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Over the course of 1971 to 1972 aremarkable event occurred that permanently altered conventional assumptionsabout justice administration. Jerome G Miller, then commissioner of youthcorrections in Massachusetts,systemically carried out the most sweeping reforms in correctional history. Heclosed the state’s five juvenile reform schools and transferred over 1,500youths to an assortment of community-based programs. These actions, which wereat first greeted with skepticism and derision by much of the correctionalestablishment, proved to be revolutionary in changing popular assumptions aboutthe treatment of youth in trouble. Research revealed that when not subject toabusive prison-like conditions, young offenders were less likely to displayviolent and criminally prone behaviors later on. Most importantly,well-designed and properly implemented rehabilitation programs substantiallyreduce recidivism among even the most difficult offenders.

While the trend toward punitivepublic policies in recent years has undermined these important lessons, thelegacy of Dr. Miller’s reforms lives on. A growing number of jurisdictionsthroughout the United Statesare now recognizing the importance of substituting retributive practices with amore balanced array of sanctions and interventions.

Click here for Dr. Miller’s blog.

CJCJ’s Communications Specialist,Selena Teji, discusses how Dr. Miller’s 1972 Massachusettsreforms apply to California’s modern dayjuvenile justice system in her op-ed, TheDe-incarceration of California’s juvenile justice system.