Here is a brief list of resources that can help you understand the complexities of the Massachusetts juvenile justice system:
Kids and the Law: A User’s Guide to the Court System by Rebecca Pries and Carol Rosenzweig. (Third edition published 2002; also available in Spanish and Khmer).
Just for Youth: Advocating for Youth in the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services by the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (third edition published May 2010).
Know the Law, an informational pamphlet by the Youth Advocacy Division. Know the Law is specifically designed for young people encountering the juvenile justice system.
The ACLU of Massachusetts is a nonprofit organization that protects civil rights and liberties. The organization uses lobbying, direct legal representation, and educational programming to ensure the protection of civil liberties in Massachusetts.
CPR is a non-profit, public interest law firm that provides mental health and disability legal services in Massachusetts. Dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities, CPR supplies technical assistance and support to public and private attorneys and legal service programs throughout the state.
CLCM is a private, non-profit, legal advocacy and resource center providing direct representation to low income children in Eastern Massachusetts, and technical assistance and training to lay and professional communities throughout New England on issues affecting children’s education, civil rights, custody, health and welfare.
The Children’s League of Massachusetts informs the public policy debate about the needs of children, youth and their families in the child welfare system through the strategic use of legislative and administrative advocacy, collaboration with advocacy organizations, research, and public education.
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice seeks to further the vision of racial justice and equality through research, policy analysis, litigation and scholarship. The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice places a special emphasis on the issues of voting rights, the future of affirmative action, the criminal justice system and related areas. The Institute is located at Harvard Law School.
DLC is a private, non-profit organization responsible for providing protection and advocacy for the rights of Massachusetts residents with disabilities. In carrying out its charge, DLC provides information, referrals, technical assistance and representation for individuals with disabilities.
The EdLaw Project is an educational advocacy partnership between the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts and the Youth Advocacy Division, created to advocate for the educational services that Boston’s highest risk children need to succeed. The project offers direct advocacy to children facing suspension and expulsion, ineffective reintegration into the school system following detention or incarceration, inadequate education while in state custody and children with undetected special needs. The EdLaw Project also offers training to families and youth-serving professionals in education and legal rights.
The Institute on Race and Justice utilizes strategic social science research methodologies to assist government agencies, educational institutions, and community stakeholders in the development of policy changes to advance the cause of social justice. The Institute was founded on the premise that academic institutions can work with communities to provide rigorous and objective information that can be used to influence policy changes that advance the cause of social justice. In addition to providing information about the Institute’s current projects, the website provides helpful links to statistics about crime, race, and justice issues.
The Juvenile Justice Center provides Suffolk Law students the opportunity to represent youth in court. Clinical students, under the supervision of two attorneys, handle 500-600 delinquency cases per year. The JJC mission is to provide vigorous, high-quality representation for children in the juvenile court system, using a multi-disciplinary approach that includes supportive social services and education advocacy. The Center also monitors and actively advocates on state policies that affect how youth are sent to court and the consequences of their court involvement. The website provides sample pleadings for juvenile defense attorneys, as well as information about the center and the policy initiatives it supports.
The Massachusetts Alliance of Juvenile Court Clinics (MAJCC) is a statewide organization founded to educate legislators, providers, and consumers about the services provided by the Juvenile Court Clinics. These clinics provide court-ordered mental health and substance abuse evaluations, referrals, and limited intervention services for children and families involved with the Juvenile Court. MAJCC also works to increase the resources necessary to continue existing services and expand the extent of services the Juvenile Court Clinics can provide statewide.
Massachusetts Appleseed is a community organization that develops solutions to legal problems not currently being addressed by the public or private sectors. Its areas of interest include educating homeless children, keeping kids in school, and reducing the rates of juvenile delinquency.
MCC is a non-profit statewide child advocacy organization. Its mission is to improve the lives of the state’s most vulnerable children through advocacy by concerned citizens. The website features information on MCC’s programs, including initiatives to prevent child abuse, document the state of Massachusetts’ children and advocate for child welfare reform.
