Policy Factsheet

Transfer of Juvenile Offenders to Adult Justice System

Reasons for Policy

  • Violence by juveniles is a major public health problem in the United States.1
  • Although youth less than 18 years old constitute about 25% of the population, they have been responsible for approximately 30-40% o violent crime in the past 20 years.1
  • Because the adult justice system is perceived as more severe and punitive, transfer of juveniles to the adult justice system may deter juveniles from committing crimes.1

Community Groups

  • Law Enforcement
  • Local Government
  • State Government

Policy Components

  • Transfer of juveniles (<18) into the adult criminal justice system
  • Laws or policies facilitating the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system

Desired Outcomes

  • Reduction in violent crime rates
  • Reduction in recidivism

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 4: Consistent Evidence that Policy is Not Effective.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • Transferred juveniles were approximately 33.7% more likely to be re-arrested for a violent crime than juveniles that were retained in the juvenile justice system.1
  • Transferring juveniles to the adult justice system generally increases rates of violence among transferred youth.1

Based on the scientific evidence, the Promise Neighborhood Research Consortium does not recommend transfer of juvenile offenders to the adult justice system


1 McGowan A, et al. (2007) Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Juveniles from the Juvenile Justice System to the Adult Justice System: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(4S), S7-S28.

2 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.