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Investigating the Relationship Between Legal/ Demographic Factors and Decisions to Transfer Minors to Adult Court

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In light of California's passage of Proposition 57 in 2016, the present study examines the relationship between legal/ demographic variables and decisions to transfer juveniles to the adult court system. The goal of Proposition 57 was to increase the possibility of rehabilitation for youth by no longer leaving transfer decisions to the sole discretion of the prosecution but instead to entrust it to judges following a hearing. We used a sample of 108 reports written by forensic psychologists on behalf of the defense examining the life circumstances of minors who allegedly committed serious crimes. Utilizing regression analysis, we found that minors with at least one murder charge were more likely to end up in adult court in comparison to minors who were not charged with homicide. Similarly, the older the defendant was at the time the report was written (and subsequently a delayed judicial hearing time), the more likely the case resulted in a transfer to adult court. We found no support of racial bias in treatment against African Americans in contrast to other racial groups but the under-representation of whites in our limited data set was considerable. Ultimately, with the limited data analyzed, we find that the system currently seems to be sensitive to the gravity of the offense and that there is a reluctance to keep defendants in the juvenile system if they have little time remaining to serve.

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Investigating the Relationship Between Legal/ Demographic Factors and Decisions to Transfer Minors to Adult Court

In light of California's passage of Proposition 57 in 2016, the present study examines the relationship between legal/ demographic variables and decisions to transfer juveniles to the adult court system. The goal of Proposition 57 was to increase the possibility of rehabilitation for youth by no longer leaving transfer decisions to the sole discretion of the prosecution but instead to entrust it to judges following a hearing. We used a sample of 108 reports written by forensic psychologists on behalf of the defense examining the life circumstances of minors who allegedly committed serious crimes. Utilizing regression analysis, we found that minors with at least one murder charge were more likely to end up in adult court in comparison to minors who were not charged with homicide. Similarly, the older the defendant was at the time the report was written (and subsequently a delayed judicial hearing time), the more likely the case resulted in a transfer to adult court. We found no support of racial bias in treatment against African Americans in contrast to other racial groups but the under-representation of whites in our limited data set was considerable. Ultimately, with the limited data analyzed, we find that the system currently seems to be sensitive to the gravity of the offense and that there is a reluctance to keep defendants in the juvenile system if they have little time remaining to serve.