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Data about Youth on Probation or Committed to DYS

This page provides data on youth who have been placed on probation or who are committed to the Department of Youth Services (DYS).

If a youth has been adjudicated delinquent, or if their case has been Continued Without a Finding (CWOF), a judge will make a determination (called a “disposition”) regarding what should happen next. This page provides data on two types of dispositions: probation and commitments.

Table of Contents

Juvenile Probation Data Trends

A probation disposition sets specific terms or conditions youth must follow while being supervised by a probation officer. 

There are several types of probation supervision:

  • Prior to arraignment a youth may be placed on pre-arraignment supervision by the court and ordered to follow certain conditions, which may include participating in a diversion program. The Massachusetts Probation Service uses a validated screening tool to identify the likelihood a youth will be successful in a diversion program and can recommend programing specific to different areas of the state.
  • After being arraigned, a youth may be placed on pretrial supervision.  The youth is not on probation but has to follow rules set by the court.
  • Youth who have been adjudicated delinquent or whose case has been Continued Without a Finding can be placed on probation by the court as a disposition. There are two forms of probation they can be placed on by a judge:
    • Risk-Need probation: Youth placed on Risk-Need probation are directly supervised by probation officers. A probation officer determines the level of supervision by implementing the Ohio Youth Assessment System (OYAS). The OYAS is a validated risk, need, and responsivity tool. A youth can be assessed to be low, moderate or high risk of re-offending. The OYAS is also used to identify criminogenic needs, responsivity factors and case management strategies to facilitate successful intervention.
    • Administrative probation: Youth placed on Administrative probation are not assessed with the OYAS and generally receive limited supervision and have fewer court-ordered conditions.

The graphs below show trends in probation caseloads for each type of probation over time. To look at data by county, click on the dropdown menu on the right. 

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Monthly juvenile probation caseloads since January 2015. Total monthly caseloads have decreased over the past 6 years from 3,378 supervised cases in January 2015 to 1,199 in January 2021. (Download this data)

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Monthly juvenile risk/need probation caseloads by supervision level (Minimum, Moderate, Maximum) since January 2015. Cases supervised at the maximum level have decreased substantially from 815 cases in January 2015 to 74 cases in January 2021. Moderate cases decreased from 266 in January 2015 to 57 in January 2021. Cases supervised at the minimum level increased from 49 in January 2015 to 67 in January 2021. (Download this data)

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Juvenile Probation Caseload Data: Demographic 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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The visualization below shows the number of youth new to Probation supervision in the following racial categories: Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, White, and Other. 

You can also look at the percent change in probation caseloads 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 probation starts are shown by race, gender or total cases for each fiscal year since 2017. (Download this data)

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Probation Violation Notices

No matter what type of probation a youth is supervised on, they have conditions of their probation set by the judge. There are general conditions of probation that every supervised youth is required to follow, and special conditions of probation that may be set specifically for each individual.

If a youth fails to comply with any of the court orders, probation uses a graduated response grid (a tool to recommend different levels of sanctions and incentives) to guide decisions on the appropriate response based on the risk level of the youth and the severity of the violation.

If a youth fails to comply with any of the court -ordered conditions of probation, a probation officer may issue a probation violation notice. This notice informs the youth of the condition(s) the officer alleges they violated and orders the youth to appear in court. There are three types of violation notices:

  1. Delinquent: The probation officer is alleging that the youth committed a new delinquent offense while under probation supervision, on the basis of a new arrest or summons by the police. An example is a youth being arrested for shoplifting while a youth is being supervised for a previous offense.
  2. Non-Delinquent: Sometimes called a “technical or non-criminal" violation. In this case, the probation officer is alleging that the youth did not comply with one or more conditions of probation. The alleged behavior is not by itself a delinquent offense and would not otherwise result in an arrest. An example of this would be the youth not attending a mandatory anger management group and after many attempts to have the youth attend, they never go.
  3. Both: A youth can receive one violation notice that includes allegations of a new delinquent offense (Delinquent Violation Notice) and non-compliance with conditions of probation (Non-Delinquent Violation Notice).
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Monthly probation violation notices since January 2015. Massachusetts Probation Service began reporting the number of probation violation notices that included both delinquent and non-delinquent violations in November 2017. (Download this data)

