Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian testified Wednesday in support of legislation increasing the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds.
Sheriff Koutoujian and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins testified together in favor of the legislation (House 1432 and House 3229) before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday afternoon.
Massachusetts is one of just 11 states in which 17-year-olds accused of crimes are automatically tried and sentenced as adults, according to Citizens for Juvenile Justice. Last year, Connecticut joined the growing number of states allowing at least some 17-year-olds to be placed into the juvenile system.
“For me, this is about trying to ensure we give youth caught up in the justice system the best opportunity possible to turn their lives around and become productive members of society,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “The statistics tell us the juvenile justice system is the best place to deal with adolescents. This is where the expertise is to intervene with more age-appropriate correctional, substance abuse and educational services.”
Surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have shown higher recidivism rates for those juveniles sent through the adult justice system. The CDC survey, which looked at the data gathered through previously conducted research, found youth prosecuted as adults are 34 percent more likely to reoffend then those placed into the juvenile system.
Juveniles in Massachusetts, beginning at the age of 14, charged with murder will still automatically be charged as adults, and the state’s current Youthful Offender statute can still be used to prosecute juveniles as adults for certain other offenses including those in which a victim is threatened with, or sustains, serious bodily harm.
Pictured above: Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian (front) and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary Wednesday.
– Information and photo from Middlesex Sheriff’s Office