Juvenile Justice.

Essay by BullieHigh School, 11th gradeA-, October 2005

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THESIS STATEMENT: The Great and General Court of Massachusetts has erred in reforming the juvenile justice system by implementing policies and procedures that will harm juveniles and place society at risk.

On July 23, 1995, an intruder brutally attacked and stabbed Janet Downing approximately 100 times in her Somerville home. The revolting Downing murder and ensuing arrest of Edward O'Brien Jr., a 15-year-old juvenile whom prosecutors say committed the heinous crime, sent shockwaves through the state. When Somerville District Court Judge Paul P. Hefferman ruled that the Commonwealth try Mr. O'Brien as a juvenile, those shockwaves grew in intensity, and the citizens of Massachusetts, fed up with increasing youth violence and perceptions of an ineffective juvenile justice system, demanded the enactment of tough new laws to deal with repeat and violent juvenile offenders. The Great and General Court of Massachusetts headed these demands for reform of the juvenile justice system and enacted legislation that, among other things, abolishes the trial de novo system in the juvenile courts, requires the trial of juveniles charged with murder, manslaughter, aggravated rape, forcible rape of a child, kidnaping, assault with intent to rob or murder and armed burglary in adult court and permits prosecutors to open to the public juvenile proceedings when they seek an adult sentence.

Although proponents tout these measures as a sagacious solution for the vexatious problem of juvenile delinquency, abolishing the trial de novo system, providing for automatic adult trials and opening juvenile proceedings to the public when prosecutors seek an adult sentence works to the detriment, not the benefit, of juveniles and society. Therefore, the policy makers of Massachusetts should repeal most sections of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act and develop other policies to deal with the rising problem of juvenile crime.