Source: (2012) New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement. 38: 379- 398

The Federal Juvenile and Delinquency Act (FJDA)' provides that juvenile offenders shall be transferred to a federal district court for criminal prosecution as adults only after considering whether prosecuting the offender is in the "interest of justice."2 The court presiding over the transfer hearing shall consider a variety of factors including: "the juvenile's present intellectual development and psychological maturity; the nature of past treatment efforts and the juvenile's response to such efforts; [and] the availability of programs designed to treat the juvenile's behavioral problems."3 These provisions show that the FJDA is structured around two fundamental assumptions. First, children who commit crimes will not be treated as harshly as adults who commit the same crimes. Second, children are psychological works-in-progress in that they are not fully equipped with the tools critical to pragmatic decision-making. It is this latter characteristic of children that warrants the very existence of the juvenile system, along with its own unique set of sentencing guidelines. Given the malleability of the juvenile mind,4 it is critical for society to nudge juvenile offenders in the right direction by making them aware of their potential for demonstrating "growth and maturity."