Juveniles in the Federal Criminal Justice System: Trends in Their Prosecution and Sentencing and Comparisons With State Juvenile Justice System Outcomes

William J. Sabol, Case Western Reserve University

Comparatively few juvenile delinquency proceedings are handled in the Federal courts. For example, in 1995, there were 122 juvenile delinquency proceedings that terminated in the U.S. district courts, while the volume of juvenile delinquency dispositions in the U.S. district courts declined between 1989 and 1994. However, relatively larger numbers of juveniles are sentenced in Federal criminal courts after having been tried as adults, and their numbers appear to be increasing. Very little is known about the youth who are handled in Federal criminal courts, whether they appear in delinquency cases or whether they are sentenced as adults. This paper provides descriptive data on the trends in cases and sentencing outcomes for juveniles handled in the Federal criminal courts between 1994 and 2000, and it compares them to national-level estimates of juveniles handled in the states juvenile courts over the same period. Comparisons are made between the types of offenses proceeded against, the personal characteristics of the juveniles, and the geographic distributions of cases. Additionally, the cases of juveniles in the Federal system are compared to those of young adults.

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Updated 05/20/2006