A powerhouse think tank of public-safety officials, judges, politicians and prosecutors tasked with studying the viability of raising the maximum age of Juvenile Court defendants from 17 to 18 — and perhaps one day, as old as 20 — will muster for the first time Tuesday at the State House to draw up a road map for the work ahead.
The Criminal Justice Task Force on Juvenile Age, established last year as part of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Criminal Justice Reform Act, is chaired by state Rep. Paul F. Tucker, retired chief of the Salem Police Department, and state Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem, a fellow Democrat from Newton, according to member Sana Fadel.
“The juvenile system focuses on education, focuses on health care, on family involvement,” Fadel explained. “The adult system is about punishment and deterrence. If you did something wrong, you have to pay your debt to society. The juvenile system will focus on rehabilitation and how you can control your triggers and stress.”
Neither Creem nor Tucker could be reached for comment Sunday. The meeting’s agenda calls for the co-chairs to make opening remarks and for the group to plot a course of action.
Time is of the essence. Their recommendations, which are not binding on the Legislature, are due on the desks of the chairs of the Joint Committees on the Judiciary and Ways and Means no later than July 1 absent an extension of their efforts.
Fadel, interim executive director of Boston-based Citizens for Juvenile Justice, said she will serve on the task force until next month, when she’s succeeded by new executive director Leon Smith.
Since Massachusetts raised the maximum defendant age for Juvenile Court jurisdiction from 16 to 17 in 2013, Fadel said the state has seen an overall 34-percent decline in juvenile crimes, “driven by a reduction in violent and property crimes.”
She stressed the task force will only be concerning itself for now with studying the benefits and risks of expanding Juvenile Court jurisdiction to 18, including the impact of integrating teens that old into the Department of Youth Services’ under-18 populations.
“There is no proposal out there to jump to 20,” she said.
If time allows. the group may look at the feasibility of a gradual expansion to age 19 in two years, and then 20 two years after that, she said.
The goals are reducing recidivism and rehabilitation through healthier, more positive programs and resources available to younger, still-developing offenders.
Also up for discussion by the task force, the feasibility of creating a separate young-adult court for defendants ages 18 to 24, in addition to young-adult correctional units within the Department of Correction and county correctional facilities.
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