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Berkshire County launches new juvenile justice policy

September 10, 2019 06:15 PM

PITTSFIELD – Under a new juvenile justice plan, District Attorney Andrea Harrington says kids can stay out of the courts and into expanded youth programs with opportunities for health services, jobs, and guidance.

It's estimated that it costs taxpayers $175,000 per year to incarcerate one juvenile.

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"To balance accountability with young people's needs, to decrease recidivism, increase supportive relationships between juveniles and caregivers to increase core life skills," said Harrington during a news conference outside the Boys & Girls Club in Pittsfield.

Throughout Massachusetts, the highest recidivism rate is among those ages 18-24 and half of the teenagers in detention have only misdemeanors as the most serious offense.

The plan will hold juvenile offenders accountable while encouraging positive youth development through proven strategies to reduce teen recidivism and address the root causes of delinquency. It is a shift from a court-centered model of addressing juvenile delinquency to a community-based model, focused on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, Harrington said.

It includes prioritizing diversion, expanding community programming, advocating for new policies, and creating a community-led advisory committee.

"The studies are clear that most young adults will grow out of criminal behavior by their mid-twenties and the vast majority of these crimes are low-level offenses," Harrington said. "The decision-making part of a child's brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. With appropriate interventions instead of aggressive prosecution, we, as a community, can help make the next generation safer and healthier."

A team of community members representing diverse backgrounds, geography and expertise will provide leadership and then make policy recommendations, facilitate training, and review data collected.

The members of the inaugural term:

  • Massachusetts Chief Probation Officer’s Association President Alf Barbalunga
  • Pittsfield Police Officer Darren Derby
  • Psychologist Dr. Anthony Siracusa
  • Railroad Street Youth Founder Eric Bruun
  • Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Youth Development Coordinator Tim Shiebler
  • Berkshire County Superintendents' Roundtable Executive Secretary William Ballen
  • Cranwell Spa & Golf Course Director of Human Resources Stephanie Kinstle
  • Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires President Joe McGovern
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Berkshire Chapter Secretary Christina Daignault
  • Pittsfield Public Schools Guidance Counselor Mia Albano
  • Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Dispute Resolution Center Director Kayla Wendling
  • Berkshire Bridges Working Cities Director Alisa Costa
  • Chief Probation Officer James Hunt
  • Pittsfield Public Schools Cultural Proficiency Coach Shirley Edgerton
  • Nurse Practitioner Jackie Latimer
  • Youth Sports Director Jarmal Sistrunk
  • Retired Criminal Justice Consultant William Sturgeon
  • 18 Degrees President Colleen Holmes

Credits

WNYT Staff

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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