Juvenile penalty or leniency: Sentencing of juveniles in the criminal justice system

Law Hum Behav. 2016 Aug;40(4):387-400. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000186. Epub 2016 Mar 14.


The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of being juvenile on sentencing in the criminal justice system. More specifically, youth transferred to criminal court are compared to adults in terms of likelihood of incarceration, jail length, and prison length. In this study, 2 national data sets are merged. The juvenile sample includes 3,381 convicted offenders, and the adult sample is comprised of 6,529 convicted offenders. The final sample is 9,910 offenders across 36 U.S. counties. The key independent variable is juvenile status, and the dependent variables are incarceration, jail length, and prison length. Because of the multilevel nature of the data, hierarchical linear modeling is used across all models. Juveniles are punished less severely in the jail incarceration decision. However, when youth are actually sentenced to incarceration (either jail or prison), they are given longer confinement time than adults. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Law*
  • Criminals*
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Prisons