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Juvenile Transfer and the Specific Deterrence Hypothesis: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 15 Issue: 3 Dated: 2016 Pages: 1-25
Date Published
25 pages

The authors discuss their meta-analysis and suggest that rather than creating a specific deterrent effect for transferred juveniles, the transfer of juveniles to adult court actually increases recidivism rates; they also highlight the need for more quality research that analyzes the conditions under which juvenile transfer may impact recidivism.


The authors conducted a systematic review of recidivism outcomes for juveniles transferred to adult court, incorporating meta-analytic techniques. Nine studies—based on nine statistically independent samples—met the inclusion criteria. Pooled analysis suggests that juvenile transfer had no statistically significant effect on recidivism. However, the distribution of effect sizes was highly heterogeneous and, given the strength of the research designs, suggests that in some instances transfer may decrease recidivism and in others may increase it. The practice of transferring juvenile offenders to the criminal justice system has decreased from its peak in the mid-1990s, but it is still estimated to affect tens of thousands of juveniles in the United States each year. As such, a coherent rationale for transfer policy is needed. The present review casts doubt on one prominent justification for transfer, that it creates a specific deterrent effect for transferred juveniles. Indeed, the results suggest that transfer may in fact increase offending. More generally, the results underscore the need for more high-quality research to identify the conditions under which transfer may decrease or increase recidivism.

Date Published: January 1, 2016