BOSTON, MA – Governor Charlie Baker proclaimed October to be Youth Justice Awareness Month in Massachusetts, echoing a nation-wide proclamation made by President Barack Obama.
“Investing in our youth shows we are committed to ensuring they have a fighting chance at success in life, whatever form that may take,” said Governor Baker. “Whether it’s graduating from high school, getting a job or bettering their economic or social situation, we provide support, opportunity and direction so that they can live up to their full potential.”
Earlier this month, President Obama proclaimed, “The essential promise that we make to our young people — that where they start must not determine how far they can go — is part of what makes America exceptional.”
In Massachusetts, state agencies work across the Administration to ensure we are developing and implementing a coordinated strategy to provide young people with needed support, while reducing youth violence in our communities. The goal is to reach young adults earlier in life and to continuously improve the juvenile and criminal justice systems, holding youth accountable for their actions without committing them to a life devoid of hope or opportunity.
Working together, these agencies are using the following programs to address the needs of youth for education, employment and training, mental and behavioral health services among others along a continuum of need and risk.
The Executive Office of Health and Human services implemented the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) in 12 communities with the highest rates of youth violence. SSYI combines public health and public safety approaches to reduce violence among proven-risk youth ages 17-24.
“SSYI is an important cross-agency initiative aimed at reducing youth violence and providing education, employment, outreach and connection to behavioral and mental health services,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “Youth should be afforded the same opportunities regardless of where they live in the state.”
The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security implemented the Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative (CSI), a multi-sectored approach to address community gang and youth violence across the Commonwealth.
“The targeted prevention, intervention and suppression efforts funded by the Shannon Initiative have helped communities make a real difference for the at-risk and high-risk youth they serve,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett. “By promoting collaboration between local law enforcement and community partners, Shannon programming aims to lead youth from a potential life of violence and trauma to a future filled with real possibilities.”
The Department of Public Health awarded Youth Violence Prevention Grants to community-based organizations for activities designed to prevent behaviors that put young people at risk of becoming perpetrators or victims of violence.
In Fall River, they “utilized funding to promote a positive youth development framework to link the young men to caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to serve,” said Christian McCloskey from the City of Fall River. “Our community based partners work tirelessly to invest in the young men and provide them with opportunities to improve their lives by connecting them to jobs, education and health/counseling.”
The Executive Office of Administration and Finance launched the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Pay for Success Project, which is designed to improve the lives of hundreds of high-risk young men while reducing recidivism, saving taxpayer dollars and promoting safer and stronger communities across the Commonwealth.
The Office of the Commissioner of Probation operates Community Correction Centers to facilitate intensive supervision by probation, parole and sheriff’s departments through integrated services and sanctions including substance abuse treatment, educational opportunities, job development, life skills training, drug and alcohol testing, community service, day reporting and electronic monitoring.
“Through trusted community outreach and law enforcement partnerships the City of Lynn has achieved a remarkable reduction in gang violence and membership,” said Lt. Pete Holey. “The Lynn Police Department knows that we must establish trust to receive it. No police endeavor can ever be successful without committed community outreach.”
The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and other stakeholders from the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government implemented the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, which works to identify alternatives to secure detention through data-driven partnerships between the court, juvenile justice agencies and other community stakeholders.
“DYS works collaboratively with our public agency partners including the Massachusetts Probation Service, the Juvenile Court and the Department of Children and Families in order to help youth make positive choices that ultimately increase public safety in the Commonwealth,” said DYS Commissioner Forbes. “Youth Justice is enhanced when youth understand that our actions, decisions and our intent are delivered in a fair and equitable manner.”
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