ASA Recognizes UB Research That Claims Trying Kids As Adults Doesn’t Deter Violent Juvenile Crime

Release Date: July 2, 1999

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Polls show that large segments of the public think the solution to serious youth crime is to lock up violent juveniles and throw away the key. However, research by University at Buffalo criminologist Simon Singer has indicated that getting "tough" with violent juvenile offenders by sending them into the adult criminal-court system does not deter their behavior.

His research now has been cited by the American Sociological Association (ASA) as "a substantial contribution to the field of criminology."

Singer, professor of sociology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, will receive the ASA's most distinguished award in criminology -- the 1999 Albert J. Reiss, Jr. Distinguished Scholar Award -- for his book "Recriminalizing Delinquency: Violent Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice Reform" (Cambridge University Press, 1996). He will receive the award next month at the association's annual meeting in Chicago.

The book reports Singer's ground-breaking study of the failure of New York State's 1978 Juvenile Offender Law to deter violent juvenile crime. The law, which criminalized specific violent acts perpetrated by juveniles, is similar to laws in other states.

Having assessed the origins, applications and outcomes of the New York law, the Singer study demonstrated that over the past 20 years, the statute, which sends violent juveniles to criminal court instead of to juvenile court, has neither eliminated the need for juvenile justice nor reduced the incidence of violent juvenile crime in New York State.

The statute -- also called waiver legislation -- lowered the age of criminal responsibility to 13 for murder and 14 for rape, robbery, assault and violent categories of burglary. It also allowed criminal-justice officials discretion in charging a violent juvenile as an adult.

Weaving together a diverse array of data from archives, interviews and statistical analysis to document the application and outcomes of the juvenile justice law, Singer found not only that few young offenders are ever tried as adults, but that if they are, they are rarely convicted. He also found that the law is differentially applied, with the likelihood that juveniles will be prosecuted in criminal court, rather than juvenile court, varying according to race, gender, time and county in which they are prosecuted.

A UB faculty member since 1981, Singer has served as a consultant to the Andrew Stein Commission for the Study of Youth Crime and Violence and Reform of the Juvenile Justice System, and to the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services on the study of disproportionate minority confinement in the juvenile-justice system.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information about Simon Singer's research and his book, "Recriminalizing Delinquency: Violent Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice Reform," go to

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