Criminal offenses committed by individuals in Massachusetts while under the age of 18 will earn them the attention of the state’s juvenile justice system. Juveniles in Massachusetts are subject to a different set of laws and punishments from adults and are unlikely to see the inside of the adult prison system unless a serious crime is committed.

The juvenile court system decides the fate of young people who are guilty of juvenile crimes or are subject to other behavior that may place them at risk. These courts decide the immediate futures of young people who are delinquent, display negative behavior or suffer due to neglect or abuse in their home lives.

When a minor is determined delinquent, a judge may rule that the state take immediate responsibility for the juvenile. The judge has discretion regarding the possible actions that can be taken in these situations. Jail is often used only after other remedies have failed to correct the actions of delinquent youth.

Actions taken in place of confinement can include driver’s license suspension, community service, assessment of a fine, counseling, probation, and home confinement.

When incarceration is considered the best alternative for a juvenile offender, the incarceration time is spent in a jail specifically designed to meet the security and rehabilitative needs of the young person. These facilities often include probation and social workers who work closely with the young person to fulfill the objectives included in his or her rehabilitation plan. Professional support will also be available to the young person after their release from jail to help them avoid additional periods of incarceration.

The juvenile justice system includes a complex maze of laws that can be difficult for young people and their families to navigate. A young person facing criminal charges as a juvenile may benefit from the services of an attorney experienced with the juvenile court.