The prospect of your child facing criminal prosecution can be scary. Contact with the juvenile justice system could set the stage for ongoing legal troubles, according to the director of the Office of the Child Advocate. She noted that most young people accused of crimes eventually outgrow their negative behaviors if given a chance. For this reason, Massachusetts passed reforms meant to help juveniles avoid the long-lasting impact of prosecution.

Reform produces big drop in juvenile arrests

A report from the Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board in Massachusetts has shown a significant 43% decrease in juvenile arrests between the fiscal years of 2018 and 2019. In addition to fewer arrests, the juvenile justice system is receiving far fewer complaints and delinquency filings. Pretrial detention of juveniles has gone down by 27% during this period and first-time commitments have decreased by 17%.

Less court jurisdiction for minor, first-time offenses

If your teen stands accused of committing a first-time, low-level offense, the issue no longer involves the court. Disorderly conduct, disturbing school operations, shoplifting, vandalism and alcohol possession represent common low-level offenses that used to force young people into the criminal justice system.

Racial disparities persist in juvenile enforcement

Although the reformed laws have made progress toward reducing prosecution of juveniles, the report determined that white juvenile suspects received better outcomes than blacks and Latinos. Arrests among white youths fell 56%, but black teens only saw a 32% decline in arrests. As for Latino teens, their arrest numbers fell by 39%.

Criminal accusations against your child require a thoughtful response. You might want information about alternatives to juvenile incarceration, such as a diversion program. Legal counsel could help you understand the penalties that your teen might face. Although the court system keeps records of juvenile delinquency confidential, the experience may result in school expulsion or loss of driver’s license. Any action taken to defend your teen from overly harsh consequences could reduce the likelihood of continued antisocial behavior.