On January 31, 1994, Edward Borrero, age fifteen, and Terrance Robinson, age sixteen, attempted to rob an American Mail Box Etc. store in Silver Spring, Maryland. When a neighboring store owner intervened, Borrero shot and killed him and injured the American Mail Box store owner. The state charged both teenagers as adults, Borrero for murder and Robinson for felony murder. Borrero was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after fifteen years and Robinson, the accomplice to the shooting, was sentenced to twenty years in prison.
As of 2005, every state has a transfer statute that authorizes the state to prosecute juveniles like Borrero and Robinson in adult criminal court. A transfer statute is “[a] provision that allows or mandates the trial of a juvenile as an adult in a criminal court for a criminal act.” Transfer occurs in a number of different ways and each state’s statute is unique, but there are three basic models followed: prosecutor directed transfer, judicial discretion transfer, and automatic waiver.
In the mid-1990s, due to a number of highly-publicized cases involving juveniles committing serious crimes, forty-seven states and the District of Columbia enacted “get tough” policies to transfer more juveniles to adult criminal courts and bolster their potential sentences. States enacted tougher policies on juvenile crime to deter other juveniles from committing crimes. Florida’s philosophy exemplifies this ideology: “if you are old enough to do the crime, you are old enough to do the time.” Research indicates, however, that juvenile crime rates were decreasing before states passed “get tough” policies.
Studies suggest that transferring juveniles has neither a deterrent nor a rehabilitative effect. If a juvenile is transferred and convicted as an adult, forty-five states and the District of Columbia incarcerate the juvenile in the same facility with adults. Transferring juveniles and incarcerating them with adults increases the likelihood of recidivism because prisons can be schools for crime. Furthermore, juveniles housed in adult prison facilities not only face the harsh realities of adult prison life at young ages, but also have fewer educational opportunities than juveniles incarcerated in juvenile facilities. . . .