"We lowered our age to match theirs," Itse said of the Massachusetts statute.
In the past decade, the national trend has been to increase the age and send 17-year-olds through the juvenile system, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures titled "Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation 2001-2011." Massachusetts is among the states to raise its age recently. Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law in September raising the age to 18.
Massachusetts' law change removes the original motivating force behind New Hampshire's 1996 law, said Itse.
Itse said 17-year-olds released from the state reformatory often have no place to go and aren't old enough to rent an apartment.
"Basically we're throwing these kids under the bridge and giving them no choice but to be a career criminal," he said.
Itse said an amendment to the bill proposes to make the change effective July 1, 2015, to give lawmakers time to account for any costs associated with the population shift from the prison to reformatory.