Alaska Juveniles in the Adult System

Alaska Juveniles in the Adult System

While most juvenile offenses in Alaska are handled through the Division of Juvenile Justice, Alaska statutes provide two methods - automatic or discretionary- for juvenile offenders to be waived into the adult criminal justice system. Juveniles at least 16 years old are automatically waived into the adult system when charged with certain felony crimes; and juveniles under 16 may be waived for these offenses unless he or she can prove amenability to treatment. Juveniles may also enter the adult system through discretionary waivers if the court finds probable cause that the juvenile is delinquent and not amenable to treatment through the juvenile process before reaching age 20.

While most juvenile offenses are handled through the Division of Juvenile Justice, for some crimes juveniles can be channeled—waived—into the adult system, subject to the ordinary criminal justice process through which an adult charged with an offense moves.

Under Alaska statutes, there are essentially two paths by which a juvenile becomes subject to the adult criminal justice system: through an automatic waiver into the adult system under AS 47.12.100, when charged with certain felonies, or through a discretionary waiver under 47.12.030, when the court finds probable cause that the juvenile is delinquent and not amenable to treatment through the juvenile process before reaching the age of 20. (There are also lesser charges, such as for violations of traffic or fish and game regulations for which a juvenile is processed in district court.)

Figures obtained from the Division of Juvenile Justice show that relatively few juveniles enter the adult system under a discretionary juvenile waiver—only 19 in total from FY 1998 through FY 2001 (Table 1). (See also the Alaska Justice Forum 14(4), Winter 1998 for figures from previous years.)

Table 1. Juvenile Discretionary Waivers in Alaska, FY 1998-FY 2001

Since 1997 Alaska statutes have also provided for automatic waiver into the adult system of a juvenile at least 16 years old when charged with an unclassified or class A felony that is a crime against a person (murder in the first or second degree; sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree; robbery in the first degree; manslaughter; assault in the first degree), first degree arson, or, under certain conditions, a class B felony that is a crime against a person involving a deadly weapon. A juvenile younger than 16 may also be waived into the adult system for these offenses unless he or she can prove amenability to treatment. No government agency seems to track figures on how many juveniles have entered the adult system under these automatic waiver provisions.

Department of Corrections incarceration figures from May 2002 can provide some idea of how many juveniles have been handled in the adult system in recent years, although the figures are probably at least a little low. DOC reported 17 inmates under age 18 (15 males and 2 females) on May 1, 2002. The youngest inmate on that date was 16. These juveniles were being held in various facilities throughout the state; none was in the private contract prison in Arizona.

In addition, there were 37 inmates (34 males and 3 females) aged 18 to 21 who had first entered DOC custody before they were 18. Several inmates now incarcerated entered the system when they were 15.

It is not possible to determine from the DOC figures how many of the juveniles were awaiting trial or sentencing. The figures do not include juveniles free on bail, nor do they include those juveniles who may have been tried in the adult system and acquitted.