Alternative Lock Up Program

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

The Alternative Lockup Program funds secure placements for youth arrested when courts are not in session. The program is designed to provide a safe (non-police) environment for alleged juvenile offenders awaiting a court appearance.

When a juvenile is arrested during hours when court is not in session, a decision on where to place the juvenile must be made. Placement options for juveniles include: being sent home with parents/guardians, sending them to a Department of Youth Services (DYS) facility if they are already committed to DYS, or sending them to an alternative lockup program administered by DYS. This program utilizes secure placements for arrested youth and is similar to an alternative lockup program administered by the Department of Children and Families which uses primarily non-secure placements. The placement of juveniles awaiting arraignment must follow both state and federal requirements which include:

  • Juveniles who commit a status offense (an offense that is only prohibited for minors) may not be securely detained for any length of time
  • Juveniles charged with a non-status offense may be securely detained for no longer than 6 hours
  • Juveniles must be sight and sound separated from adults
  • No juvenile under the age of 14 may be held in a police lockup

Research has shown that youth who spend any amount of time in secure custody experience negative outcomes, including increased rates of recidivism. Of the thousands of youth who are arrested, the majority are not committed to DYS custody. These youth return to the community after trial. Finding alternative placements for these youth keeps them from spending time in an inappropriate facility.

State funding and DYS administration of the program were new in FY 2013. Prior to that the program was funded through a patchwork of federal funding streams and administered by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. There are currently five regionally based secure alternative lockup programs across Massachusetts for detaining pre-arraigned delinquents.

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