ARC Innovator – Youth Justice Researcher

Campaign for Youth Justice

Campaign for Youth Justice

Project Title:

Youthful Offender Research Project


ARC Innovator Title:

Youth Justice Researcher


Who is the nonprofit partner? 

The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national initiative focused entirely on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

We work with advocates across the country who are working to pass legislation to remove youth from the adult criminal justice system.  Our advocacy work helps to end the adultification of youth who would otherwise end up with adult criminal records that could negatively impact their future housing, employment, and education.

Youthful offender laws affect a significant number of youth in many states and can result in the greatest use of justice resources with sentences of confinement in both the juvenile and/or adult correctional system.  Yet these laws are being used and developed largely without the attention of researchers, policy-makers and others because there is such a dearth of basic information about the location, scope and practice of these statutory provisions.


What skills or interests do I need to do the project?

We need an Innovator with research and writing experience.  Additionally, experience analyzing public policy and legislation.


What’s the project all about?

This ARC Innovator Project would be a national research project to study state “youthful offender laws” that operate to a large-degree as a third, hybrid justice system – applying many practices found in both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems in the prosecution of “youth” both under and over age 18.


Although there has been an impressive body of research focused on both delinquency proceedings, blended sentencing, as well as the discretionary and automatic transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system, the existence and development of “youthful offender” laws in the U.S. has not been thoroughly examined and there is no resource that exists that lists the states that have such laws, describes the scope and key provisions (showing both similarities and critical differences among states), shows what useful information is currently being collected and shared by states on the application of these laws, and reviews the research literature on the experience and effectiveness of such laws. This proposed research project will fill this critical gap of knowledge at a time when youthful offender laws have been drawing increasing national attention as well as becoming a central focus of state juvenile justice reform initiatives.

The Campaign for Youth Justice focuses on the removal of youth under 18 from the adult criminal justice system, but we recognize that youth convicted of serious offenses will likely remain in the adult system until there are greater cultural shifts in how America treats youth.  As a result, we are looking for ways to address the immediate needs of youth in the adult court and we hope to identify ways to alleviate to some degree the negative collateral consequences associated with youth being in adult court, jails, and prisons.

What are the project objectives and deliverables?

The research will culminate in a user-friendly document that will provide useful information on state youthful offender provisions, provide an in-depth analysis of 3 – 5 states as case studies, and summarize the research that currently exists on this hybrid system.

  1. List of all states and territories that have youthful offender statutes (as defined by this proposal).  Although the term “youthful offender” is used in so many different ways and in such different contexts, this research project will provide information only on the states that have adopted a “hybrid system,” applying elements of both the juvenile and criminal justice systems in the prosecution and/or sentencing of youth.

2. The date on which these statutes were enacted and amended.  Interestingly, the adoption and development of youthful offender systems appear to have developed and expanded over the last three decades, with some states adopting it relatively recently and others, like Washington D.C., having used it for many decades.


3. Information about the age range covered by the youthful offender statutes. The report will include information on the age range covered by the statutes.  Our initial research indicates that the ranges can vary both in terms of the youngest age included as well as the oldest age, which in some states can extend beyond the 18th birthday.


4. Comparison of the key procedural provisions of the statutes. Information will be provided showing what elements of the juvenile justice system (e.g., confidentiality/closed session and record sealing) and what elements of the criminal justice system (e.g. open courtroom and “convictions”) are included the each jurisdiction’s hybrid youthful offender systems.


5. Description of the types of dispositions available. One of the most important differences between the juvenile and adult justice systems is that juveniles are generally “adjudicated” and adults are “convicted.”  These terms have a tremendous impact both within and outside the justice systems, as a conviction can be a major obstacle to housing, employment, education and other critically important parts of a young person’s life and future.  This national scan will therefore include information about the disposition offered by the different youthful offender provisions.


6. Provide information on the types of sentences available. As hybrid systems, jurisdictions have developed a wide range of sentencing options, such as providing a “cap” for sentences of incarceration or allowing sentences to be served in either the juvenile or adult correctional system, or both.


7. Based on an analysis of the data collected, select 3-5 states to conduct a more comprehensive case-study analysis of their youthful offender provisions, to see how states are actually applying the practice.

We hope that this information can go into a user-friendly practitioner’s guide for the juvenile justice/criminal justice field.  Additionally, that this information can be discussed via webinar, meetings, and conferences.


Who from the organization will provide me with support?

The Innovator will be supported by Jeree Thomas from the organization.


How long will the project take?


The project will take between 10 – 12 weeks.


Where will I complete the project?

The work can be done onsite or remotely.



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Author: alumnicorps

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