New Report Identifies Federal Resources to More Effectively Address Critical Needs of the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice System

Published sep. 22, 2016

September 22, 2016 (Boston, MA)A new report calls for Massachusetts to better leverage available federal funding for a key issue—juvenile justice reform—which could help the state address ongoing challenges in this area.

The new publication is the second paper in a series designed to help support the Commonwealth to work more effectively with the federal government. Massachusetts has made progress in juvenile justice reform, but as this new report highlights, the state could do a better job of leveraging federal funding to provide more necessary resources. The report was prepared by Jobs for the Future and funded by the Barr Foundation, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. A third report in the series, which focuses on addressing the Commonwealth’s healthcare workforce needs, will be released later this fall.

“If Massachusetts is able to better leverage more federal resources for juvenile justice reform as this report indicates,” says Maria Flynn, senior vice president, Jobs for the Future, “the state then has the opportunity to help more low-income, low-skill residents enhance their skills, find good jobs, and advance in their careers. The Commonwealth has made great progress in this area, and this report identifies critical steps the state can take to build on this strong foundation.”

“The Commonwealth must provide the support necessary for our most vulnerable young people to not only navigate the justice system, but to prevent them from entering it in the first place,” says Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester). “As Chair of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs, I will continue to work on identifying federal resources to bolster the state’s efforts to develop and implement policies that focus on prevention and reentry.”

Juvenile Justice Reform: Four Recommendations to Qualify for Additional Federal Funding

The juvenile justice system in Massachusetts is an intricate web of many stakeholders across several departments and functions in state government. At some point, the legislature could decide to overhaul the juvenile justice system. In the meantime, the report released today focuses on four recommendations in which more federal funding can be secured or expenses can be reduced:

  1. Revisit policies and programs to qualify for more grant funding from the Department of Justice (DOJ): Most importantly, for the past couple years, Massachusetts has received funds from one of the DOJ’s major juvenile justice grants—the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Title II Formula Grants. Unfortunately, the state hasn’t been eligible to receive its full share of the grants due to its lack of compliance with the grant’s regulations. In fact, Massachusetts is the state with the worst compliance of any state in the nation. Why? The grant requires that juveniles be separated from adults in secure facilities. While facilities built in the past decade and moving forward will comply with the law, the state still has too many older court houses that don’t separate youths from adults. Significant funding is needed to correct the matter.
  2. Seek expanded funding in the Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth, also known as the P3 program: When the program started in 2014, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education were able to work with states and other entities to combine funding streams with the intent of improving outcomes for disconnected youth—those young people coming out of foster care, involved in the juvenile justice system, unemployed, or not getting an education. Last year, the DOJ was added to the mix. Combining services and programs from diverse federal agencies has proven to be a highly effective means of preventing disconnected youth from returning to the juvenile justice system, so receiving more funding from the P3 program is a critical next step.
  3. Pursue additional community policing funds focused on juveniles: Within the DOJ, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is a major stream of funding for state and local police departments to improve relationships in their communities through community policing. The program provides funding through five major grant programs including the COPS Hiring Program. The report recommends that Massachusetts pursue COPS Hiring Program funds to supplement existing School Resource Officers. The added resources would be used in various communities in the state to significantly improve police-community relations, deter crime, and provide for early intervention for at-risk youth.
  4. Secure federal funds to reduce juvenile detainment: In recent years a number of studies and programs in various states have shown that community-based, non-residential rehabilitation efforts have been increasingly favored by many experts not only because they have proven to significantly lower the rate of repeat or graduated offenders, but also because they have the potential to save states millions of dollars a year. Federal funding can support the Commonwealth’s efforts to implement alternative programs to costly, less effective juvenile detainment measures.

“The Senate continues to take strong action to reform our criminal justice system through our commitment to build on reasonable, humane, best practices,” says Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “We must ensure that juvenile offenders who make mistakes have a second chance to live a fully productive life and not return to a life of crime. The ability to leverage more federal funding will make a real difference in helping our young people turn their lives around by ensuring that they receive adequate support and services when navigating through our judiciary system.”