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Tried as an Adult, Housed as a Juvenile: A Tale of Youth from Two Courts Incarcerated Together

Bechtold J, and Cauffman E

Research has questioned the wisdom of housing juveniles who are convicted in criminal court in facilities with adult offenders. It is argued that minors transferred to criminal court should not be incarcerated with adults, due to a greater likelihood of developing criminal skills, being victimized, and attempting suicide. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the other option, housing these youth with minors who have committed less serious crimes and who are therefore adjudicated in juvenile courts, might have unintended consequences for juvenile court youth. The present study utilizes a sample of youth incarcerated in one secure juvenile facility, with some offenders processed in juvenile court (n = 261) and others processed in adult court (n = 103). We investigate whether youth transferred to adult court engage in more institutional offending (in particular, violence) and experience less victimization than their juvenile court counterparts. Results indicate that although adult court youth had a greater likelihood of being convicted of violent commitment offenses than juvenile court youth, the former engaged in less offending during incarceration than the latter. In addition, no significant differences in victimization were observed. These findings suggest that the concern about the need for separate housing for adult court youth is unfounded; when incarcerated together, those tried in adult court do not engage in more institutional violence than juvenile court youth.