, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 19, 2013

Patrick signs bill pulling 17-year-olds into juvenile justice system


He moved from Tennessee to Massachusetts last year, and after a period of homelessness after his aunt’s death he joined UTEC. He now has a job at as a teller at a local credit union and is attending classes at Middlesex Community College.

The juvenile justice bill, one of the few major pieces of legislation to be signed into law this year, won support not just from Patrick and lawmakers, but the courts as well.

Judge Michael Edgerton, chief justice of the Juvenile Court, said that 17-year-olds still lack the maturity of adults and have a greater capacity for rehabilitation.

Rep. Brad Hill, an Ipswich Republican, said he hopes the bill not only strengthens the state’s justice system, but also helps relieve overcrowding in the prison system by moving thousands of 17-year-olds into the Department of Youth Services.

Patrick in January filed legislation in response to a Supreme Court ruling that would have not only moved 17-year-olds into the Juvenile Court, but also prohibited mandatory life sentences without parole for youthful offenders convicted of first degree murder. The Supreme Court decision issued last summer found that such mandatory sentences violate the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment restricting cruel and unusual punishment. The second piece of Patrick’s legislation has not been taken up by the Legislature.

The Massachusetts Bar Association also applauded the new law.

“The Massachusetts Bar Association commends the governor, the House of Representatives and the Senate for rectifying the inequity of treating 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the crime or circumstances surrounding their arrests,” MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin Healy said in a statement. “This is more than just common sense; this is an important and much-needed change that ensures 17-year-olds are placed in a more effective rehabilitative setting.”

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