Key Research

The Campaign for Youth Justice is committed to providing you with the most updated information on transfer/waiver of youth to the adult criminal court and has produced several publications including National Reports and Policy Briefs. The national reports and documents below highlight the vast body of evidence finding that transferring juveniles to the adult criminal justice system leads to higher rates of recidivism, puts incarcerated and detained youth at unnecessary risk, has little deterrence value, and does not increase public safety.

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Frequently Requested Studies



State Trends Legislative Victories from 2011-2013 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System (October 2013)
State Trends Legislative Victories from 2011-2013 Removing Youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System, takes a look at states that have, and are taking steps to remove children from the adult criminal justice system. Over the past eight years,twenty three states have enacted forty pieces of legislation to reduce the prosecution of youth in adult criminal courts and end the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons. The report documents the continuation of four trends in justice reform efforts across the country and highlights the key pieces of legislation enacted between 2011 and 2013.
Author: CFYJ Policy Director, Carmen Daugherty

OJJDP Releases Report of Family Listening Sessions on Juvenile Justice (August 2013)
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has released "OJJDP Family Listening Sessions: Executive Summary." In 2011, OJJDP and the Campaign for Youth Justice convened four listening sessions involving families and youth who have had direct experiences with the juvenile justice system at the local or state levels. This report summarizes the participants' experiences and their recommendations for reform. The listening sessions provide OJJDP, state juvenile justice agencies, and other stakeholders with a greater understanding of the challenges families face when their child becomes involved in the juvenile or criminal justice systems.


Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court is Not Correlated with Falling Youth Violences (March 2012)
Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court is Not Correlated with Falling Youth Violences, an analysis by Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, refutes the claim that transferring youth to criminal court is responsible for decreasing crime rates. The dearth of data on youth prosecuted in the adult system has made such comparisons difficult in the past. However, by comparing transfer rates and crime rates from the six states with good data systems where all youth ages 16-17 are originally subject to juvenile court jurisdiction, Butts found there is no relationship between declining crime rates and transfer. For example, Butts found that Florida transfers more youth than any other state but did not achieve the same crime drop that Ohio, California, or Washington state achieved from 1995-2010.
Author: Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York


You’re An Adult Now: Youth in Adult Criminal Justice Systems (January 2012)
Now available in the NIC Library, You’re An Adult Now: Youth in Adult Criminal Justice Systems, which focuses on issues managing youth offenders in an adult corrections system.

  • Youth transferred to the adult corrections system recidivate at a higher rate than those kept in the juvenile justice system;
  • Pretrial, post-conviction, and community supervision corrections systems face challenges keeping youth safe, effectively providing for their services and supervision, and containing costs required to serve youth appropriately. Due to these and other challenges corrections systems face when managing these youth, the transfer of juveniles in adult institutions might run counter to correctional and rehabilitative goals;
  • To overcome these challenges, a number of states and localities have developed innovative ways of managing youth when they have been charged, convicted and committed to the adult corrections system. These changes are helping improve public safety, contain costs, successfully rehabilitate youth and help them transition to adulthood.

Youth Justice System Survey Poll (October 2011)
GBA Strategies administered this survey of 1,000 adults nationwide between September 27th and October 2nd, 2011.

Key findings include:

  • By a margin of 78 – 15 percent, the public overwhelming wants the focus of the juvenile justice system to be on prevention and rehabilitation, rather than incarceration and punishment;
  • A majority of U.S. adults (56 percent) think that youth facilities are more appropriate to hold juveniles convicted of crimes than adult prisons;
  • People overwhelmingly trust judges (81 percent), not prosecutors (12 percent), to determine if and when a juvenile should be tried as an adult;
  • Nearly two-thirds of the public favors setting a minimum age at which a young person can be prosecuted in adult court; and
  • Americans strongly support a multitude of reforms to the juvenile justice system. These include removing young people from adult jails and prisons, ensuring youth remain connected with their families, having independent oversight to ensure youth are protected from abuse while in custody, increasing funds to provide more public defenders to represent youth in court, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.


No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration (October 2011)
On October 4th, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, which examines the detrimental impact of America’s over-reliance on incarceration of youth in a thorough, in-depth analysis of its effect on youth and public safety. Combining research, data and testimony, the analysis shows that America’s reliance on incarcerating young offenders has not only failed to combat youth crime but also that reducing these rates and closing facilities does not increase juvenile crime rates. Click here for the press release.
Author: The Annie E. Casey Foundation


Trying Juveniles as Adults: An Analysis of State Transfer Laws and Reporting (September 2011)
This bulletin is a must-read bulletin as it provides the latest overview of state transfer laws and practices and examines available state-level data on juveniles adjudicated in the criminal justice system.  State-by-state tables that readers will find useful include: type of transfer mechanism (i.e., judicial waiver to blended sentencing); states housing youth in adult prisons; laws allowing youth to be held pre-trial in jail; transfer data available in a state; juvenile courts that are allowed to impose criminal sanctions on juveniles; specifics of automatic/statutory waiver mechanisms; specifics of prosecutorial waiver mechanisms; and specifics of judicial waiver mechanisms (e.g., ages, offenses, burden of proof).


