Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




John J. McGlennon

Committee Members

Mackenzie Israel-Trummel

Vivian Hamilton


Law and policy are deeply intertwined. States themselves are the main venues to deliberate and implement policies that alter the status quo of juvenile transfer. The policymaking process in some states can increase our ability to understand and predict how others will similarly react. This learning model has been the foundation for juvenile justice reform where lessons are drawn from past successes or failures to keep more youths from incarceration. Legislative and judicial capacity to influence criminal justice reforms are complementary, and there is an ongoing debate on the designated function of the judiciary, whether it should be more active or reserved in front of the high-stakes cases presented to them. My thesis, at least within the context it examines, argues that judicial activism is needed in juvenile transfer reform.

Today, all states allow juveniles to be tried as adults for committing certain serious crimes, such as murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking, and so forth. Juveniles can be transferred to criminal court via three pathways: judicial waiver, prosecutorial direct file, and statutory exclusion. By their literal meanings, a judge, a prosecutor, or the state legislature can make decisions about whom could be waived from juvenile court proceedings. The focus of my research is on the last two pathways because they do not require a hearing to determine a youth's eligibility to be tried as an adult. The U.S. Supreme Court in Kent v. United States ruled that every youth falling within the original juvenile court jurisdiction must be afforded a formal discretionary waiver hearing with a counsel present before the youth could be waived to adult court for criminal prosecution. My research explains why eighteen states have overhauled their juvenile transfer systems, but a few others have not seen the fruition of reform efforts. I focus on two types of legislative initiatives: one is Raise the Age (raising the upper age boundary of the juvenile court); the other is limiting the criminal prosecution of certain offenses. I test the theories explaining principal determinants in shaping criminal laws and correctional policies, using the context of juvenile transfer.