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Juvenile Transfer and Deterrence: Reexamining the Effectiveness of a “Get Tough” Policy

Although research has examined the effectiveness of juvenile transfer on recidivism, there has been a lack of research done in assessing how well juvenile waiver to adult court meets the criteria necessary for deterrence to occur (i.e., certainty, severity, and swiftness of punishment). The purpose of this study is to assess how well juvenile transfer meets these criteria, using data on 345 youths legislatively waived to adult court in Pennsylvania. The findings indicate that there is greater punishment severity in adult court, but there is no difference in punishment certainty between the two court systems. In addition, court processing occurred more quickly in juvenile court. In other words, only one element of deterrence theory is achieved with juvenile transfer. Implications for subsequent research and policy are discussed.