BOSTON – On October 8, Senator Cindy F. Friedman testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in favor of legislation she filed that would help reduce recidivism among youth. The bill, S.940, would require the adult criminal justice system to adopt developmentally-appropriate, evidence-informed policies to ensure positive outcomes for system-involved young adults.
By amending the adult justice system to account for the developmental needs of emerging adults, Friedman explained, “the Commonwealth can meet its goals of holding young people accountable while fostering rehabilitation, achieving better youth outcomes, increasing safety and reducing the long-term costs associated with a lifetime of justice involvement.”
Friedman’s bill would define an “emerging adult” as someone between the age of 18 and 26. In Massachusetts, emerging adults are currently prosecuted and sentenced as adults in much the same manner as an adult at any stage of life, despite research that shows that emerging adults constitute a developmentally-distinct population. As a result, Massachusetts not only ends up spending a disproportionate amount of resources on this age group in the justice system, but emerging adults who have been incarcerated have the highest recidivism rates.
As such, the bill would amend the purpose statement of the criminal justice system to explicitly articulate rehabilitation as the goal for emerging adults by including language closely resembling the language pertaining to juveniles, with appropriate modifications.
In addition, S.940 would codify the provisions in the regulations of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) that apply to late adolescents and young adults so they would also apply to emerging adults held in the Department of Corrections (DOC) and county Houses of Correction (HOC).
In concluding her testimony, Friedman urged the committee to give the bill a favorable report.
To track the progress of the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S940.