We Don’t Always Mean What We Say: Attitudes Toward Statutory Exclusion of Juvenile Offenders From Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
In the United States, juvenile offenders are often excluded from the jurisdiction of juvenile court on the basis of age and crime type alone. Data from national surveys and data from psycholegal research on support for adult sanction of juvenile offenders are often at odds. The ways in which questions are asked and the level of detail provided to respondents and research participants may influence expressed opinions. Respondents may also be more likely to agree with harsh sanctions when they have fewer offender- and case-specific details to consider. Here, we test the hypothesis that attitudes supporting statutory exclusion laws measured in the absence of specific case-specific details may not be the best indicator of agreement with such laws in practice. We found that support for statutory exclusion was affected by exposure to information about an offender’s unique situation and by exposure to general scientific information about adolescent development. These results suggest that despite apparent widespread agreement with automatic exclusion statutes, laypersons consider factors other than those allowed by the law when they are asked how to treat an individual offender.