BOSTON- This week, Representative Carolyn Dykema joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote to approve H.4011, An Act relative to criminal justice reform, and H.4012, An Act implementing the joint recommendations of the Massachusetts criminal justice review, two bills that make significant improvements to the Commonwealth’s criminal justice policy and work to reduce recidivism among individuals with a history of justice involvement.
Two major components of H.4011 were initially proposed in bills filed by Rep. Dykema. The bill requires uniform collection of juvenile justice data by all state agencies that interact with justice-involved youth and creates a framework for expungement of juvenile records after youth leave the justice system and do not reoffend for a set timeframe. These policy changes were filed as standalone bills by Rep. Dykema at the beginning of the legislative session and codify recommendations of the legislature’s Subcommittee on Dual-Status Youth, which Rep. Dykema chaired during the 2015-2016 legislative session.
Massachusetts joins 35 other states in implementing expungement legislation, expanding upon the existing statute providing for sealing of juvenile records. The expungement of lower-level offenses enables young people to have the same access to employment, education, and housing opportunities without the barriers of a documented criminal history.
“We do society an injustice by allowing youthful mistakes to define our young people for a lifetime. Expungement will give youth a fresh start, allowing them to more fully contribute to our economy and our communities,” said Rep. Dykema. “I’m grateful to Chairwoman Cronin and Chairwoman Khan for their leadership on this issue and for working to ensure that young people get the second chance they deserve.”
This bill allows former delinquent youths and others who committed nonviolent offenses before the age of 21 to petition to expunge their court and law enforcement records as long as they have not reoffended for 3 years in the case of misdemeanors and 7 years in the case of felonies.
“Teens Leading The Way is deeply appreciative of House leadership and our lead sponsors for keeping expungement for young people at the center of this legislation,” said Geoff Foster, Director of Organizing and Policymaking at UTEC of Lowell and an organizer of Teens Leading The Way, a multi-stakeholder youth initiative supporting criminal justice reform. “Our youth organizers are as energized as ever to keep advocating for a clean slate for thousands of youth.”
The legislation also requires the Office of the Child Advocate to collect and report aggregated demographic data on all juveniles who become involved with the criminal justice system at each point of contact in the process. This provision ensures that Massachusetts remains in compliance with the requirements of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and enables state agencies to assess outcomes and identify areas for improvement for justice-involved youth. Rep. Dykema initially filed similar legislation as a standalone bill and as part of legislation seeking to improve outcomes for dual-status youth.
“This legislation will shine a light on a system that impacts the lives of thousands of children each year, yet lacks the transparency to ensure it is a fair and just system,” said Sana Fadel, Deputy Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice. “Without the most basic data at each decision point, we cannot hold our system accountable and ensure that it is serving the public interest.”
The House version of the legislation also creates a childhood trauma task force to address the impact of trauma on the needs and outcomes of justice-involved youth. The task force will bring together stakeholders and policy experts to work to reduce recidivism through evidence-based practices addressing the role that undiagnosed and untreated trauma has on abused and neglected young people. A disproportionate number of these youth become involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and their long-term outcomes are highly dependent on receiving the proper treatment and support as they interact with the justice system.
“I want to thank the Speaker for his personal interest in the issue of childhood trauma,” said Rep. Dykema. “The children and teens who become involved with the criminal justice system have stories that don’t get told and needs that don’t get met, and this task force will work to ensure that we provide adequate supports for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable youth.”
H.4011 and its Senate counterpart, S.2200, will now be discussed by a conference committee tasked with reconciling the differences among the two bills before traveling to the Governor for his signature. H.4012 will travel to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Carolyn Dykema has served in the Massachusetts House of Representative since 2009 and represents the residents of the 8th Middlesex District which includes Holliston, Hopkinton, Southborough and pct. 2 of Westborough.