Massachusetts Coalition for Juvenile Justice Reform

The Problem

Thousands of children and youth in Massachusetts come into contact with the juvenile justice system each year. Overwhelmingly, these are children from neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and they are, disproportionately, children of color and children from our child welfare systems. Many have experienced mental illness, learning disabilities, and/or school failure. 

THE Issues

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice Reform focuses on many issues to improve the juvenile justice system. The coalition advocates for juvenile justice policies ranging from diverting youth with low level offenses from going deeper into the juvenile justice system to improving both public safety and better outcome for youth who do enter the system.  These issues include:

  • the unnecessary court processing of large numbers of kids for low-level offenses;
  • the glaring racial disparities throughout the system;
  • the overuse of out of home confinement and the lack of appropriate community-based services;
  • removing barriers to successful re-entry; and
  • the failure of many agencies to collect basic statistical data to enable the Commonwealth to assess the fairness and effectiveness of the system.

Building on last year’s successes, the coalition will be advocating for omnibus legislation in the 2017-2018 legislative session that would exclude very young children from juvenile justice involvement; allow for the diversion of youth from formal court processing; decriminalize low level offenses for children; allow for the expungement of certain juvenile records; create a parent-child testimonial privilege; prohibit indiscriminate shackling of children in juvenile court; prohibit the use of solitary confinement as punishment; and addressing racial and ethnic disparities by requiring greater transparency in the system.