Profile No. 35

Suffolk County Community-Based Juvenile Justice Program -- Boston, MA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
School-based enforcement program.

Program Goal:
To identify and provide services for juveniles who commit acts of violence or are at risk of gun violence.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
At-risk and offending juveniles in middle and high schools.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Suffolk County, MA.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Jim Borghesani
External Affairs and Communications Director
Suffolk County District Attorney's Office
One Bulfinch Place
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617­619­4189

Years of Operation:

The Community-Based Juvenile Justice (CBJJ) Program was established in 1995. Its goal is to reduce juvenile crime and violence in the schools and the community through increased communication and better sharing of information and resources. The program is operated out of the Suffolk County District Attorney's (D.A.'s) Office. In 1997, more than half of the middle schools and one-third of the high schools in Boston, MA, hosted CBJJ roundtable meetings, which were led by representatives from the D.A.'s office, Boston Police Department, Boston Schools, Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority, juvenile probation services, Department of Youth Services, and Department of Social Services.

The CBJJ Program takes advantage of three Federal grants from the U.S. Department of Justice (SafeFutures provides funding for services to youth in a geographical corridor where many court-involved and at-risk youth live), the U.S. Department of Labor (the Youth Opportunity Area Grant funds educational and job opportunities for youth), and the U.S. Department of Education, which supports the truancy initiative.

The team meets twice each month to prescribe interventions for juveniles at risk and those involved in violence. The roundtable meeting is a forum for school principals to brief police about students who bring weapons to school, to refer troubled kids to social services, or to inform counselors of youth situations in legal proceedings. At the meeting, one agency is designated as responsible for followup planning on a particular juvenile. Interventions may include indictment as a youthful offender; recommitment to the Department of Youth Services based on a juvenile's violation of his or her terms of release; revocation of probation based on a juvenile's noncompliance with court-imposed conditions; requests for the court to impose specific conditions both before trial and at disposition; prosecution on a priority basis; filing a Child in Need of Supervision (CHINS) petition; or referral of a juvenile for services in one of the involved grants or in school- or community-based agencies.

The roundtable meetings are said to result in more efficient prosecution of violent juveniles, more coordinated response among agencies dealing with court-involved youth, and more coordinated intervention initiatives for at-risk youth. They also create greater accountability and more predictable consequences for delinquent behavior. During the period from September 1996 to December 1997, 552 cases were discussed at CBJJ roundtables; of these, 44 percent were court involved. The three major reasons for referrals were negative behavior, truancy, and recent arrests. The roundtables also have helped draw attention to other important issues the lack of alternative education placements, the need for more tutorial services, the lack of appropriate placements for juveniles over the age of 18 who have few academic credits due to past incarcerations, and a lack of coordination between schools and probation officers for CHINS cases.

Other initiatives of the program have included expanded truancy sweeps by Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (MBTA) police, local police, and school attendance officers; interventions by the CBJJ staff and Boston Police Department in a rapid and coordinated manner when violent episodes occur at schools; and collaboration with the MBTA to reduce youth violence on the transit system after school. The county district attorney believes that effective truancy intervention and prevention measures at the middle school level will reduce the heavy court involvement of juveniles at the high school level.

For cases completed in 1997, 32.9 percent of students exhibited an increase in positive behavior, 15.6 percent of the students were transferred to other schools, and 8.0 percent were brought into custody. Although the Community-Based Juvenile Justice Program is not formally linked to other gun violence reduction strategies in Boston, many of the schools involved in the program are in neighborhoods targeted by the city's Operation Ceasefire (see profile 21), and the Police Department's Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence (see profile 2).

Previous Contents Next

Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report