U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Don't Throw Away the Key: Reevaluating Adult Time for Youth Crime in Virginia

NCJ Number
Andrew Block; Kate Duvall
Date Published
November 2009
39 pages
This report calls for a re-examination of Virginia's policies for transferring youth to adult criminal courts where they may be convicted of an adult felony, and it challenges commonly held myths about these transfer practices, followed by recommendations for reform.
This report first challenges five myths that have been advanced to support the continuation of Virginia's current youth transfer policies. One myth-challenging argument is that the predicted explosion of youth violence used to justify sweeping changes to Virginia's transfer laws never occurred. The second myth-challenging argument is that the current transfer system is over-inclusive, in that the youth transferred to adult courts are not only the chronic, violent, youth offenders as is claimed. The third myth-challenging argument is that youth tried and sentenced as adults are more likely to reoffend than youth who remain in the juvenile justice system, contrary to the claim that youth transfers reduce reoffending. A fourth argument offered is that at no point in their development should youth be considered as adults whose behavior fits the myth, "once a criminal, always a criminal." Youth are likely to outgrow their delinquent behaviors and respond positively to rehabilitative efforts. The fifth myth-challenging argument is that the majority of professionals who best understand the current system's mechanics and consequences support reform, contrary to the myth that a system in place for 14 years must be working fine. Three recommendations are offered. First, restore authority over transfer decisions to juvenile and domestic relations district court judges, except in those cases that currently require automatic transfer. Second, increase training for circuit court judges regarding youthful offenders and dispositions. Third, eliminate or greatly reduce the use of adult jails for the pretrial detention of transferred youth. 171 notes