Delinquent Careers and Criminal Policy: Just Deserts and the Waiver Decision


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21 Scopus citations


This article critically examines the prevailing judicial waiver statutes that require juvenile court judges to make individualized determinations as to a youth amenability to treatment and danger to society. It concludes that such decisions cannot be made with an acceptable degree of accuracy using current methods of clinical diagnosis or prediction, and that the broad discretion given judges in making transfer decisions results in inconsistent and discriminatory applications that undermine the fairness and predictability of the process. In light of the expanding research on the development of delinquent careers, it contends that a legislative redefinition of juvenile court jurisdiction that automatically excludes certain youths from the juvenile court on the basis of their present offenses and past records not only identifies more accurately those youth who should be prosecuted as adults, but also increases the fairness, rationality, and predictability of the adulthood determination. It suggests that an application of “just deserts” principles to the juvenile court waiver decision could have salutary consequences for youths, the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and social control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-212
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1983


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