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Jerome G. Miller

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Jerome G. Miller. For those of you who did not know Jerry, he is best known in the justice field as the visionary leader who closed Massachusetts’s juvenile prisons in the early 1970s and forever changed the context of juvenile justice reform. Such an act was considered unthinkable at the time and was roundly condemned by conventional criminal and juvenile justice practitioners as irresponsible and dangerous. 

But, as history has since shown, his detractors could not have been more wrong. Jerry’s standards of humanity that led to his dismantling of abusive youth prisons has become the standard on how we measure the quality of juvenile and criminal justice reform. After leaving Massachusetts, Jerry went on to run youth systems in Illinois and Pennsylvania before establishing the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) in 1978

In 1985, after making a speech in San Francisco on criminal justice reform, the San Francisco Foundation encouraged Jerry to apply for a grant. With that grant, Jerry established NCIA’s Western Regional Office in San Francisco to fight against the rising rates of incarceration in California. This office later became the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which continues Jerry’s legacy of promoting a more humane criminal justice system. 

Jerry represents one of those few people who lived his convictions and would not stray from the path of what he knew to be right, regardless of the personal costs. With a background in Catholicism and social work, Jerry could quote anyone from Thomas Aquinas to Dorthea Dix to George Herbert Mead, and no one had a better grasp of human behavior within an unaccountable prison bureaucracy. He devoted his life to creating a just and caring society by advocating for its most disenfranchised and marginalized members.

Three years ago marked the 40th anniversary of the closing of the Massachusetts training schools. Enclosed, please find a link to a previous article I wrote that describes those events. As I said then, Jerry’s leadership in closing those horrible places and his continued dedication to reform established him as one of history’s great social reformers. 

Thank you, Jerry, and rest well.

Daniel Macallair

The Closing of the Massachusetts Reform Schools and the Legacy of Jerome Miller by Dan Macallair » 

New York Times: Jerome G. Miller, 83, Dies; Emptied Reformatories to Better Juvenile Justice »

The Washington Post: Jerome Miller, revolutionized juvenile justice, dies »