Juvenile Waiver: The Elusive Definition of Rehabilitation

Barbara Morrell, St. Joseph's College

Until 2000, New Jersey remained an exception to the national trend towards transferring many juveniles to adult court. Waiver to adult court could be made only after an individualized rehabilitation hearing with judicial review. The law allowed demonstration of the probability of his rehabilitation "prior to the juvenile reaching the age of 19" as an exemption from prosecutorial initiated waiver.

But exactly how is rehabilitation defined in a county juvenile court in New Jersey? Does this legal statement rest upon any standard criteria? Is there an explanation or predictable pattern of why some juvenile offenders are transferred to adult court while others are retained in juvenile court? What variables significantly distinguish those juveniles transferred to adult court from those youth who are retained in the juvenile justice systemn? These are fundamental questions this research explores.

The population for this study included over 400 juvenile charges for whom the Hudson County Juvenile Prosecutor's Office sought a waiver motion between the years 1997-2001, comprising 327 individuals. All cases involve juveniles who were between the ages of 14-17 at the time of the offenses for which they were charged.

Data was gathered, between January 2002-2003, from the Hudson County Juvenile Prosecutor's Office internal data base PASCACK, as well as from juvenile records maintained in the prosecutor's office. Juvenile Court files and Adult Probation files were additional sources of data.

This analysis will answer the question, "Which legal, extralegal, or rheabilitation factors, if any, are most predictive of the probability of being transferred to Adult Court or being retained in Juvenile Court?" Follow-up data will compare conviction charges and sentence length between the two groups.

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Updated 05/20/2006