Report Reveals Unwarranted Detention Of Massachusetts Youth

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Christopher Ott, ACLU of Massachusetts, (617) 482-3170 ext. 322; cott@aclum.org

Report Reveals Unwarranted Detention Of Massachusetts Youth

Invest In Programs Aimed At Reducing Need For Detention Rather Than In Jails, Say ACLU And Children's Law Center Of Massachusetts

BOSTON - Massachusetts
police and probation officers are unnecessarily incarcerating youth who
are arrested when juvenile court is typically closed, according to a
report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU
of Massachusetts and the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts. Many
have been arrested for minor infractions and pose no obvious risk of
flight or danger to the community.

The report, "A Looming Crisis: The
Secure Detention of Youth After Arrest and Before Arraignment in
Facilities Administered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public
Safety and Security," reveals that youth securely detained after being
arrested in the late afternoons, evenings or over a weekend are
frequently denied access to bail and subjected to conditions that do
not meet state regulations. 

"Far too many kids are being locked
up and detained in substandard conditions for no good reason," said
Robin Dahlberg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice
Program and the primary author of the report. "Unnecessary detention
has a dramatic and negative impact on our children by pushing them
deeper into the criminal justice system."

A sizeable majority of these youth
are detained in locked-down secure facilities known as Alternative
Lock-up Programs (ALPs), administered by the Massachusetts Executive
Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS).

Two of the EOPSS ALPs are not
licensed by the state agency responsible for overseeing residential
child care facilities - the Massachusetts Department of Early Education
and Care. These facilities have operated without showers, without
recreational activities, without sufficient staff or sufficiently
trained staff and without female guards for female detainees.

Further problems include the
detention of youth under the age of 14 in violation of state law and
the disproportionate detention of youth of color. Minority youth
comprise between 20 and 25 percent of all adolescents in the
Commonwealth, yet account for more than 60 percent of the children
detained in the EOPSS ALPs.

"We are failing our youth, and
particularly our youth of color, by not looking for alternatives to
incarceration in situations where incarceration is completely
unwarranted," said Barbara Kaben, Deputy Director of the Children's Law
Center of Massachusetts. "Locking kids up unnecessarily, particularly
first-time offenders, sends the wrong message about how we as adults
view them."

According to the report,
Massachusetts officials have consistently refused to utilize state
funds to finance the ALPs, relying instead on federal money that is
intended to fund programs designed to reduce the need for detention and
combat recidivism.

"The Commonwealth is trying to get
away with detaining kids on the cheap," said Carol Rose, Executive
Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "If we don't help our youth now,
they will become an even bigger burden on the state's coffers down the
road."

In an effort to prevent unnecessary
detention, the report advocates that detention be limited only to those
children who are flight risks and who pose a danger to their
communities, that access to bail or immediate arraignment be readily
available to all juvenile arrestees and that no child under 14 years of
age ever be detained in a secure facility. The report also advocates
for the Commonwealth to end its dependence on federal funds to support
the ALP system.

A copy of the report can be found online at: www.aclu.org/crimjustice/juv/38120pub20081218.html

Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice

Additional information about the ACLU of Massachusetts is available online at: www.aclum.org

Additional information about the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts is available online at: www.clcm.org

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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