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Prosecutor and Criminal Court Use of Juvenile Court Records: A National Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1996
107 pages
This nationwide study was designed to answer questions about the adult court use of defendants' juvenile records in an effort to identify and incapacitate repeat violent offenders and then to offer recommendations.
Phase I of the study reviewed the legal and programmatic status of adult courts' juvenile record use in the 50 States. This involved a review of legislation in the 50 States and telephone surveys of prosecutors' offices in the largest jurisdictions in each State. In this phase researchers also conducted telephone surveys of State agencies responsible for centralized record-holding and dissemination of juvenile court records. Statistics were collected from State sentencing guidelines commissions to determine what proportion of offenders in those States had juvenile disposition records. Phase II examined the use of juvenile records in serious felony cases by court decisionmakers in two jurisdictions: Wichita, Kansas, and Montgomery County, Maryland. The study findings show that a small cadre of adult offenders is convicted of a disproportionate share of all serious crimes; a record of juvenile crime is one factor that distinguishes these offenders. Only a few States' laws ensure that the juvenile records of recidivist serious offenders are both available and used to increase incapacitation. In addition, inconsistencies in many States' laws contribute to recordkeeping failures that limit the juvenile records' utility. In practice, therefore, juvenile record use by prosecutors and courts is far less than it could be. Using records in a targeted manner has a significant impact on incapacitative sentencing; however, many States that direct use of the juvenile record for sentencing often compromise this principle by setting limits on their relevance. Implications are drawn for juvenile court procedures in the management of court records. Appended exhibits and sentencing guidelines

Date Published: January 1, 1996