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Data about juvenile court arraignments and detentions

This page provides data on youth arraignments (formal charging in court) and pretrial detention in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Youth Arraignment Data Trends

An arraignment is the formal reading of charges against the juvenile in court. In Massachusetts, youth are arraigned as either a "Delinquent Child" or indicted as a “Youthful Offender.”  A youthful offender is a child between the ages of 14 and 18 who is indicted by a grand jury (group of 23 adults) and can receive an adult sentence and/or commitment to DYS to age 21. Youthful offender cases are heard in juvenile court. Following arraignment, a youth has an official juvenile record.

The first visualization shows the total number of arraignment occurrences  in Massachusetts over time. 

 

Youth Arraignment Data: Demographic and Geographic Breakdowns

"Demographics of arraignment occurrences", below, shows arraignments and the demographics of youth who are arraigned over time. From the drop down menu, you can select a demographic variable (gender or age) of interest and see the breakdown of that variable in youth detention admissions over time. 

You can also look at either the total number of arraignments in a given category, or the percent change in arraignment occurrences in that category year over year.

Race/ethnicity data breakdowns for arraignment occurrences are not available at this time. 

Youth Arraignment Data: Offense Type

Arraignments are grouped into categories for reporting purposes, based on their corresponding chapter and section of the Massachusetts General Laws. These offense types are the same as used by the adult court system with a few exceptions: public order offenses include “school disturbance” case types, and “alcohol” is a separate category of offense for youth. For youth, sex offenses are included in the “person” offense category.

On cases containing multiple charges, the offenses are categorized by the first charge listed; additional charges may be of a different category and/or severity.  Youth 14 years or older who are accused of homicide offenses are automatically prosecuted as adults in Superior Court, rather than in the Juvenile Court, and are therefore not captured in this data.

Youth Detention Data Trends

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Annual number of pretrial detention admissions in Massachusetts since fiscal year 2015. Youth pretrial detention admissions in Massachusetts have declined each year for at least the past 5 years, from 2,101 in fiscal year 2015 to 769 in fiscal year 2020. (Download this data)

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Detention occurs when a judge has placed a youth in the custody of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) before their trial. This occurs after a youth has been arrested and arraigned. A youth is placed in detention if:

  • a judge has set bail, but the youth is unable to pay the bail amount or meet the bail conditions of release
  • a judge has determined a youth is too dangerous to be released (following a 58A dangerousness hearing) 

A youth can also be placed in detention following a violation of probation. Detention stays can last from a couple of hours to weeks or months depending on a variety of factors. 

Data on bail determinations is not currently available.

For general trend data on dangerousness hearings, visit the Juvenile Courts's Tableau page

Youth Detention Data: Demographic and Geographic Breakdowns

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Estimated percentages for the race of all Massachusetts youth, ages 12 to 17, in 2019 (Download this data; Source: EZAPOP)

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"Demographics of detention admissions", below, shows new detention admissions and the demographics of youth who are detained over time. From the drop down menu, you can select a demographic variable (race/ethnicity, gender, or age) of interest and see the breakdown of that variable in youth detention admissions over time. 

You can also look at data by calendar year or fiscal year, and look at either the total number of detention admissions in a given category, or the percent change in detention admissions in that category year over year.

As a point of comparison, this page also includes a visualization showing the racial distribution for all Massachusetts youth (not just those in the juvenile justice system) based on U.S. Census data. 

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Statewide youth detention admissions are shown by race, gender, and age group for each fiscal year since 2015. Beginning in FY19, youth under 12 can no longer be arrested or prosecuted in the juvenile justice system as a result of "An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform." (Download this data)

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The visualization below shows changes in the total number of youth who are detained in a given year, as well as demographic breakdowns (race/ethnicity or gender). This is called the DYS annual detention caseload

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Statewide youth detention caseloads are shown by race, gender, and age group for each fiscal year since 2018. DYS caseload data is not broken down by age since age changes over time and caseload data takes into account all youth in a given year. (Download this data)

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The map visualization below indicates detention admission by a youth’s county of residence (home county) and the county in which detention was ordered (sending court county).

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A heat map shows annual detention admissions by home county (where the youth resides) and sending county (where the youth was arrested). Sending county uses the Massachusetts Juvenile Court jurisdictions of 11 divisions across the state: combining Franklin and Hampshire counties, and Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties along with the town of Plymouth. (Download this data)

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Youth Detention Data: Offense Type & Severity

The visualizations below show what types of offenses youth were detained for, and how that has changed over time. You can also look at data by calendar year or fiscal year, and look at either the total number of detention admissions in a given category, or the percent change in detention admissions in that category year over year.

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Statewide youth detentions are shown by offense types for each year since 2015. Offense types include drugs, motor vehicle, person, property, public order, weapons and other/not available. (Download this data)

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Annual detention admissions to DYS by MSO grid level since 2015. 

*Grid level 7 is reserved for youth sentenced in adult court for murder and is not reflected in this graph.

(Download this data)

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The Department of Youth Services categorizes the seriousness of offense by “grid level.” This is a numeric representation ranging from 1 (least serious) to 7 (most serious), based on the adult sentencing guidelines. 

Examples of common offense types for each grid level include: 
1- Disturbing the peace, Petty larceny, Possession of marijuana
2- Possession of cocaine, Assault and battery
3- Breaking and entering (felony), Larceny (felony)
4- Assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, Armed robbery
5-Armed assault and robbery, Attempted murder
6- Car jacking with a firearm
7*- Murder

The next visualization indicates the MSO Grid Level for new detention admissions.

About the Data

Data Obtained From:

Data on juvenile arraignments comes from the Trial Court.

Data on juvenile detention comes from the Department of Youth Services.


The Middlesex District Attorney's Office reports data on arraignments in Middlesex County on their website

Definitions:

58A Hearing "dangerousness hearing": If a youth is charged with a specific offense listed in Massachusetts General Laws chapter 276, Section 58A, and the District Attorney believes the youth would pose too great a danger to the public to release pretrial, the District Attorney can ask the court to hold the child without bail. The judge makes the final determination. 

Arraignment: The procedure by which the youth is brought before a court of law to answer criminal or delinquent charges.

Arraignment occurences: An occurrence is defined as one arraignment event. If the youth was arraigned for delinquencies once in January, then again for other delinquencies in March, that would count as 2 occurrences.

Bail: Money deposited to release the arrested person from custody. The purpose of bail is to make sure that the defendant will appear for all court dates. 

Birth sex: DYS reports with the following options: Male or Female. Youth are asked to self-identify.

Calendar year: From January 1 through December 31 of the year listed. 

Fiscal year: From July 1 through June 30 of the year listed. 

Race/ethnicity: DYS reports with the following options: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Chooses not to self-identify, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, White, Multiracial (if more than one selected). Ethnicity is self-reported – “Yes” or “No”— as Hispanic.

If a youth identifies as “Hispanic,” this data was captured and reported in the “Hispanic/Latinx” category rather than their reported race.

Due to the small numbers of youth, individuals in the following race categories are reported in "Other" in these visualizations: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and Unknown race categories. Youth are asked to self-identify.

Definitions for juvenile justice terms adapted from "Kids and the Law: A User's Guide to the Juvenile Court" 4th ed. by Rebecca Pries, LMHC and Carol Rosensweig, Esq. Click here for an electronic copy and more information.

Definitions for data reporting terms from each reporting entity. 

Additional Resources

Date published: November 2, 2020
Last updated: November 2, 2020
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