the teenagers, who have not been identified due to their age, On almost every occasion, an 11-year-old girl was added, police say have been arrested more than seven times. you supposedly Behaviour, from giving a restaurant customer a bloody nose to slapping a police officer in the face, has raised questions about how children can be held accountable for crimes when the justice system is removed from the equation.
“These kids know they’re going to be out before we finish our paperwork,” said Larry Ellison, a member of the city’s school police unit who said so often responds to assaults involving juveniles. “Children see that the adults who would normally work in a coordinated manner are now fragmented and they take advantage of that. They feel like they can do whatever they want because there are no real consequences for their behavior.”
The 2018 reform law set new standards for dealing with complaints against children. For example, under the law, children under the age of 12 cannot be arrested or prosecuted for any crime, regardless of the seriousness of the crime. Previously, children as young as 7 could be charged with a criminal offense. Any child under the age of 12 who is stopped by the police for a criminal offense must be handed over to their parent or guardian and not required to register for treatment or other social services.
As in this case, officials can charge children as young as 12 or 13 with a crime, but only a judge can order them to be held in jail overnight. Children of this age who are stopped by the police at night or on weekends when the courts are closed will be handed over to their parents or guardians on condition that they appear in court on the day of their summons. In the case of violent crimes such as the incidents with the 13-year-old, the parents have to agree take them to court the next working day, according to the prosecutor.
But there are no legal ramifications for the parents if they do breaking the written commitment, and although the twins’ mother signed numerous documents agreeing to take her children to court the day after each incident, they were not brought to justice until six weeks after their first offence. After one of the early incidents Officials wrote that the mother said she would not take her twins to court and that police “can obtain a warrant” if they want to arrest her children.
The changes were designed to prevent young offenders from becoming involved in a criminal justice system that has long incarcerated large numbers of children from low-income and minority backgrounds. but something Law enforcement officials say certain legislative changes have tied the hands of police and prosecutors, preventing them from responding proactively and connecting problems together children with the resources they need in the absence of parental responsibility.
“It is sad to note that if these children had appeared in court six weeks ago we would have considered a diversion. But the frequency and seriousness of these offenses have raised immediate public safety concerns and prevented a purely interventional approach,” said Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden. “Yet the entire goal of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation, not punishment. Therefore, in addition to GPS tracking and house arrest, both children are also being treated and supported by our network of community organizations.”
Community workers emphasize the critical role parents and school administrators play in supporting efforts to help struggling youth, particularly in the face of children’s mental health challenges encountered during the pandemic.
Raymond Heath, a youth worker at Gallivan Community Center in Mattapan, said: “There needs to be more after-school activities for kids than just sports and parents need to make sure their kids get involved by enrolling them in relevant programs that can help, some to contain these worrying situations.”
Heath often works until 8 or 9pm at the center, playing games, doing homework and cooking “home cooking” for neighborhood teens and their friends.
“There are still children who come home to an empty house, or to parents who are using drugs or dealing drugs or getting into gang activities,” he added, speaking generally and not specifically about children involved in the recent incidents were involved. “These kids don’t have supervision when they get home from school.”
Law enforcement officials agree that the focus must remain on early intervention, stressing that someone needs to reach out to children while they are still just that: children.
“Nobody here is talking about how we want to lock up children. But we recognize that if we don’t put this right, these children will simply grow up to be adults with the same issues, and the adult criminal justice system sees them very differently,” Ellison said. “The vast majority of the work we are trying to do is not arresting people – it is prevention and intervention. But if you dismantle a lot of things that work and don’t replace them with anything, that’s the real pipeline to prison.”
Ivy Scott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.