October 4, 2010

Charging youth as adults costly and unjust, study finds

Waiving youth into adult courts for prosecution is unscientific, racially biased, and may increase crime, according to a Maryland study released today by the Just Kids Partnership to End the Automatic Prosecution of Youth as Adults.

The researchers tracked 135 youths who were charged as adults in Baltimore. They found that more than two-thirds were ultimately sent back to the juvenile system or had their cases dismissed outright, but not before spending an average of five months in adult jail. Only 10 percent ended up in adult prison. African American youth were disproportionately likely to be transferred to adult court.

The study comes as Maryland weighs whether or not to spend more than $100 million on a new facility for youth awaiting trial in adult court.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend reducing the prosecution of youths in adult courts, and instead providing teenagers with more treatment opportunities.

"Youth who go into the adult correction system are significantly more likely to commit further and more violent crime than their peers who are treated as juveniles," they state.

The Just Kids Partnership is a consortium consisting of the Public Justice Center, Community Law in Action and United Parents of Incarcerated Children and Youth.

The full report is available HERE. An executive summary is HERE. Additional background is available at the Just Kids Partnership website.

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