December 2011

Massachusetts can be a leader in adopting smart, evidence-based approaches to juvenile crime.  But to do so, we must have a clear understanding of how our juvenile justice system is working – who it serves, where it is functioning best, and where it needs to improve.  CfJJ's latest publication, DataPoints, compiles the most current data from police, courts, probation, and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to paint a broad picture of how Massachusetts is serving some of its most vulnerable children and youth: those who are involved in our juvenile justice system.  CfJJ hopes the report is the first step in starting an informed dialogue about how best to improve our system, so that it is both fair and effective. 


Some "good news" highlights from the report include:

  • According to the two most common indicators – arrest rates and arraignment rates – juvenile crime has been on the decline since at least 2007 and remains low in Massachusetts.
  • Secure confinement of youth to DYS, both pre- and post-adjudication, is at the lowest level in over a decade.
  • The number of girls committed to DYS has reached a 10-year low.


Now the bad news: Ineffective allocation of resources, unfair racial disparities and lack of transparency continue to plague the system.

  • Massachusetts still fails to collect and report data at many important decision points, including pre-arraignment diversion and disposition, as well as long-term outcomes for youth involved in the system.
  • Racial disparities are increasing throughout the system, despite declining rates of crime among all youth, including youth of color.
  • Massachusetts allocates the vast majority of DYS’s budget to fund secure residential facilities rather than less costly, more effective programs that hold kids accountable in their own communities.


CfJJ calls upon decision-makers and others to collect and make more data available so that we can develop a far richer picture of our system, one in which the best policy choices for kids and communities can come even more sharply into focus.
For a copy of the complete report, click HERE