MCLS is an organization that provides civil legal services to individuals in the prisons and jails of Massachusetts. MCLS employs administrative advocacy, legislative advocacy, and litigation to address its four primary areas of focus: health and mental health care, guard-on-prisoner violence, physical conditions of confinement, and segregation and isolation.
PPAL is a Massachusetts statewide network of parents and professionals who advocate on behalf of children and adolescents with mental, emotional or behavioral needs. The organization provides a toll-free hotline to call for information on youth mental health, referrals and support. (1-866-815-8122)
The mission of DCF (formerly Department of Social Services, or DSS) is to protect children who have been abused or neglected. It strives to ensure that each child has a safe, nurturing, permanent home. DCF provides family support services, foster care, group care, and domestic violence services. The website features a hotline to call to report suspected abuse, information on all the Department’s programs, and child welfare statistics and news.
DDS is a department within the Office of Health and Human Services dedicated to developing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate meaningfully within their communities. As a state agency, DDS oversees specialized services and support programs that give these individuals the opportunity to participate fully in community programs and activities.
The website provides updates on education policy from the Commissioner, information about individual school districts, and educational services available in the Commonwealth. The website also contains information about Massachusetts compliance with No Child Left Behind.
DMH is a department within the Office of Health and Human Services that assures and provides access to services and supports for Massachusetts residents with mental health needs. DMH establishes standards and sets policies that protect the rights of these individuals and allows them to participate fully and meaningfully in their communities.
DYS is the juvenile justice agency of Massachusetts. Youth in DYS custody have either been detained (pre-trial) or committed (post-adjudication). The website has information on DYS’ organization, population, and programs.
The website includes information about the juvenile court, including procedures, statistics, contact information, and biographical details of the juvenile court judges.
The JJAC is a state advisory group authorized by the federal government to help coordinate juvenile justice and delinquency prevention efforts in the Commonwealth. The JJAC provides expert input to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) to help develop a statewide plan for delinquency prevention and overall child well being. In addition, the JJAC distributes federal grant money and provides policy recommendations to the Governor and state legislators on juvenile justice matters. The website lists current members of the committee and provides information about the time, place, and agenda of upcoming meetings of thesubcommittees. These meetings are open to the public.
The MDAA is an independent state agency that supports the eleven elected Massachusetts District Attorneys and their combined staff of over 1,600 employees, including 700 prosecutors and almost 300 victim-witness advocates. Among other things, the MDAA facilitates working groups for juvenile prosecutors. The MDAA manages statewide information technology services, administers grants in the areas of violence against women, crimes against people with disabilities, vehicular crimes, and producing publications for prosecutors and advocates, hosts trainings and conferences, and provides information on budgetary, criminal justice and public safety issues to the executive and legislative branches.
MHLAC is an independent state agency of the Supreme Judicial Court that was created to secure and protect the legal rights of persons involved in mental health and retardation programs in the Commonwealth. It is now providing free legal assistance for youth committed to the DYS (most of whom are not entitled to the assignment of a public defender). In addition to providing guides to mental health services in Massachusetts and general legal representation, MHLAC can work with DYS-involved youth to address issues of mental health assessment and care, education, appropriate placement, rights in facilities, restraint, disability, discrimination, and transition to the community.
The OCA is an independent office that reports to the Governor and provides recommendations and review to child-serving agencies in the Commonwealth. The website features information about the office’s responsibilities, reports and recommendations, and links to child-serving departments and agencies.
YAD, established by the Committee for Public Counsel Services, provides legal representation, advocacy, and consultations for youth under 17 years old, who are charged in Boston and Worcester as delinquents or youthful offenders. These services are made available to young people who are unable to pay for counsel in delinquency and youthful offender cases, as well as in related disciplinary and administrative proceedings. The project offers clinical assessment, service planning, and referrals to high-risk youth to prevent chronic court involvement and help them lead productive lives. YAD also offers education and training to families and children, youth-serving professionals, and members of the juvenile justice community.