Less Jail, More Future

Three SIF Social Innovators make progress on criminal justice reform in MA

This is the first in an occasional series of blog posts by SIF Access to Justice Fellow Mike Haroz looking at how the Social Innovation Forum’s portfolio organizations – both current and alumni – are having an impact on some of our community’s most challenging social issues. Stay tuned for more updates from Mike as he gets to know the Social Innovation Forum network this year.

“Less Jail, More Future,” Roca’s mantra and call to action, is in the works for Massachusetts emerging adults facing the criminal charges thanks to the recent work of several Social Innovation Forum (SIF) Innovators: Chelsea-based Roca, Lowell-based UTEC, and Boston-based Citizens for Juvenile Justice.

Roca, UTEC, and Citizens for Juvenile Justice in collaboration with other private advocates and leading public officials, played a major role in convincing the Massachusetts State Senate recently to adopt major legislative criminal justice reform that includes landmark protection for young offenders and advances public safety and savings by reducing recidivism.

The proposed legislation will raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in most cases to the age of 19 with a hoped for future expansion to the age of 21 and mitigate the damaging legacy of juvenile adjudication that prejudices future lives.

Juvenile court jurisdiction provides greatly increased opportunities for supportive services and programs than are available in the adult prison system, services and programs that are key to reducing recidivism. Roca and UTEC’s work with at risk young adults over many years has demonstrated the importance of supportive services for keeping this population from becoming the next repetitive generation of adult inmates.  

In testimony last June before the Senate Joint Committee of the Judiciary, Molly Baldwin, Roca’s Executive Director, stated “While the recidivism rate in Massachusetts for 18-24 years old is 76%, less than 10% of the ROCA graduates are rearrested.” UTEC has had similar success and together with ROCA and others provided the Senate with compelling, data-driven support for the importance of program opportunities for young offenders before they are swallowed and likely forever lost in the cycle of adult imprisonment and re-imprisonment. 

The legislation has a way to go as it still must be passed by the House and signed into law by the Governor. The success to date, however, is a credit to the data-driven, skilled advocacy of Roca, UTEC and Citizens for Juvenile Justice and an example of the importance of data supported, innovative impact work that characterizes SIF’s Innovators.

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