State Trends: Legislative Victories from 2005 to 2010 (March 2011)
This national report by CFYJ provides state policymakers, the media, the public, and advocates with the latest information about youth in the adult justice system. The first half of the report explains the dangers to youth, public safety, and the overall prosperity of our economy and future generations.  The second half of the report examines 27 positive pieces of legislation enacted in 15 states during the last 5 years, as well as highlights active reform efforts underway in additional states.
Author: CFYJ Research Director, Neelum Arya


Juvenile Transfer Laws: An Effective Deterrent to Delinquency? (June 2010)

Bulletin by Richard E. Redding confirms extensive research finding that transfer laws have had the unintended consequence of increasing, rather than decreasing, recidivism rates and suggests that any intended deterrent effect of these laws has been largely unsuccessful.

Author: Richard E. Redding, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Bulletin


Literature Review on Youth Tried As Adults (July 2010)

The Juvenile Justice Project at UCLA Law School released a literature review on the Impact of Prosecuting Youth in the Adult Criminal Justice System in July 2010. This report was commissioned by the Campaign for Youth Justice, and provides an update to the previous literature review published by the Youth Law Center in 1995.  The report compiles the latest research and reveals the harmful effects of transferring youth to the adult criminal justice system, where facilities are ill-equipped to address youth needs and promote rehabilitation by examining the effects on culpability, probability of incarceration, length of incarceration, location of incarceration, processing time, deterrence, and recidivism.

Author: CFYJ and the UCLA School of Law, Juvenile Justice Project.


From Time-Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System. (July 2009)

Policy research report by Michele Deitch that analyzes the available data with regard to the transfer of young children to adult criminal court, documents the extremely harsh and tragic consequences that follow when young children go into the adult criminal justice system, profiles practices in states with particularly severe outcomes for these young children, looks at international practices and offers policy recommendations.

Author: Michele Deitch, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.


America’s Invisible Children: Latino Youth and the Failure of Justice (May 2009)
CFYJ and the National Council of La Raza report on Latino youth in the justice system.  In addition to providing the latest facts about Latino youth in the U.S. justice system, the report highlights promising solutions and policy recommendations to reduce the disparities.

Author: CFYJ and NCLR


Keeping Adolescents Out of Prison (October 2008)

Policy brief by Laurence Steinberg and Ron Haskins cites research showing that harsh punishment in adult facilities increases the probability of future violent crimes and that programs for youth that provide systematic treatment in community and family settings significantly reduce future criminal behavior without the need for harsh sanctions. The brief recommends states should adapt their laws on juvenile crime to emphasize evidence-based treatment and to avoid harsh punishment for all but repeat violent offenders.

Author: Laurence Steinberg and Ron Haskins, The Future of Children Brookings Institution Policy Brief

Juvenile Crime and Criminal Justice: Resolving Border Disputes (October 2008)

Chapter by Jeffery Fagan on the impact of transfer laws in reducing crime. Fagan finds that rates of juvenile offending are not lower in states where it is more common to try adolescents as adults and juveniles who have been tried as adults are no less likely to re-offend than their juvenile counterparts. Fagan concludes that treating juveniles as adult criminals is not effective as a means of crime control.

Author: Jeffrey Fagan, The Future of Children Juvenile Justice Report, Volume 18, No. 2


Critical Condition: African-American Youth in the Justice System (September 2008)
An examination of how African-American youth are disproportionately affected by transfer laws. Key findings include that most African-American youth are transferred by statutory exclusion or prosecutorial waiver mechanisms, many are not convicted (suggesting that the cases brought against them are not very strong), and that most youth prosecuted in the adult system are not serious violent offenders.

Author: CFYJ

Fact Sheet


A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform (June 2008)

Essay included in the 2008 KIDS COUNT Data book summarized current trends in juvenile justice and makes the case for reforms that will keep youth safe, strengthen communities and reduce juvenile crime.

Author: Annie E. Casey Foundation

Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System: A Report on Recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (November 2007)

The independent, nonfederal Task Force on Community Preventive Service’s review of published scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of laws and policies that facilitate the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system. The report found that transfer to the adult criminal justice system typically increases rather than decreases rates of violence among transferred youth and recommends against laws or policies facilitating the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system for the purpose of reducing violence.

Author: Task Force on Community Preventive Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Report

Fact Sheet


Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America (October 2007)
Provides a summary of the risks that youth face when incarcerated in adult jails and a review of the limited federal and state laws protecting them.

Author: CFYJ
Fact Sheet


The Consequences Aren't Minor: The Impact of Trying Youth as Adults and Strategies for Reform (March 2007)

The report presence research, statuary analysis, and case studies to highlight the problem with the policies and practices that treat young people as adults in the justice system in seven key states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Author: CFYJ