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

Federal Youth Corrections Act - Flaws in Equal Protection Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Family Law Volume: 19 Issue: 2 Dated: (1980-1981) Pages: 295-311
S J Olt
Date Published
17 pages
This article provides an overview of the Federal Youth Corrections Act (YCA) and discusses problems of application and administration which have led to discriminatory treatment of youthful offenders under the Act and violated their equal protection rights as embodied in the fifth amendment.
Originally passed in 1950, the YCA was intended to provide treatment and rehabilitation for offenders between 18 and 22 by allowing judges considerable discretion in sentencing and clearing an offender's record after release. However, problems have arisen concerning the applicability to persons convicted under the YCA of Federal laws requiring that youthful offenders be segregated from adult criminals and concerning the impact of judicial discretion on procedural due process. Federal codes also allow courts to commit persons between 22 and 26 under the YCA in certain circumstances, and any juvenile tried under the Federal Delinquency Act as an adult is to be sentenced under the YCA. The due process clause of the fifth amendment must be applied to the YCA because it is a Federal statute. Recent court decisions on age as a classification have focused on the elderly, but have ruled that age does not define a discrete group. In contrast, the Fifth Circuit in Cunningham v. United States upheld the age classification of the YCA, stating that differences in character, condition, or situation justified the distinction. The court also stated that equal protection is afforded if the YCA 'operates in the same general way on all who belong in the class.' Youth sentenced under the YCA receive longer terms than older offenders committing similar crimes, but in return are to be placed in rehabilitative programs and segregated from the negative influences of older criminals. Because separate facilities oriented toward YCA offenders are insufficient or nonexistent in many areas, persons sentenced under the YCA do not receive equal protection of the laws. Although the YCA's problems are administrative, court action is needed to examine the actual effects of the YCA before it is applied. Over 60 footnotes are included.