On Friday, April 13th, Governor Baker signed into law the Criminal Justice reform legislation passed Friday, March 23rd, 2018, the Massachusetts’s Legislature’s conference committee. Baker tweeted, “We are pleased to sign into law a number of important reforms to the criminal justice system today…”
The law includes a sweeping array of reforms intended to keep children safe and out of the criminal justice system.
So, what’s in the package?
· School Resource Officer Bill:
Great news! A significant portion of CLM’s School Resource Officer bill, sponsored by Representative Cantwell was part of the final package. Current law requires each school district in the Commonwealth to assign at least 1 school resource officer (SRO), unless that requirement is waived. The superintendent and the chief of police in each school district must write a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that defines the role and duties of the SRO. The criminal justice language builds upon this existing law to create uniformity around the MOU and the use of SROs. This reform will ensure that school resource officer programs are crafted to ensure that officers are in school for safety, not for discipline and that they must be properly selected and trained. Programs will promote positive relationships between law enforcement and youth, help divert students from the criminal justice system, and maintain school safety.
Raise Minimum Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction to 12:
The new law raises the age of criminal responsibility from 7 years to 12 years old, hopefully reducing the number of children entering the criminal justice system. This change will help turn around the lives of some young children – who are often vulnerable themselves – by addressing their deeds in the context of supporting their needs.
Expungement of Juvenile and Criminal Records for Offenses Committed before Age 21:
The new law will make eligible for expungement some crimes committed by offenders up to age 21. Juvenile records can prevent access to higher education, employment, housing, becoming a foster parent and other opportunities. States where there are minimal barriers to clearing juvenile records have significantly reduced re-arrest/recidivism rates and increased college graduation and incomes as these young people transition to adulthood.
Creates a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board:
The board will evaluate policies and procedures related to the juvenile justice system, examine the collection and dissemination of data regarding juvenile contact with criminal justice agencies and study the implementation of any statutory changes to the juvenile justice system.
We are so grateful to Representative James Cantwell, our tireless School Resource Officer champion, as well as the leadership of the Criminal Justice Conference Committee, Senator William Brownsberger and Representative Claire Cronin and the other conferees, but also, and especially, to our friends and partners who’ve worked hard to pass these important reforms.