The State House has been a platform for Teens Leading The Way initiative on Juvenile criminal records expungement. A part victory was welcomed last week by activist groups. Efforts to free individuals stigmatized by their mis-spent youth and indiscretions seem to be bearing fruit. Gathering at The State House asides from Teens Leading The Way were UTEC and Roca. They were there to support bills for the expungement of juvenile criminal records once time served. Currently records may only be sealed via requests some years post sentencing. The current structure means potential employers, housing authorities and colleges are aware of the juvenile criminal records but can not access them. The bills, If implemented, would provide a way forward for records to be erased completely.

Opportunities for public housing, college and employment can be blighted by juvenile criminal records. A further example was put forward whereby entry to the military was declined in light of an altercation when the subject was 14. Expungement offers hope and opens the door to opportunity. Asides from Teens Leading the Way Roca and UTEC are also adding their weight to expungement. Roca is a social enterprise helping at risk youth in Western and Eastern Massachusetts find their feet. UTEC is a Lowell based group which focuses on the transition of youth from involvement with gangs through to employment and educational pathways.

Young people clearly go through change and mature, albeit at different stages. What was also highlighted was physiological in that the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. More importantly the building blocks of the brain governing impulsiveness, judgement and reasoning are being put in place. Leniency is also called for compounded by the juvenile judicial system which is a separate entity to the adult system.

What else was highlighted is that 95% of youth are within the judicial system for non violent offences. Frustrating as it is juvenile criminal records also come about via arrest and no conviction. According to MassLegalHelp if an individual is acquitted and/or the case is dismissed. Something often overlooked is the bar to adopting children in later life. Expungement has a marked impact on recidivism rates for both adults and the young.

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