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Saturday 19th of September 2020

Press Room

To address juvenile injustice, data needed

Saturday 4th of July 2020 | National, United States
CommonWealth Magazine
News

In the wake of the nationwide uprisings asserting that Black Lives Matter, there have been many eloquent pronouncements denouncing racism and pledging to do more to address its impact. The seven justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a strongly worded statement committing to “root out any conscious and unconscious bias in our courtrooms.” Yet our judicial system purposely hides the effects of its own racism, particularly in regard to youth. A bill before the Legislature now would shine a much needed light onto the role of race in our juvenile system.

In 2016, the SJC commissioned a study to reveal the extent that racial disparities in sentencing are the result of bias in the justice system rather than simply a reflection of differences in offending driven by underling racial inequities in our society. However, the SJC did not include an analysis of the Juvenile Court, where sentencing disparities by race and ethnicity are also strikingly large.

Massachusetts has one of the worst racial disparities for youth incarceration in the country despite more than a decade of reforms to reduce the pretrial detention of youth.

Powerful opposition to transparency has come from the Juvenile Court, whose leadership stonewalled efforts to make the state’s child-serving agencies publicly accountable. Since 2013, when the Juvenile Court started using the MassCourts electronic records system, basic data on youth has been hidden behind the court’s exemption from public records law.

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Logo OIJJ
  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

    All rights reserved

  • Head Office: Rue Armand Campenhout, nº 72 bte 10. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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