Prosecuting Juveniles as Adults in New York State: A Contextual Analysis

Sharon Lansing, NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services

New York's Juvenile Offender (JO) Act of 1978 provides for the prosecution of juveniles ages 13-15 as adults for certain violent crimes and for the removal to family court of juveniles whose acts do not warrant criminal prosecution. A number of studies have been conducted examining the effects of the JO Act on conviction, incarceration, and recidivism rates, as well as its deterrent effect. The research discussed in this paper differs from past studies in three ways. First, it involves a longitudinal-comparative analysis which examines reasons for jurisdictional and temporal disparities in the prosecution of JO offenders over a ten-year period in each of New York City's four most populous counties. Collectively, these four counties account for approximately 85 percent of JO arrests statewide. Second, conviction and incarceration rates for JO offenders are contrasted with those for youth ages16-21 arrested for comparable offenses in these same jurisdictions. Third, it considers whether the availability of Youthful Offender (YO) status in the adult court system for youth ages 14-18 has influenced the felony prosecution of juveniles as adults. With YO status comes sanctions that are less severe than those imposed on adults - a type of "youth discount."

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Updated 05/20/2006