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An Interactive Overview of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice System

What is the Juvenile Justice System?

Each year, thousands of Massachusetts children and teenagers become involved with the juvenile justice “system,” a collection of local, county and state agencies, all of whom are responsible for deciding how to respond to children who are accused of breaking the law. In Massachusetts, children between the ages of 12 and 18 may be arrested, charged in court, removed from their homes, and confined in secure, locked facilities.

While in theory each child receives a consistent and fair response each time a decision is made about them, data suggests that young peoples’ zipcode, economic status, and the color of their skin all play a large role in determining whether they will be caught and arrested, as well as how they will be processed by the system. This overview explores how Massachusetts children enter and exit the juvenile justice system, how they move through it, and how different groups of young people are impacted by the decisions our system makes for them. It also highlights several promising practices here in Massachusetts, as well as potential areas of future reform.


CfJJ would like to thank Joshua Dankoff, Corallys Plasencia and Deborah Cardoso for their data visualizations and work on this project.