The Criminal Justice Reform Bill Was Comprehensive -- But Not Complete

Chairman Eldridge, Chairwoman Cronin, members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary,

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, a statewide grassroots advocacy group fighting to make Massachusetts a leader on progressive policy.

Our platform demands justice for all, wherein underrepresented and/or vulnerable communities are protected under the law and treated with dignity and respect and tools for economic mobility. Criminal justice reform is an essential part of that, especially creating a system that ensures public safety, strong communities, and effective use of public funds.

The comprehensive criminal justice reform bill passed last session took many important steps in such a direction, born out of a recognition of the social and economic costs of mass incarceration. However, the fact that the law was comprehensive does not mean that it was complete, and many vital reforms were left on the table.

One example is raising the age of criminal majority. That is why we are submitting testimony today in support of H.3420/S.825: An Act to Promote Public Safety and Better Outcomes for Young Adults.

This bill will gradually raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 18, then 19, and then 20-year-olds over a five-year period. The recidivism rate of teens in the juvenile system is less than half of that of young people automatically prosecuted as adults. In the juvenile system, such emerging adults have access to the educational and counseling services that are so vital when they are still developing.                                                                                               

Young adults, especially young adults of color, are overrepresented in our criminal justice system. Reducing the number of young people who experience a system that is not designed for their developmental needs will have a positive impact on such young people, helping them to better be productive, engaged citizens and whole people upon release. And that means stronger, more resilient communities.

We urge you to build on the progress from last session and give a favorable report to H.3420/S.825.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jonathan Cohn

Chair, Issues Committee

Progressive Massachusetts

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