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DYS - History of Youth Services

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First in the Nation

Massachusetts created the nation's first juvenile correctional system in 1846 when it opened the Massachusetts State Reform School in Westborough for 400 boys. This was followed by the opening of the Lyman School for Boys in Westborough during the 1860's. The philosophy behind these institutions was that juveniles were more likely to be rehabilitated than adults were and therefore, should not be treated within adult institutions.

The Lyman School was almost completely self-sufficient. Youth raised livestock, grew vegetables, sewed their own clothes and built many of the facilities located on the school grounds. One administrator called Lyman "in, but not of, the community."

By 1908, five such juvenile institutions of various sizes existed; each administered by separate boards of trustees. In 1948, to solidify operations, the state elected a three-person panel Youth Service Board, which was succeeded by the Division of Youth Services, an independent unit within the Department of Education.

However, by 1960, problems of mismanagement, high recidivism rates and reports of child abuse within the training schools persisted, and the Division was the subject of severe public criticism. In 1969, the Division of Youth Services was abolished and the Department of Youth Services was established as a separate agency under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Deinstitutionalizing Status Offenders

In 1969, Department of Youth Services was established as a separate agency under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Governor Francis Sargent appointed Jerome Miller as the DYS commissioner in 1969. Miller left the Department to accept a position in Illinois.

 

Governor Francis Sargent appointed Jerome Miller as the DYS commissioner in 1969. Miller attempted to reform the training schools by implementing new and innovative concepts in treatment. However, veteran institutional personnel met his ideas with great resistance.

Frustrated, yet committed to reform, Miller closed the Institute for Juvenile Guidance at Bridgewater in 1970, and by 1972 had dismantled the Lyman, Shirley and Oakdale training schools. Facilities in Westfield, Roslindale, Worcester, Lancaster and Brewster remained. The closing of targeted training schools effectively separated property offenders and "status offenders" (i.e. runaways, truants and stubborn children) from serious offender juvenile populations. However, many high-risk youth had been discharged into the community without services or supervision.

Miller left the Department to accept a position in Illinois. In January 1973, he was succeeded by Joseph Leavy.

The Growth of Community Partnerships and a Continuum Care

In January 1973, Miller was succeeded by Joseph Leavy. Commissioner Leavy left the Department in January of 1976 and became the President of Communities for People. That year, Governor Michael Dukakis appointed John Calhoun as the DYS Commissioner. Calhoun left the Department in July of 1979 to become the Director of the National Crime Prevention Council.Governor Edward King appointed Edward M. ("Ned") Murphy as Commissioner in October of 1979.

 

Joseph Leavy closed Lancaster in June of 1973, thereby completing the Department's deinstitutionalization phase. He also created the Commonwealth's first secure treatment units. Leavy then worked to fill the void in community services by expanding the network of private providers to replace the state-run institutions. Eventually there was a growing network of private organizations competing for DYS contracts. The practice of contracting for programs became the foundation of the Department's community-partnership system utilized to this day.

Outside the agency, the political climate had shifted from an emphasis on reform to a need for security. The Department was again the subject of severe public criticism, from judges, law enforcement officials and the media.

Commissioner Leavy left the Department in January of 1976 and became the President of Communities for People. That year, Governor Michael Dukakis appointed John Calhoun as the DYS Commissioner. At the time, there were 15 bills pending in the Legislature to abolish DYS, most filed in response to the lack of security within the community-partnership system. Calhoun immediately established a task force, chaired by then Assistant Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, to address security concerns and determine the number of secure beds needed. The task force submitted its final report in 1977, with a strong recommendation that the Department significantly expand secure capacity.

Calhoun also established an administrative unit to monitor private provider agencies under contract with DYS and he created the training, legal and planning units within the Central DYS office. Calhoun left the Department in July of 1979 to become the Director of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Governor Edward King then appointed Edward M. ("Ned") Murphy as Commissioner in October of 1979. Murphy implemented a classification policy that established clear guidelines for placing serious offenders in locked programs. Murphy also secured capital funds to develop new secure facilities, which marked the first significant capital expenditure by DYS in 15 years. He established a Management Information System (MIS) to track clients and provide demographic and court histories of each DYS youth. Under Murphy, the seven regional offices were reduced to five, allowing more staff to work in direct care positions with DYS youths.

