Author Archives: hsmith

Debtor’s Prisons for Kids? The High Cost of Fees and Fines in the Juvenile Justice System.

The Juvenile Law Center (JLC) today released Debtors’ Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System, a groundbreaking report on the impact of juvenile court costs on youth and their families. The report was featured in a New York Times article this morning, and includes a companion microsite featuring interactive maps.

Massachusetts Touted as a National Leader in Juvenile Defense Standards

When Stateline reporter Rebecca Beitisch interviewed lawyers around the country about juvenile defense standards juvenile justice advocates and defenders pointed to the Committee for Public Counsel Services as a leader in juvenile defense for the standards placed on lawyers, the training required of them and the approach taken with kids.  Here is a link to the article States Push Tougher Standards for Juvenile Public Defenders.

Trial Courts Issue Sentencing Best Practices Reports

 

Trial Court Establishes Best Practice Principles in Criminal Sentencing* 

BOSTON, MA — The Massachusetts Trial Court today announced that the four Trial Court departments with criminal jurisdiction have issued comprehensive criminal sentencing reports, including best practice principles to assist judges in developing individualized, evidence-based sentences that are intended to improve offenders’ chances of success upon release, reduce recidivism, and better secure public safety.

“In response to the commitment made by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants in his first State of the Judiciary address, I am pleased to report that the Trial Court has completed a thorough set of reports outlining principles to provide consistent, informed guidance to judges in determining sentences that are best suited to the adjudication of individual cases,” said Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey.

The Sentencing Best Practice principles state that sentences should be proportionate to the gravity of the offense, the harm done to crime victims, and the role of the offender.  A sentence should be no more severe than necessary to achieve its purposes and special conditions of probation should be narrowly tailored to the needs of the defendant, the public, and the victim, because an excessive number of special conditions may increase rather than decrease the likelihood of recidivism. The principles also encourage judges to inform defendants at the time of sentencing that the court will consider early termination of their probation or lift some conditions if they fully comply.

The Boston Municipal, District, Juvenile and Superior Court Departments formed Sentencing Best Practices Committees comprised of judges, probation officers, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement representatives, members representing local bar associations, and members of the Sentencing Commission to recommend sentencing practices that are informed by research-based risk factors. Each departmental committee developed a set of principles to help guide judges in exercising sentencing discretion, where the criminal statutes allow such discretion, as well as a set of tools to assist judges in implementing those sentencing best practices. In addition, the Massachusetts Probation Service is developing a searchable database of the programs and service providers available to probation departments by geographical region and by program type, so that judges may know what programs are available based on the particular needs of the defendant, such as drug treatment, mental health treatment, or batterers programs.

“This is a major milestone in our ongoing commitment to craft appropriate sentences,” said Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants. “I thank the four Sentencing Best Practice Committees for their diligence and thoughtfulness in producing this tremendous body of work, which will help judges to set sentences that not only fit the crime but also fit the offender, and in so doing reduce the likelihood of recidivism.”

The comprehensive sentencing materials include:

  • Sentencing Best Practice Reports that detail the sentencing principles and recommendations of each departmental working group, and identify its members.
  • Sentencing Bench Book that serves as an easily useable reference guide for judges on statutes and legal issues that relate to sentencing.
  • a Memorandum on Best Practices in Sentencing Utilizing Social Science Data & Research that identifies the offender and social science factors that may affect recidivism rates, and the incentives and sanctions that have proven effective (and ineffective) in reducing recidivism, so that judges may apply the applicable social science research to their sentencing decisions.

*Press Release from:  ‘PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE, SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT

Click here for all Reports and here for the Juvenile Court Report

Watch “Poverty, Violence, and the Developing Mind”

From the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior @ MGH: An increasing number of children are at risk for exposure to severe violence and dangerous living conditions. During this panel event, experts wrestled with the following question: What are the implications of trauma exposure and toxic stress for healthy brain development? Click here to watch the webinar.

Girls in the Juvenile Justice system are often victims of family violence, report finds.

“Girls in the criminal justice system report far higher rates of in-home sexual abuse and are detained for minor offenses more often than boys, in what becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of imprisonment.”  Girls in Juvenile Detention are often the Victims of Family Abuse, Report finds , here is the link to the report discussed in this article  Gender Injustice. 

Less is more when it comes to probation for juveniles

This article is a good compilation of the studies out there that with most kids less (probation supervision/conditions) is more. Case Now Strong for Ending Probation as a Default Disposition in Juvenile Defense.

This is also what former (acting) Mass. Commissioner of Probation Ron Corbett says about probation generally in his article The Burdens of Leniency: The Changing Face of Probation.