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Systemic Advocacy

Studies

  • Juvenile Bail Study: In collaboration with the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, the CLCM conducted research and collected data from across Massachusetts relative to the failure of state law enforcement to enforce existing bail laws for juveniles, particularly children of color. The report and analysis prompted a lead editorial in the Boston Globe and led to practice and policy reform throughout the Commonwealth concerning children who are arrested and detained pre-arraignment. (See report, "Do You Know Where The Children Are?")
  • Guardianship of Minor Project: The CLCM was selected to conduct a year-long study of the nature and management of Guardianship of Minor cases in the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court. The purpose of the study was to gather and analyze data about the families and children involved in the cases, document case management practices, and assess outcomes for the involved children and youth. The report, entitled Protecting Children, provides recommendations for improved practices and policies to promote better outcomes for children who were subject to the Probate & Family Court decrees.
  • Pathways to Success by 21 (P-21): CLCM, in collaboration with the North Shore Workforce Investment Board, developed an action plan to improve the future prospects of vulnerable youth on the North Shore. Recognizing the need to gather detailed information to guide planning and decision-making, the CLCM collected and compared national, state and local data related to six categories of vulnerable youth. Armed with knowledge about the characteristics and needs of the population, the Law Center and its collaborating partners devised a plan to improve service delivery and promote positive educational and employment opportunities for youth on the North Shore. This plan can be found in the resulting report called Reaching Higher: Pathways to Success by 21 on the North Shore.
  • Juvenile Comprehension Study: Convinced that youth tendering a plea to dispose of a delinquency case in juvenile court did not understand the language utilized by judges when conducting "plea colloquies" (where the judge questions the youth about his/her ability to understand the waiver of legal and constitutional rights involved in the plea), CLCM staff assessed the difficulty level of routinely used words and phrases and developed a research tool to measure youths' understanding of the critical legal concepts. Youth were interviewed and tested, and the resulting data was assessed to determine the subjects' comprehension levels. The results revealed that the average difficulty level of the words and phrases routinely used in juvenile court proceedings were at a tenth grade level, while the typical court-involved child was fourteen years old and reading at about a sixth grade level. This disparity resulted in poor or misconstrued comprehension by youth of the important plea colloquy. In its published report, entitled Rethinking a Knowing, Intelligent and Voluntary Waiver in Massachusetts Juvenile Courts, the CLCM provided a child-friendly version of the colloquy for use in juvenile courts throughout the Commonwealth.

Legal Publications & Law Review Articles

Former CLCM Director of Research and Policy, Barbara Kaban, has authored several law review articles and legal periodicals focusing on juvenile justice and related matters. They include: Kaban, B., Tobey, A., When Police Question Children: Are Protections Adequate?, Journal of the Center for Children and the Courts, Volume I, 1999 (reprinted in the Massachusetts Bar Association Section Review, Vol. 4, 1 (Winter 2002) and in the Michigan Child Welfare Journal, Vol. IV, 12 (Summer 2000)); Kaban, B., Quinlin, J., Rethinking a Knowing, Intelligent and Voluntary Waiver in Massachusetts Juvenile Courts, Journal of the Center for Children and the Courts, Vol. 5, 2004; and, Kaban, B., Orlando, J., Revitalizing the Infancy Defense in the Contemporary Juvenile Court, Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 60, Number 1, 2007; (copy of each attached, below).

Appellate & Amicus Curiae Litigation

The Law Center maintains an appellate advocacy practice that has focused at times on juvenile justice and at times on child welfare matters. It also has appeared as amici on a range of juvenile justice, child welfare and education cases heard in both state and federal courts.

Lynn-Middleton Youth Re-Entry Project

In collaboration with Straight Ahead Ministries, a faith-based organization, the CLCM created and operated a series of re-entry initiatives (formerly "Cambodian Youth Re-Entry Project" and the "Lynn Youth Re-Entry Project") designed to assist gang-involved youth who return to Lynn following periods of incarceration in the state's juvenile justice and adult correctional facilities. The services included case management, legal representation, educational advocacy, Know-Your-Rights trainings, vocational advocacy, and related policy-based endeavors.

Juvenile Life Without Parole

A two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship provided the sponsorship for a two year study of individuals serving the sentence of life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles. The Law Center Fellow and pro bono attorneys interviewed 42 of the 57 prisoners serving life sentences, conducted extensive legal research, surveyed JLWOP reform efforts in other states, reviewed numerous records, and designed and evaluated litigation and legislative strategies to address the issue. A report detailing the aforementioned efforts and recommendations for legislative reform was released in September, 2009. See report: Until They Die A Natural Death: Youth Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Massachusetts

Lynn Violence Prevention Project

The CLCM has been a recipient of grants from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to serve as the Local Action Research Partner for the Lynn Police Department and local service providers working to reduce gang/youth violence in the city.

Youth Aging Out of DCF

CLCM attorneys represent some 50-60 foster children involved in Care and Protection or CRA (formerly CHINS) cases. Each year some of those children, having turned 18, are among the 600 kids statewide who "age out" of the foster care system and, in some instances, lose several supports, including legal, housing, financial, and mentoring. These youth, often with histories of trauma, are generally ill-prepared to handle life on their own and frequently require the assistance of an attorney. CLCM lawyers provide such advocacy on an individual basis, and also engage in policy work designed to assist this youth population, including committee and task force work, administrative litigation, trainings, and information and referrals.

Task Force on Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel

CLCM staff participated in the Boston Bar Association's Task Force on Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel, formed to examine the need for legal counsel in various civil matters such as housing, family law, immigration and various juvenile matters. Working on a Juvenile Subcommittee, CLCM staff made recommendations, eventually adopted by the Task Force, that pilot projects be established to provide attorneys to low-income children in certain school discipline cases, and when youth committed to the state's juvenile correctional system faced revocation of their parole. The report of the Task Force, Gideon's New Trumpet: Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel in Massachusetts was published in 2008.

Legislative Advocacy

Law Center staff have led or joined efforts at the local, state and national levels to advance or defeat various legislative initiatives that affect low-income children in the Commonwealth. Included among them are bills supporting forms of alternative education for high-risk youth, various benefits for low-income children, assistance to parentless immigrant children, and efforts to ensure that high-risk youth receive an education.

Committee & Task Force Work

Part of the Law Center's policy work involves participation in local, state and national task forces or committees that address issues of importance to low-income children. Illustrative of such work is the Lynn Head Start Policy Council, the Education Law Task Force, the BBA Task Force on Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel, and the National Children's Law Network.

Impact Litigation

Impact Litigation: The CLCM has led or joined efforts at systems reform through impact litigation matters to effect positive change for disadvantaged children and youth. In 2009 the CLCM, in collaboration with the Center for Public Representation and the state's Committee for Public Counsel Services, successfully challenged the constitutionality of a statutory scheme that permitted the Department of Youth Services to extend the commitment of youth beyond age eighteen based on allegations of "dangerousness." The Supreme Judicial Court in Kenniston, et. al.v. Department of Youth Services found that the statute violated substantive due process and was void for vagueness.


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