Data reveal unequal treatment of youth
Juvenile crime falling in Massachusetts
For immediate release: November 29, 2012
Contact: Naoka Carey, (617) 338-1050
Juvenile crime decreased 37 percent in the past two years in Massachusetts, with non-violent offenses making up the vast majority of charges against youth, according to a report by Citizens for Juvenile Justice.
The report, Data•Points, paints a picture of declining youth crime but also of regional disparities and other troubling trends in the juvenile justice system. Data•Pointscalls for far more data collection and transparency so that the public can better judge the juvenile justice system’s effectiveness and fairness.
Key findings include:
- In 2010, there were 15,275 arrests of youth under the age of 18. Initial data from 2011 indicates that arrests of youth under 18 declined in 2011, to 12,149. This represents a 37 percent decline from 2009, and a 20 percent decline from 2010.
- The vast majority of youth crimes are relatively minor. In 2010, for example, over half of the arrests were for just five offenses: simple assaults, larceny, disorderly conduct, vandalism, and liquor law violations; only 11 percent were for “violent” offenses (murder/intentional manslaughter, rape, robbery, or aggravated assaults).
- Approximately fifteen percent of cases brought before the Juvenile Courts involve middle and elementary school kids, ages 13 all the way down to 7. As with older youth, the majority of the charges faced by younger children involve simple assaults (including things like spitting) and public order offenses like disorderly conduct.
- Prosecution rates vary widely by county. For example, there are an average of 598 delinquency charges for every 100,000 youth statewide. By comparison, the rate is 1,230 per 100,000 in Barnstable County, and 1,065 per 100,000 in Hampden County.
- Massachusetts is one of the few states that automatically prosecutes 17-year-olds as adults, no matter how minor the charges.
- A disturbingly high proportion of kids in the juvenile justice system are already in the care of the Department of Children and Families, which raises questions about the adequacy of the services DCF offers to children suffering abuse or neglect. In 2011, 38 percent of youth held in detention facilities in Massachusetts had open cases with DCF.
For a complete copy of the report, please visit cfjj.org/reports.php