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Transferring Pre-Teens to Adult Criminal Courts: Searching for a Justification

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Correspondence: rick.ruddell@uregina.ca

Abstract

This research examined the demographic and offense-related characteristics of 1,488 children who were 12 years of age or younger when transferred by juvenile court judges to criminal courts in the United States from 1985 to 2009. Juvenile court statistics show a twofold increase in the number of these children transferred between 2005 and 2009, compared to the five-year era between 1985 and 1989. Examination of the data revealed that the major offense that precipitated most of these transfers was a nonviolent act. Given these facts, a number of key questions emerged from this study: (1) Are these transfers desirable given the potential lifelong consequences of a criminal conviction for these youngsters; (2) Do these practices accomplish a legitimate crime control function; and (3) Are these transfers just and fair given the developmental status of these children?

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