Locking Up Our Children: The Secure Detention of Massachusetts Youth After Arraignment and Before Adjudication

The United States Constitution mandates that state juvenile justice systems treat similarly situated children equally, regardless of their race or national origin. Systems in which youth of color are overrepresented are often viewed as failing to adhere to this mandate. That perception not only undermines public confidence in the system’s fairness but also impedes the system’s ability to work with the families and children who need its help.

For each of the last ten years, minority youth have accounted for approximately 20% of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s juvenile population, but nearly 60% of the young people securely detained after arraignment and before adjudication, and 60% of those committed to the Commonwealth’s Department of Youth Services (DYS) after an adjudication of delinquency. Although the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act requires that the Commonwealth determine why youth of color are overrepresented and develop and implement a plan to reduce that overrepresentation, Massachusetts has done neither

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