has been
accompanied by removalof some offences from juvenile statutes in most jurisdictions or adding
concurrentauthority provisions to laws that are already established(Siegel & Welsh, 2011).This
critically analyzes the trend in the waiver and transfer provisions in juvenile court statutes toward
a criminalization of the juvenile court system.
These provisions are plannedto reduce crimes but scholars have been able to prove that
waivers and transfers cannot preventcrime or reduce numbersofre-offending. Recent trends in
research show that the statutes concerning transfers and waivers do not in themselves account for
decreased levels of juvenile offending or re-offending. When juveniles are transferred to
adversarial courts, the results are shocking as most of them either recidivate or leave the systems
more hardened criminals. Putting the youth offenders in same custody as the adults puts their life
at risk, since they can easily be injured by the adults(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). It has been
observed that most of the youths who pass through the adult system are always detained for
longer periods that their counterparts and lesseryouths are the ones who are often sent to the
adult criminal justice system.Mentaldevelopment and juvenile fitness have a great influence on
the lives of the juveniles. When exposed to conditions where they are subjected to harsh
treatment, they are likely to experience lack of impulse control and slower brain development.
It is observed that transferring violent offenders directly to the adult system has not been
able to deter young people from offending. The media has also gone ahead to publicinformation
about such statutes that involve direct transfer of violent juvenile offenders to adult courts but
that has also not bore any positive results(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). In studies where youthful
offenders have been transferred to the adult criminal justice system, the results have been
compared against those who have been treated in the juvenile justice system and a large
differencehas been observed. Offenders from the adult justice system were arrested for felonies
at a higher rate compared to their counterparts who had been treated under the juvenile justice
system. Some scholars have carried out studies of institutions that try to incorporate the two
approaches of treatment and rehabilitation(Seiter, 2011). The result has been a decrease in levels
of re-offending which however remains higher that the levels of re-offending of youths treated
under a plain juvenile justice system(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). The only type of offence that
seemed to have less re-offending rates for juveniles treated as the adult system included property
The explanations for this observation are interesting. First, when transferred to the adult
system, most of the youths feel that they have been treated unfairly for their offences. They
disagree with the state position of seeking justice and consequently develop a wrong mentality
against the state. When released, the youths are likely to re-offend to compensate for the
injustices done against them by the state.
Treating juveniles under the adult system is a form of pervertingthe juvenile system.
Youths who join adult system, are disadvantaged since, they lack the chances to seek
employment and other opportunities in life. As such, when they are released, they cannot fit well
in the society(Schmalleger, 2011).So, they turn back to their former ways of reoffending to earn
a living. Also, Juveniles who are exposed to the adult system and are put in adult prisons are
likely to become hardened criminals. These youths interact most often with the adult offenders
and as a result learn new skills and new means of criminality from the mature inmates.
Those youths who are treated under the juvenile system are always well bred and find it
easy to interact with the prison staff and can easily be integrated into the society. Those putin
adult systems held that guards and staffs in adult court systems and prisons were harsh inhumane
and indifferent and treated them as enemies(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). Those who were
rehabilitated through the juvenile system promised never to re-offend again since; they had been
empowered through knowledge and fair treatment.
While in detention in adult prisons, youths are exposed to several risks. They might not
be compatible with the adults and as such may choose to commit suicide. The adults are also
likely to abuse them sexually or physically through assaults(Seiter, 2011). Consequently, when
they go back to the community, they are often very damaged than their counterparts who were
treated in the juvenile justice system.This togetherwith the violence observed in most of the adult
prisons makes the youths tougher and more hardened and as result they may engage even in
more dangerous experiences.
Treating juveniles under these systems leaves them more desperate. The best approaches
to treat them with the meaning of rehabilitating them, so that they are easily joinedinto the
society. This is important as it helps the individuals and also protects the society form criminals
and crimes(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). Juveniles are still young and have not matured and sotheir
minds are not well built to be exposed to such experiences as those in mature prisons. Youths are
vulnerableand cannot effectively think for themselves as adults would do. It has also been shown
that juvenile treated as adults are affected cognitively since it impairs their mentaldevelopment.
In conclusion, the state must guaranteethat the number of youths being exposedto adult
treatment is reduced if not done away with. The states must also guaranteethat the proper
services, treatment programs and sentencing actionsthat fit the juveniles are used. The transfer
system and its related treatment of youthful offenders return the system back to the times when
there was no juvenile justice system. But also, I don’t think all juveniles are bad. But even for
the ones that are, I still don’t believe that they need a punishment that harsh. Maybe the law
should give them a few years, depends on the crime that was committed. Maybe just probation
and community service. The states and cities do their best to have programs for kids, but most of
them prefer to be in the streets and join a gang, which is a wrong choice to make, but it makes
them feel wanted.
Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal Justice Today An Introduction Text for the 21st Century. Upper
Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.
Seiter, R. P. (2011). Corrections an Introduction. Saddle River: Pearson.
Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2011). Juvenile Delinquency The Core. Belmont: Wadsworth.