BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP)– The state’s Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board (JJPAD) has released a report outlining what’s needed to support youth delinquency prevention and diversion services.

The report reveals that in fiscal year (FY) 2022, that youth entering the juvenile justice system increased from the lows reached during the initial years of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to allegations of property, person, and weapons offense.

The increase was predicted by the Board in 2021 when a report at that time noted that the COVID-19 pandemic created a situation that contributed to a deep decline in FY20 and FY21 and anticipated a potential increase in FY22, due to both the return to in-person activities and the impact of the stress and trauma of the pandemic on youth.

The Board also found that the number of youths being arraigned and processed through the juvenile justice system has decreased compared to pre-pandemic (FY 2019), particularly for youths charged with misdemeanor offenses. Even though more cases are being referred to the juvenile justice system, those authorized to make decisions in juvenile cases believe that many should be dismissed or diverted rather than processed through the juvenile court. 

Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate

Racial and ethnic disparities in the state’s juvenile justice system are prevalent. Data indicates that white youth are likely being diverted more frequently earlier in the process (pre-arraignment) than Black and Latino youth, while Black and Latino youth are more likely to have their case dismissed later (post-arraignment) compared to white youth.

Despite the increases shown in this year’s data, the JJPAD report highlights the fact that overall, system use is still down compared to FY 2018, when the Legislature passed sweeping criminal justice reforms including juvenile justice provisions aimed at limiting the number of youth coming into contact with the juvenile justice system.

“We know many youth and families endured a number of challenges and traumas in recent years that can contribute to an increase in delinquency. The data in this year’s report underscores the importance of ensuring youth and families are receiving services and supports, including access to diversion services, behavioral health supports, after-school and summer programming, and educational supports that can help keep youth out of the juvenile justice system,” said Maria Mossaides, Director of the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) and Chair of the JJPAD Board.

You can read the 2022 JJPAD report here.