Juvenile Court Delinquency Prevention Unit
The Juvenile Court Delinquency and Prevention Unit aims to reduce youth violence and crime using a coordinated community approach which includes early intervention and prevention. In addition, when appropriate, the unit handles those serious juvenile cases who are indicted as Youthful Offenders, thus making them open to full adult criminal prosecution. The unit includes three prosecutors, a diversion specialist and several victim-witness advocates.
The unit’s goal is to balance legal work in the form of prosecuting persons under age 17, with school and community-based prevention efforts. To carry out these goals the unit offers the following Juvenile Justice programs:
- Community-Based Juvenile Justice Program Violence Intervention and Prevention Measures
These measures are a response to the enabling legislative mandate to establish, implement and coordinate a partnership of police, schools, law enforcement officials and youth service providers. The measures provide help individuals from law enforcement, justice, education, social service and government to develop school and community-based programs that prevent juvenile violence and delinquency, develop techniques for the early identification of at-risk youth and divert non-violent offenders from the criminal system. Regular meetings with prosecutors, school personnel and other officials are held (CBJ meetings) to ensure these goals are met.
- Juvenile Diversion Program (NWDA-JDP)
When appropriate, first time offenders under age 17 who commit minor criminal offenses will be referred to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Juvenile Diversion Program. The program is an alternative to the court system. Participating youth are required to attend and complete counseling/education programs, perform community service and, when applicable, pay restitution. Youth who successfully complete the Juvenile Diversion Program prior to arraignment, will have no court record. Cases not appropriate for diversion will be prosecuted through the Juvenile Court.
- Truancy Diversion – "School is Where It’s At" (SIWIA)
Truancy is a problem that has long-term effects on children, families and the community. The recognition of the significant correlation between a failed school experience and delinquent behavior has been well documented. The “School is Where It’s At” program is a two-step process involving progressively stronger measures to compel students, ages 6 to 16, and their parents to address the truancy problem in a positive manner. The program was developed to send the consistent message that education, personal responsibility and respect for the law are important values in the Northwestern District. The District Attorney assists any school interested in creating or enhancing its attendance or anti-truancy program.
- Northwestern Fire Intervention, Response, Education and Safety (NoFIRES) core mission is to protect our youth, their families and the communities in which they live from the dangerous and sometimes fatal act of setting fires. A collaboration of law enforcement and social service agencies, NoFIRES is committed to providing a consistent, coordinated and appropriate response to youths through the age of 16 who set fires or engage in fire-related behavior. The components of this approach include intervention and education in conjunction with prosecution or other juvenile court action.
Safe Schools Response Team
- The new Massachusetts bullying law offers a definition of bullying, but as victims, educators and parents have learned, there is no specific criminal charge of bullying. But bullying behavior does fit specific criminal charges already in existence, such as Threat to Commit a Crime, Criminal Harassment, civil rights violations, and others.Therefore, the NWDA developed a team of prosecutors, and victim-advocates to review certain complaints of bullying and other matters to determine if the behavior rises to the level of a criminal charge. The team is not a substitute for school investigations. Schools must still follow their own-state mandated policies as to bullying complaints and investigations. However, the NWDA team can help review that work and in addition, can provide information and support for parents and victims. Members of the Safe School Response Team include Deputy District Attorney Janice Healy, Juvenile Justice Unit Chief Yvonne Pesce, Assistant District Attorneys Caitlyn Rock and Liz Mulcahy, Victim-Witness Advocates Janice Francis and Heather Darling and Administrative Assistant Susan Snyder.