U.S. flag

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

Juvenile Sentence Reform and It's Evaluation

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1988
12 pages
Despite the intent of juvenile sentencing reforms to create sanctions that approximate punishments imposed by criminal courts, evaluations of the new laws indicate what appears to be continued lenient treatment of juveniles.
One explanation for this phenomenon is that, within similar charges, juvenile offenses are less serious than adult offenses. To explore this idea, 32 prosecutors and 6 law clerks in Union County, N.J., rated the seriousness of the behaviors of 474 juvenile and 468 adult male assault and robbery defendants. Juveniles charged with either crime used weapons only infrequently; when weapons were employed, they were more likely to be objects. In contrast, adults usually employed weapons, and these were firearms in the overwhelming majority of offenses. While juveniles were more likely to cause injury, injuries rarely were life-threatening. Adults were less likely to inflict injuries, but were responsible for the vast majority of shootings, stabbings, and deaths. For both offenses, raters' perceived juvenile offenses to be less serious than adult offenses. Results indicate that there is a wide disparity between the seriousness of assaults and robberies committed by juveniles and adults and question the validity of one rationale for recent juvenile sentencing reforms. 2 tables and 25 references. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1988