BOSTON – Activists are applauding as a step in the right direction a package of juvenile justice provisions included in a comprehensive Massachusetts Senate proposal to reform the state’s criminal justice system, a sentiment not shared by a majority of the state’s district attorneys.
The proposal would raise the age of adulthood to 19, create close-age exceptions to statutory rape and indecent assault and battery offenses, decriminalize certain offenses for juveniles that aren’t criminal for adults and add more liberal provisions concerning juveniles’ ability to seal or expunge criminal records, among other provisions.
The Senate bill has advanced to the House, where Speaker Robert DeLeo has said he anticipates his chamber will take up its own plan within the next two weeks to enable a conference committee to begin work before the Legislature’s 2017 session ends on Nov. 15.
The Senate bill faced harsh criticism from nine of the 11 Massachusetts district attorneys in a six-page letter. Addressed to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair William Brownsberger, the DAs opposed many of the proposals involving juveniles, including raising the age of criminal majority, decriminalizing sex between minors of similar age and an absolute parent/child privilege.
The DAs say they are “concerned with the size, density and breadth of the bill and the risk it creates for legislators and citizens to fully understand the true and practical application of its many details.”