Is Transfer the "Capital Punishment of the Juvenile Justice System?"

Lonn Lanza-Kaduce, University of Florida
Donna M. Bishop, Northeastern University
Charles E. Frazier, University of Florida
Jodi Lane, University of Florida

Zimring (1991: 279) asserts that the waiver of juveniles to criminal court is "the capital punishment of the juvenile justice system." This paper pushes the transfer-as-capital-punishment metaphor to sharpen the policy debate over the waiver of juveniles by subjecting transfer laws and practices to the legal standards associated with capital punishment law. The social science evidence about transfer amassed in Florida over the years is applied in a substantive due process analysis like that suggested by Eighth Amendment capital punishment law. Does the evidence indicate that transfer law and practices are essentially standardless? Does it show that existing standards are too indiscriminant? Are the data used for making decisions too unreliable and invalid? Does the pattern of transfer outcomes indicate that Florida practices are arbitrary and capricious?

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Updated 05/20/2006