On Tuesday December 20, members of the Our Restorative Justice team testified in front of representatives from the Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus (MBLC) at their Communities of Color Agenda Listening Tour event.
In front of a packed room at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, Board Member Hon. Leslie Harris (ret.) spoke about the dire need for alternatives to court, particularly for minor school-based offenses. He also addressed the pervasive problem of disproportionate minority contact, as well as the ever-growing trend of younger and younger youth entering the juvenile justice system. “I saw kids as young as 8 in my court. We should not be arresting children,” said Harris about his years as an Associate Justice of the Suffolk Juvenile Court.
Following Harris, OurRJ Program Manager Eli Plenk spoke to the need for the Caucus’s support for the pending restorative justice bill that will be up for a vote in the new legislative session. He also reiterated the damage and community destabilization that has occurred as a result of years of mass incarceration, steadily impacting increasingly younger community members.
OurRJ was not alone in calling upon the MBLC to support criminal and juvenile justice reform. Staff representing the RFK Children’s Action Corps Detention Diversion Advocacy Program (DDAP), an OurRJ partner, described the need for reform as “an issue of equity” and alongside, young people from the state-wide, youth-led coalition Teens Leading the Way, called for MBLC’s support for expungement legislation.
Visit our website to learn more about ongoing legislative updates pertaining to juvenile justice and school discipline reform.