Having restored confidence in the system, Murphy accepted Governor Dukakis' appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health in 1985. Murphy's replacement was his deputy at DYS, Edward J. ("Ned") Loughran.

Under Loughran, the Department expanded the number of group homes, developed more outreach & tracking programs, and established the state's first juvenile "day treatment" program. Loughran also expanded education services, substance abuse intervention services and specialized treatment for juvenile sex offenders. In 1989, the National Council Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) recognized Massachusetts as a national model for pioneering a range of treatment services offered for juvenile offenders.

Throughout the mid 1990's, the Department experienced rapid growth in the numbers of juveniles committed to its custody. At the same time the agency budget was significantly cut. Employee positions were eliminated, the training unit was abolished and reductions were made in the number of treatment beds, foster care beds, day treatment slots and court diversion programs.

In July 1993, Loughran resigned to accept a position as Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Later that summer, four DYS youths were murdered in the community. These widely publicized murders highlighted the increasing admissions to DYS of an increasingly violent population. The Department's ability to provide for the safety of the public, and the safety of the youth in its custody, had been seriously compromised.

In September 1993, Governor William F. Weld appointed William D. O'Leary as the sixth DYS Commissioner. O'Leary had served as an Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health.

The Hogan Commission

In September 1993, Governor William F. Weld appointed William D. O'Leary as the sixth DYS Commissioner. O'Leary had served as an Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health.

In his first month as Commissioner, O'Leary convened a blue ribbon panel of judges, law enforcement officials and human service agency administrators/providers to study DYS's needs. Chaired by Judge William T. Hogan, Jr., the committee released its findings in January of 1994.

The Hogan Commission concluded that the Department needed to reaffirm public safety and crime prevention as primary goals. It embraced the continuum of services, but found that the continuum should be retooled to reflect the risk presented by a more violent juvenile population.

The Commission further concluded that Massachusetts, like the rest of the country, had begun to experience dramatic increases in violent crime and in the number of youth committed to DYS. The Commission's report then issued 18 recommendations for change including: population and classification review; expansion of facility and residential capacity; the separation of juveniles facing adult sentences; enhancement of community monitoring and crime prevention; improved communication with other agencies and organizations; and both physical plant/technological infrastructure development.

Consistent with Hogan recommendations regarding public safety and the need to alleviate overcrowding, DYS added approximately 400 beds from 1994 to 1997. On February 8, 1996, Governor Weld signed capital bond legislation, which included $37.6M for an additional 400 replacement and expansion beds across the Commonwealth.

In July 1994, DYS opened the juvenile wing of the Plymouth County Correctional Facility. This facility is used for juveniles charged with or convicted of murder, as well as juveniles who face adult sentences.

Beyond Beds

O'Leary initiated a major reorganization of the Department in September of 1994. Five Area Directors were named to assume responsibility for the development of a full continuum of services within specific geographic areas. The number of areas was subsequently reduced to four. The new "model" continuum of services was designed to allow for greater connection to a juvenile's family, schools and other community-based support systems.

On August 1, 1997, Governor Paul Cellucci named Robert P. Gittens as the new Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services. Gittens replaced O'Leary, who left DYS to accept the position of Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services. During his tenure, Gittens succeeded in establishing a network of more than 30 day-reporting and neighborhood centers, which offered a wide range of services for at-risk and court-involved youth including educational services, substance abuse programs, and recreational activities. These centers were established in cities and towns with the highest concentrations of DYS youth.

Community Re-entry

On January 14, 2002, Acting Governor Jane Swift named Michael Bolden as the new Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services. Bolden replaced Robert P. Gittens who left DYS to accept the position of Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services. Commissioner Bolden resigned from his position and was sworn in as the Associate Justice of the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court in 2005.

During Bolden's tenure, the agency applied for and received a U.S. Department of Justice grant to establish a Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry program. DYS, in partnership with the Boston Police Department, was awarded $1 million over a 3 year period to design a model reentry program and provide specialized and comprehensive services to a targeted group of serious and violent juvenile offenders in the city of Boston. Reentry services begin during residential confinement and continue through a required period of community supervision. They are designed to include a seamless continuum of programming, support, sanctions and aftercare, which both protect the public and position youth to become successful members of the community.

