Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018:
A Path Forward for Youth Justice

On April 2018, Massachusetts signed criminal justice legislation representing significant progress for our state, including many progressive youth justice reforms.  CfJJ, in partnership with the statewide Juvenile Justice Reform Coalition, advocated for these reforms based on four guiding principles:

Most kids commit low-level crimes and nearly all age out of criminal behavior. The law: 

  • Excludes elementary-age children from delinquency proceedings by raising the lower age of juvenile jurisdiction from 7 years to 12 years, placing Massachusetts in line with international children’s rights standards.

  • Decriminalizes nonviolent school-based public order offenses by students under age 18.

  • Requires schools with an assigned School Resource Officer to enter into agreements setting boundaries that school administration, and not SROs, shall be responsible for enforcing school discipline and SROs are dedicated to public safety.  The model MOU can be found here.

  • Decriminalizes the first time violation of certain low-level offenses, including violations of local ordinances, for all kids.

Court processing and out-of-home confinement harm youth, undermine public safety and cost tens of millions of dollars annually.  The law:

Developmentally appropriate interventions help kids and reduce crime. The law:

  • Creates opportunities to expunge juvenile and criminal records for offenses charged before age 21 (eligibility limited to someone with only one offense on their court record)

  • Creates a parent-child privilege so parents can help their minor children in the court system without the pressure to testify against their child about these conversations

  • Improves confidentiality of juvenile court records of young people indicted as “youthful offender”

  • Prohibits the indiscriminate shackling of children in juvenile court proceedings

  • Codifies DYS' involuntary room confinement policy, prohibiting the use of room confinement as retaliation, harassment or punishment

A fair and effective justice system must rely on transparency and accountability. the law:

  • Creates a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board to evaluate juvenile justice data collection and reporting, recommend strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities, study the implementation of statutory changes including raising the age to under 21 and make recommendations on childhood trauma leading to juvenile justice involvement.

What comes next?