MA JJ System Overview (Part II): Pre-Arrest
While the diagram on the first page makes it appear as if arrest is the beginning of the juvenile justice system, it is critically important to look before arrest, to understand what drives children’s involvement in the system. The below chart shows that out of the 490,338 children aged 12-17 in the Commonwealth, more than 60% report engaging in illegal activity, namely drinking alcohol. (The actual number is possibly higher, as self-report data often under-counts.) Levels of reported offending are similar across different racial and ethnic groups for most offenses. However, as we discuss later, children of color are arrested, prosecuted, detained, and committed at a higher rate than white children.
Also, as the below diagram shows, while a majority of teenagers engage in some chargeable offense, only a small fraction of these children get identified as having done something illegal and/or end up arrested.