Mass. panel explores ways to reduce young repeat offenders

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BOSTON (WWLP) – Young adults are more likely to end up in a Massachusetts prison, and return again after they have been released.

A panel of speakers gathered at the State House Tuesday to discuss new approaches to help young, repeat offenders. State Senator William Brownsberger, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said while incarceration rates have dipped slightly in Massachusetts, problems still exist in the criminal justice system.

“Our incarceration rates are still roughly five times, five times what they were in Massachusetts forty years ago,” said Senator Brownsberger (D-Belmont).

The independent think tank MassINC believes judges, prosecutors, correctional officers and lawmakers should consider why some young adults, ages 18-24, end up in jail time and time again. It may involve their environment growing up.

The panel fielded questions about racial disparity, and the lopsided rates of arrests in the minority community.

“I’m curious, to what extent there is a racial justice lens being applied to the work that needs to get done,” asked Rahsaan Hall of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

The think tank suggests fewer young people would end up being repeat offenders if they were moved from the criminal justice system into support programs that build success.

Massachusetts Probation Commissioner Ed Dolan said, “The real action for changing behavior and recidivism reduction and long term public safety is through changing behavior and it was sort of expressed here that that’s by making people successful.”

The state Probation Department supervises close to 13,000 people ages 18-24.

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