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Youth Commitment Data Trends

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Annual number of youth with first-time commitments to DYS in Massachusetts since fiscal year 2015. First-time commitments in Massachusetts have declined each year for at least the past 5 years, from 366 in fiscal year 2015 to 149 in fiscal year 2020. (Download this data)

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The most serious disposition the judge can make after a finding of “Delinquent” is to commit the child to DYS custody until their 18th birthday (which can be extended to 19 or 20 years old depending on when the disposition is issued). Youth can also be classified as “Youthful Offender” who could be sentenced to a combination of Commitment to DYS (up to 21 years old) and/or a partial or complete adult sentence of probation/incarceration. 

The next visualization shows the number of youth who were committed to DYS for the first time (i.e. no prior commitments). This count does not include youth who have been committed previously and are “recommitted” to the department following adjudication for another offense.

Youth Commitments 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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The visualization below shows first-time commitment admissions to DYS over time, and is broken down by demographic type (age, race/ethnicity, or gender). This can be thought of as the number of youth coming into the DYS system in any given year. 

You can also look at data by calendar year or fiscal year, and look at either the total number of admissions in a given category, or the percent change in 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 first-time commitments 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 in the care and custody of the Department of Youth Services in a given year, as well as demographic breakdowns (race/ethnicity or gender). This is called the DYS annual committed youth caseload

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Statewide commitment caseloads are shown by race and gender for each fiscal year since 2018. Age is not calculated since caseloads account for youth committed over the course of the year. (Download this data)

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

This data set only includes first-time commitments to DYS, which are youth who have never previously been committed to DYS. This count does not include youth who have been committed previously and are “recommitted” to the department following adjudication for another offense.

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A heat map shows annual first-time commitments 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 Commitments Data: Offense Type & Severity

The visualizations below show what types of offenses youth with first-time commitments were committed 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 first-time commitments in a given category, or the percent change in that category year over year.

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Statewide youth commitments 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 first-time commitments 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 shows the number of first-time commitments to DYS (admissions) by Most Serious Offense (MSO) Grid level. 

This visualization only includes first-time commitments to DYS, which are youth who have never previously been committed to DYS. This count does not include youth who have been committed previously and are “recommitted” to the department following adjudication for another offense.

About the Data

Data Obtained From: 

The OCA Collected the Probation data presented on this page from Massachusetts Probation Services' data dashboard on October 5, 2020. 

Data on DYS Commitments comes from the Department of Youth Services.

Definitions: 

Adjudication: The court's determination of whether the accused person is guilty or not guilty in criminal or delinquency matters. 

Biological (birth) sex: DYS reports the following options: Male or Female. Youth are asked to self-identify.

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

Continued Without a Finding: A decision that a judge can make after a defendant has admitted that the prosecution can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt or after a trial in which the prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. By continuing a case without a finding (of delinquency or guilt) the judge gives the defendant a chance to avoid having an official record of conviction. 

Disposition: The final outcome of a case, sometimes called the "sentence"

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

Race/ethnicity: Probation reports with the following options: American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Other or Mixed Race, and white. Ethnicity is defined as: Hispanic or Latino, Non-Hispanic/Latino, or Not known/Not reported. 

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/Latino. Youth are asked to self-identify.

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.

In these visualizations, youth who are identified as Hispanic/Latino and any other race are categorized as "Hispanic/Latino."

Youthful Offender: A person who is subject to an adult or juvenile sentence for committing an offense, while between the ages of 14 and 18, which could send an adult to state prison. This applies only under special conditions depending on the seriousness of the offense and the offender's prior record. See M.G.L C. 199 §52 for the Youthful Offender statute. 

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 agency.

Additional Resources

Date published: November 2, 2020
Last updated: May 10, 2021
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