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Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Massachusetts' purpose clause is very short and aligns with parens patriae language found in the Standard Juvenile Court Act (1959) and adds that children should be treated not as criminals but as children in need of aid, encouragement and guidance.

17 MA §53

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and court diversion decision is at the discretion of the prosecutor.

In Massachusetts, community-based diversion programs are required in some counties and administered by the DA. When law enforcement officers detain a juvenile, they must contact the court (JPO) to obtain a warrant and a hearing is scheduled. 

Otherwise, the DA can proceed by complaint in juvenile court (juvenile session of district court) or by indictment.  The DA may seek a plea agreement and file a pretrial motion, but if unable to reach agreement, youth ‘shall’ plead not delinquent, and ask the court for a specific disposition. 

Once before the judge, cases can be "continued under supervision" by probation upon written agreement (consent) of the child and parent to work or participate in some sort of activity for a specific period of time.  "Continued without a finding" is a similar label that can apply when the juvenile admits there are "sufficient facts" for the prosecution to prove guilt, which is not the same as an admission of guilt. Upon successful completion of "probation without adjudication," the matter is dismissed.  Probation can go to age 18 (or to the next birthday if not disposed until age 18 or 19).

No statutory time limit/s for court diversions exist.

In Massachusetts, there are no statutory time limits.

Courtroom shackling, 2015

Restricted by judiciary

Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure (7/1/15) apply to juveniles per Rule 1.  Rule 45 indicates that gagging or shackling may be employed if the trial judge has found such restraint reasonably necessary to maintain order.  If the judge orders restraint/s, reasons must be entered into the record and (if present) the jury must be instructed ‘that such restraint is not to be considered.’

Competency, 2015

In Massachusetts, the legal basis for determining juvenile competency is found in case law, where the state supreme court applied the mental health statute, which states that competency procedures apply to [any] subject (including juveniles). Procedures there align with the Dusky standard, but do not have juvenile-specific provisions for examination, etc.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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