Juvenile Waiver: Differences in Black and White

A. Daktari Alexander, The Pennsylvania State University

The increasing use of juvenile waiver indicates that juveniles are considered to be more culpable and less suited for rehabilitation. The purpose of this study is to explore if there are racial differences in how waiver is applied. Specifically, Juvenile Courts' Judges Commission (JCJC) data from 1996 to 2001 for all counties in Pennsylvania will be used to determine extent of waiver for all counties in Pennsylvania will be used to determine extent of waiver and which juveniles are being transferred to the adult court. This data was also supported by county level contextual and demographic data from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and U.S.Census. Additionally, questionnaires were given to a sample of juvenile court judges about the rationales they give for the use of waiver. Three broad conclusions are drawn: 1) Waiver is used to punish African-American youth and is not used as a deterrent to future criminal offending; 2) Waiver is used to increase the number of African-American youth involved with the crimninal justice system, chiefly by allowing entry into the system (net-widening) at a younger age for this ethnic group; and 3) Because of the net-widening effect, more Arican-American males, who are the main targets of criminal justice control, become less available in their communities, thereby, further weakening already disadvantaged communities.

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Updated 05/20/2006