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JJPAD Board Releases 2023 Annual Report, Shows an Uptick in Juvenile Legal System Use

January 24, 2024

In January, the Juvenile Justice Policy & Data Board, of which CLM is a member, released their comprehensive 2023 Annual Report to the legislature, outlining key recommendations pertaining to the juvenile justice system based on the Board's work from the previous year.  

The Findings: 

  1. There has been an uptick in the use of the juvenile legal system in FY23.
    • The increase in system use begins at the "front door," or the first step in the juvenile legal process.
    • A majority of cases leading to this increase are cases involving youth alleged of misdemeanor/lower-level offenses, particularly at the arrest stage.
    • At the current rate of increase, system involvement will return to levels predating the 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Act, which specifically targeted the reduction of system involvement among youth.
  2. There is persistent and pervasive racial and ethnic disproportionality within the youth population involved in the juvenile legal system.
    • Black/African American youth were 4.89 times more likely to have been arrested.
    • Latino/Hispanic youth were 2.89 times more likely to have been arrested.
  3. Youth held at the Department of Youth Services (DYS) have higher rates of behavioral health needs, educational challenges, and trauma than last year.
    • Further, the percentage of "dually involved” youth increased (youth who cross over from the child welfare system to detention or commitment with DYS, and/or DYS youth with current or prior DCF involvement) and are significantly overrepresented in our state’s juvenile legal system. These youth require tailored and trauma-informed supports.
    • A youth with current DCF involvement was 38 times more likely to be detained in FY23 than a youth in Massachusetts who was not currently involved with DCF.
JJPAD's Recommendations:

JJPAD urges the legislature to immediately address the above challenges through the following solutions:

  1. Increase opportunities to divert youth away from the system.
    • This includes investments in youth-specific prosocial programming and family supports that prevent deeper system involvement, and promoting and expanding juvenile diversion programs across the state.
  2. Address policies (particularly those at the policing level) contributing to racial disparities.
    • This includes a deeper dive on police data and practices, especially at the local level.
  3. Improve support and access to services for youth with unmet needs.
    • This includes investing in youth mental and behavioral health and trauma response in settings like schools and out-of-home placements. It also includes greater attention to youth substance use disorder and prevention services.
CLM's Take:

As a member of the JJPAD Board and participating in the work of the subcommittees, CLM supports the findings and recommendations of this important report.

CLM's Legislative Advocacy:
Many bills CLM advocates for and supports on our policy agenda aim to address a number of the JJPAD Board's recommendations:

  • An Act promoting diversion of juveniles to community supervision and services (S.940 / H.1495)
    • This bill aims to expands the list of offenses that allow judges the discretion to divert cases to community-based alternatives, which would hold young people accountable in through interventions that are more effective in reducing future offending
    • Fact Sheet
  • An Act Relative to Safer Schools (S.300 / H.517)
    • This bill would provide support for districts that want to develop more holistic safety practices that do not rely on school-based policing and clarify the parameters for appropriate use of police powers in schools.
    • Fact Sheet
  • An Act improving juvenile justice data collection (S.931 / H.1802)
    • This legislation would authorize the Office of the Child Advocate to gather and report key demographic data at major decision points to better identify and evaluate policies or practices of the juvenile justice system.
    • Fact Sheet
  • An Act to eliminate disproportionality and inequities for at-risk children (S.120 / H.153)
    • Requires child-serving state agencies to report on disproportionality and inequity in services and create corrective action plans with oversight/support from the Office of the Child Advocate. The passage of this bill would drastically improve our ability to target and dismantle policies and practices that perpetuate disproportionality and systemic racism in the sector.
    • Fact Sheet

CLM's Budget Advocacy:
CLM is supportive of the increased investments of $2.1 million into the Massachusetts Youth Diversion program in Gov. Healey's proposed FY25 budget. However, CLM urges the legislature and Governor to increase FY25 budget investments into our FRCs, as they are a vital resource for youth and families across the state.

**Click here to view the JJPAD Board's 2023 Annual Report**

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