SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 20, 2013

Our view: Cheers, jeers for local newsmakers

CHEERS to the state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick for significantly changing the way youthful offenders are dealt with in the state’s juvenile justice system.

Earlier this week, Patrick signed into law a measure that raises from 17 to 18 the age at which young offenders can be prosecuted as adults. It was a wise move; treating 17-year-olds as adult criminals leaves them vulnerable to abuse, including rape, in the corrections system and more likely to reoffend upon release.

Under the new law, local district attorneys can still seek adult charges for serious crimes, especially those involving violence. Most 17-year-olds arrested in Massachusetts, however, are charged with nonviolent offenses.

Ipswich state Rep. Brad Hill, who deserves special note as a champion of the bill, frequently cites a Northeastern University study that shows youths placed in the adult system are 34 percent more likely to be rearrested for a violent offense than those placed in the juvenile system.

The measure also had the backing of the Massachusetts Bar Association and state court system. Judge Michel Edgerton, chief justice of the Juvenile Court, told the State House News Service Wednesday that 17-year-olds still lack the maturity of adults and have a greater capacity for rehabilitation.

“The Massachusetts Bar Association commends the governor, the House of Representatives and the Senate for rectifying the inequity of treating 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the crime or circumstances surrounding their arrests,” the MBA’s Martin Healy said in a statement. “This is more than just common sense; this is an important and much-needed change that ensures 17-year-olds are placed in a more effective rehabilitative setting.”

JEERS, meanwhile, to the MBTA for continuing to stick it to the elderly and disabled with increased fares for the Ride program.

The Ride is a door-to-door para-transit service mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and run by the MBTA. It is a lifeline for the more than 30,000 people who use it.

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