Boston juveniles suspected of committing crimes are being taken to far-away state lockups to await their first court appearance, after the Police Department closed down a city detention center July 1, reports the Boston Globe. Nearly half of the 90 juveniles who were arrested from July 1 to July 29 were taken to holding facilities in other parts of the state, with each leg of the trip requiring two officers and a police cruiser. Boston had run its own juvenile holding facility for years, but mounting expenses prompted the closure of the site. The change reflects a larger struggle to maintain juvenile lockups in accordance with federal guidelines. Pressures could force Massachusetts to reorganize the centers, known as Alternative Lockup Programs, and the way they are funded. “There’s no question the whole system is strained, and underfunded,” said Mary Beth Heffernan, state undersecretary for criminal justice.
Under the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, a juvenile held for more than six hours before his first court appearance must be taken to a facility separate from any adult institution or police lockup. Never can suspects be held within hearing or eye contact of adults; they cannot be mixed with others serving sentences or being held pending the outcome of their cases. Last year, Massachusetts received $1.9 million in federal grants under the act. Of that, $1.4 million was used to fund regional lockups, rather than for the prevention and education programs for which the grants were intended.