Enhancements to the continuum of female services were also made during Bolden's tenure. DYS added resources in the areas of clinical programming and stabilization for young women with mental health needs, and independent living services for females returning to the community from residential treatment programs. The agency also established a position, the Director of Female Services, to oversee programming for young women in DYS care. During this period the Department saw an unprecedented number of females detained with or committed to the agency.

After the unfortunate suicides of two youths in DYS custody in 2004, the Department engaged a group of experts from the Departments of Mental Health and Social Services, along with Executive Office of Health and Human Services to assess the agency's ability to respond to clients needs and to safety issues in its facilities.

As part of a suicide safety initiative, the agency increased the numbers of clinical positions, conducted a facility by facility review and addressed physical plant issues, increased psychiatric consultation hours and made improvements to the client information management system.

Commissioner Bolden resigned from his position and was sworn in as the Associate Justice of the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court in 2005.

Agency Initiatives and Present Leadership

Re-Establishing the DYS Northeast Region/ Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)

Jane E. Tewksbury was named DYS Commissioner in April 2005.  Commissioner Tewksbury’s first orders of business was to re-establish the DYS Northeast Region. Youth from Essex and Middlesex counties were being served in Dorchester and Worcester, at considerable distances from their families and communities. DYS hired a Northeast Regional Director and administrative staff to oversee operations, re-allocated existing programs and community staff and opened the Northeast Regional office in Middleton, MA. 

Tewksbury was a strong advocate of incorporating JDAI to improve the pre-trial detention system and create a multi-tiered system of detention alternatives and diversion programs with a range of security levels and program services that better serve the needs of court-involved youth. Commissioner Tewksbury’s vision and goals greatly contributed to the Department’s reform efforts and helped shape the current DYS Strategic Plan. In February 2012, Tewskbury became Executive Director of early childhood initiative, Thrive in 5.  

Deputy Commissioner Edward J. Dolan was appointed DYS Commissioner in May 2012 and after 18 years of service to the Department; Dolan was named the state’s Commissioner of Probation by the Massachusetts Court System in June 2013.

Current Leadership

Peter Forbes was appointed Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) in June 2013. Forbes was re-appointed as DYS Commissioner by Governor Charles Baker and the Secretary of Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders in February 2015.

For more than 30 years Commissioner Forbes has provided, in numerous capacities, steadfast leadership to the Department of Youth Services. Forbes’ long-standing service with the DYS began in January of 1983 when he was first hired as a direct-care worker at the Connelly Secure Treatment Unit.  Following several years with the Department, he was promoted to DYS Regional Director for Boston and served in that role for more than 10 years. As Regional Director, Forbes established a series of constructive relationships with public agency and community-based partners that improved services and strengthened positive outcomes for DYS youth.

In 2005, Commissioner Forbes was promoted to DYS Assistant Commissioner for Operations.  For seven years, Forbes supervised field-based operations, and initiated and implemented policy and practice changes including providing oversight to ensure that the residential continuum is safe for both youth and staff. Commissioner Forbes was also instrumental in the design and implementation of a structured community reentry model for youth who are returning to their home communities. Forbes was later appointed Deputy Commissioner where he managed field operations and ensured quality residential programming, community transition and supervision critical to the effective daily operations of the Department.

Commissioner Forbes remains committed to sustaining efforts that ensure low-risk youth do not penetrate the deep end of the juvenile justice system, and that youth in DYS custody receive appropriate services where and when they need them most.

Under Commissioner Forbes’ stewardship, the Department prioritizes improved data-entry and quality directed at positive youth outcomes as well as providing valuable educational, employment and training opportunities for DYS youth. These priorities are centered on the Department’s long-term goals of reducing recidivism and improving public safety.

In 2014, Commissioner Forbes was recognized for his leadership in implementing positive youth development practices, reducing the use of room confinement in residential treatment, and for fostering a forum for collaborative learning among national juvenile justice administrators by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrator’s “President’s Award.” Forbes received the 2012 “Capstone of the Year” Award from the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University for his efforts in strengthening the case planning pathway for youth involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Forbes holds a Master of Science in Human Services with a concentration in Administration from the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

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