The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently issued the publication Closing Massachusetts’ Training Schools: Reflections 40 Years Later, which chronicles a December 2011 symposium hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. The symposium, attended by more than 100 of the nation’s leading juvenile justice experts, was convened to remember and reconsider a historic reform campaign – the closure of Massachusetts’ entire network of juvenile reform schools in the early 1970s.
The Massachusetts’ facility closures were unprecedented and highly controversial, and they were meticulously studied in their aftermath. For a time, many reformers believed that Massachusetts would become the model for similar efforts throughout the nation. The symposium was convened to facilitate movement-building by providing reformers an opportunity to review the efforts of their predecessors in Massachusetts, glean the lessons of history, and retool them for the current day. The publication, written by Dick Mendel, recounts the event in hopes of providing a dose of insight and inspiration for juvenile justice professionals and advocates across the nation. The first section reviews the history of the Massachusetts reforms, and the second discusses the aftermath of the Massachusetts reform movement – its impact on subsequent developments in the juvenile justice field, and its relevance for today’s juvenile justice policy debate. The third section describes the symposium itself, summarizing the major themes and ideas presented by featured speakers and then detailing the conclusions and recommendations emerging from group discussions.
We are hopeful that the symposium and this publication will continue to inform and inspire much needed reform to the nation’s juvenile justice systems.