Our future will be defined by how justice system serves needs of youth

Having devoted our professional and personal lives to improving public safety, we were thrilled to see the op-ed by Devin McCourty and Jonathan and Robert Kraft (“As Patriots, we support juvenile justice reform,” Opinion, Feb. 5), broadcasting their support of justice reform with a focus on how we can better serve kids. Effectively responding to the needs of our youth, especially those who get in trouble with the law, will define their futures as well as ours.

Arresting young children and confining them with adolescents does not prevent harm; it causes harm. Incarcerating 18-year-old high school students with older, fully mature adults also does not prevent harm; it causes harm. These harms are disproportionately borne by highly policed communities of color, where arrests are all too common.

Massachusetts is fortunate to have robust, rehabilitative services for older youth up to age 21 already, and a variety of residential placements, so that younger and older adolescents can be served separately.


The Patriots are right: We need to right-size our justice system by shifting the age range to include the youth that will benefit the most. It’s a win-win situation: Better futures for our kids and safer communities for us all.

Leslie Harris


Steve Tompkins


Harris is a retired associate justice of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court, and Tompkins is sheriff of Suffolk County.