Youth impacts of the criminal justice system – reform now!

May 14, 2008

Boston Workers Alliance

Today, an op-ed in the Globe by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) highlighted some of the deplorable conditions that youth are subjected to by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS). The column describes the inability of DYS to house the number of minor offenders, resulting in incarceration times averaging 25 days for youth charged with misdemeanors.

This abuse of young people is endemic in the criminal injustice system and is statistically shown to fall heavier on youth of color, a sign of institutional racism in the Commonwealth.

Unnecessary jailing isn’t the only form of cruel and unusual punishment inflicted upon youth and adults in Massachusetts. Despite the groundswell of support for criminal record information (CORI) reform and Governor Patrick’s campaign promise to deliver comprehensive results, the executive order he put forward in January was modest at best.

Despite lowering the number of years that CORIs are kept on file, experience has shown that the mechanism ensuring this is faulty. CORIs are still forced on people who have been arrested but not convicted, and there are serious limitations on those with CORIs who seek employment or want to start businesses.

Our partner group, the Boston Worker’s Alliance has been spearheading an effort to push for genuine CORI reform. This month, people from across the state will participate in the five-day Walk for Freedom, culminating in a May 22 march to the State House to demand legislative action. Join the walk to support fair employment and safer communities.