Proposal would expand juvenile justice system above age 18


BOSTON (WWLP) – State lawmakers are looking at changes to the Massachusetts criminal justice system, which could keep teenagers away from adult prisons.

The proposal could make Massachusetts the first state in the country to raise the age of juvenile court past 18. Four state lawmakers have filed a bill to include young adults in the juvenile justice system, rather than sending them to adult prisons.

Supporters say the proposal would reduce crime, save taxpayer dollars, and give 18 to 21 year-olds a second chance.

The bill would not apply to more serious crimes. For instance, in Massachusetts, people 14 years or older who are charged with murder are automatically tried as adults.

Former probation officer, Rep. Bud L. Williams (D-Springfield), supports raising the age of juvenile court. “Getting housing, employment, armed services- it really affects your life, and we really need to take a look at it,” Williams said.

Rep. Paul Tucker (D-Salem), a former police chief, disagrees with the idea. “Reaching the age of 18, when we allow for so many other things for you to do at 18, you also have to be responsible for your own conduct,” Tucker said.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate plan to take up a criminal justice reform package at some point this session.

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