Sixth Annual Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Policy Summit

Event Recap

Spring has been a whirlwind of activity. Amid it all, the Sixth Annual Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Summit stands out as a bright point. This year’s theme, Learning from Early Accomplishments in Young Adult Justice, drew a large crowd to the UMass Club on May 23rd, where speakers and attendees exchanged a wide range of perspectives on how innovations in young-adult justice are propelling the reform effort forward in Massachusetts.

An opening panel discussion led by CommonWealth magazine’s Sarah Betancourt highlighted several of these innovations. Anthony Gulluni, District Attorney of Hampden County, described his efforts to create the state’s first young adult court, a bold attempt to improve outcomes and increase public safety in his community. Ed Dolan, Massachusetts Commissioner of Probation, shared early experiences from probation’s new young adult model. We also heard from Greg Croteau of UTEC, who talked about how his community-based organization has partnered with both probation and Middlesex County’s young adult unit, to develop new approaches. Greg brought along Israel Elias, a young adult served by UTEC to speak firsthand about the importance of connecting with young people in need of help. Finally, Erin Freeborn, Executive Director of Communities for Restorative Justice, explained how restorative justice approaches are a particularly powerful vehicle for providing this assistance.

To frame the second panel conversation, Sarah Jalbart, a Principal Associate at Abt Associates, presented new data on recidivism outcomes for high-risk young adults in Massachusetts, highlighting major reductions in violence among young adults served by ROCA.

Nahir Torres of the Hyams Foundation then led a conversation exploring strategies to build upon the success of ROCA and create other new avenues to better serve young adults. The discussion included Carole Cafferty, Director of the Education Justice Institute at MIT; Leon Smith, Executive Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice; and Yotam Zeira, Director of Strategy & External Affairs for ROCA.

We then transitioned to our keynote address, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, who spoke to summit via webcam live from Norway. Sheriff Koutoujian spoke about his efforts to open the nation’s first young adult unit at a county facility. He also shared what he was learning while in Europe.

Finally, the day concluded with a tribute to the life and work of Jenny Phillips. We viewed footage from a documentary film examining a reentry program at Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison. We then heard from Jenny’s husband, Frank Phillips, alongside Louie Diaz and Andrew Kukura, who supported Jenny’s work at Angola and also partnered with her for the earlier film, Beyond the Wall. They spoke movingly about Jenny’s work and efforts to finish the Angola documentary project.

Please follow these links to view pictures from the day and watch the panel conversations. MassINC is grateful to all of our speakers, as well as our sponsors, the Hyams Foundation, Alkermes, and the Shaw Foundation. We would also like to thank our partners, the Massachusetts Bar Association and Community Resources for Justice, and all those who joined us at the Sixth Annual Summit.

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