DA Launches ‘Ambitious’ Juvenile Justice Initiative
iBerkshires.com reports the district attorney's office is partnering with communities and local organizations to create a juvenile justice system focused on the roots of delinquency.
"As community leaders, we are all responsible for creating an environment where our children can grow and thrive," said District Attorney Andrea Harrington. "That's why my office is launching a comprehensive Juvenile Justice Initiative that will work toward keeping children out of the court system and building safer, healthier communities."
Harrington made the announcement on Tuesday morning in front of the Boys and Girls' Club and backed by the county's two mayors Linda Tyer of Pittsfield and Thomas Bernard of North Adams, state officials, members of her office and school and law enforcement leaders including Dalton Police Chief Jeffrey Coe and North Adams Police Chief Jason Wood.
The initiative is being driven in large part by the state's recently enacted criminal justice reform and, said Harrington, is a fulfillment of her pledge that if elected, she "would adopt a criminal justice policy based on data and evidence based on a sense of fairness and justice."
The goal is to divert youth arrested for low-level crimes into alternative programs prior to arraignment to give them a chance to correct their behavior and avoid a court record that can follow them through life.
Diversionary programs have been used for young offenders over the years but not as a developed policy or with any equity.
The Juvenile Justice Initiative now creates policy and a process for evaluating youth crimes with the district attorney's office. Harrington said that so far out of 122 cases, some 37 went to arraignment: those cases dealt with significant mental health issues, operating under the influence, dangerousness hearings, failures from a previous diversion program and high-risk teens.