First in a Series

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY MAY 1, 2019) — The root of the recent uptick in violence in the middle schools, particularly activities at Reid and Springside Park, can in part be traced to the passage of the little-known and misunderstood Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA), which the geniuses in the general court passed in July 2018. Yes, it’s a Massachusetts law.

Law enforcement officials, particularly police officers in the trenches, loathe the CJRA for the way it prevents them from action when teens and young people get mayhemic, if we may coin a word. Criminal justice officials say the new law has severely limited the options of police and other officials when dealing with youth crime.

In Pittsfield, with an incompetent school committee led by the epidermal chair Kathy Yon and an administration already pledged to look the other way, the new law has proven disastrous. It has taken away one more layer of authority away from the adults out there who want good schools. And the kids know it. The old days of Officer Leslie dealing with punks at Deming Park in his own inimitable, tough-but-caring style have been long gone. THE PLANET knows that and you know that — but the CJRA officially put the nail in the coffin of responsibility. Adults now, including parents, have to stand by helplessly while their kids call the shots.

“You can’t touch us,” they taunt.

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As any parent, teacher, coach, counselor, or most any other youth leader knows, kids have an instinctive sense of when and how far they can “push it.” Give kids the sense that there will be no consequences for acting up, and many go wild. That’s what’s happening now in the Pittsfield Public Schools, particularly the middle schools. It represents a total systemic failure, a repudiation of nearly every policy of the school committee, the superintendent, and — to a lesser extent — the mayor, since she’s in charge of the entire mess. Be clear, though, that the majority of the blame lies with “Lady Boots” Yon and superintendent Jake “JIV” McCandless.

You will be shocked to learn that every Berkshire County state rep, including Pittsfield’s Tricia Farley-Bouvier, voted this bad measure into law. Our new district attorney also loves the CJRA.  The law is part of a wide-ranging effort nationwide, and especially here in Massachusetts, to “liberalize” approaches to juvenile crime. Youth violence, particularly out-of-control students in middle- and high schools, led hapless officials to the ingenious solution to “decriminalize” wide swaths of previously lawless behavior. It would be like making murder legal them boasting that no one broke the law regardless of how many people were killed.

As a way to prompt a more intelligent discussion of a life-threatening public safety situation THE PLANET presents a summary of the law, which in its entirely is lengthy and full of fine print. We thank Medford attorney William Barbarino for this digest. We encourage you to read these provisions, since they help provide the context for properly understanding the eruption of youth violence in city schools and parks. It’s interesting to note that in their “joint statement,” neither the mayor, the police chief, nor the district attorney mentioned the CJRA. That omission constitutes a form of concealment, a deliberate hiding that flies in the face of the alleged “transparency” to which all three pay lip service.

The law itself is biblically lengthy. It’s likely that none of the Berkshire delegation or even the DA read it in entirety. This summary present the relevant points. Pay particular attention to Section (1) and (6) [THE PLANET‘s numbering, further identified by three asterisks on each side]. They are the sections pertaining specifically to juveniles.

The summary follows.

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Criminal Justice Reform Act: Summary of Decriminalization Portion of Act

(1) *** Minor Offenses for Juveniles ***

Civil infractions and first offense misdemeanors with penalties under 6 months – cannot be the subject of delinquency findings.

Disruptive behavior in school (disturbing assembly or disorderly conduct) cannot be the subject of delinquency findings (note that more serious behavior can still be prosecuted).
Repeal offense of being in the presence of heroin.
Expand scope of Good Samaritan protections to youth alcohol violations and to probation violations.
Specify that use of prescribed drugs and medical marijuana shall not constitute a probation violation.
Repeal/Limit Mandatory Minimums for Non-Opiate, Non-Weight Retail Drug Offenses
Limit applicability of school zone law to cases involving guns or minors.
Eliminate mandatory minimum for second offense class B (move fentanyl to class A).
Eliminate mandatory minimum for first offense cocaine/PCP/meth.
Eliminate mandatory minimum for second offense class cocaine/PCP/meth.
Eliminate mandatory minimum for second offense class C.
Eliminate mandatory minimum for second offense class D.
Eliminate mandatory minimum for sales of drug paraphernalia.
Criminal Justice Reform Act: Create mechanism for judicial diversion of juveniles for less serious offenses.
Improve and expand mechanism for District Court diversion of adults.
Eliminate defunct requirement for probation certification of diversion programs.
Eliminate age restrictions on diversion.
Exclude serious offenses from diversion.
Assure that victims are heard in diversion decisions.
Create legal/administrative framework to expand use of restorative justice programs for diversion of both juveniles and adults.
Require judges to make written findings before imposing a sentence of incarceration of primary caretakers of children.
Make drug diversion more workable by making it possible for a wider range of professionals to make findings of dependence.
Preserve power of District Attorneys to divert cases.

(2) Criminal Justice Reform Act: Reform Bail to Reduce Unnecessary Incarceration
Codify main holding of the Brangan decision – judge should consider financial capability of defendant and set bail only as high as needed to assure defendant’s return.
Require that if judge needs to set unaffordable bail to assure return, the judge makes written findings that the Commonwealth’s interest in assuring return outweighs the harm of detention to the individual and their family.
Allow judges to use community corrections facilities for pre-trial release (consistent with Council on State Government report).
Create pre-trial services unit to remind defendants of upcoming court dates using modern messaging approaches, such as email and text.
Create commission on bail to monitor change and suggest further improvements.

(3) Criminal Justice Reform Act: Reduce the Use of Solitary Confinement
Repeal archaic solitary confinement concept (“isolation”) and define more humane restrictive housing concept.
Require that prisoners confined to restrictive housing shall, under regulations to be developed, have “access to vocational, educational and rehabilitative programs to the maximum extent possible consistent with the safety and security of the unit.”
Require that prisoners confined to restrictive housing receive regular reviews to see if they are ready to return to general prison population and have an opportunity to participate in those reviews.
Assure that correctional officers staffing restrictive housing facilities have appropriate training.
Protect LGBTQ prisoners from arbitrary use of restrictive housing.
Assure that those segregated from other inmates for their own safety are not placed in restrictive housing, but in conditions comparable to general population.
Create a balanced oversight board with access to data, prison facilities, and prisoners to report on conditions in restrictive housing and progress in reducing restrictive housing. Note that the oversight committee will have no authority over individual prisoner confinement decisions.

(4) Criminal Justice Reform Act: Incarceration Amendments
Assure that transgender prisoners are housed with prisoners of the same gender identity unless it would endanger the prisoner or other prisoners.
Require that all prisoners without high school diplomas have access to education programming.
Preserve inmate access to regular in-person visitation – video visits permitted, but not in lieu of in-person visits.
Expressly authorize creation of special prison units for emerging adults (ages 18 to 24).
Create commission to study LGBTQ prison health.
Create task force to study correctional officer suicides.
Study prison long distance phone costs.

(5) Criminal Justice Reform Act: Rehabilitation
Prisoners who are so debilitated that they do not present a public safety risk may petition their superintendent or sheriff for medical release.
The sheriff or superintendent shall make a recommendation to the commissioner of correction.
The commissioner of correction will determine whether an inmate is incapacitated and the medical release plan is appropriate.
The parole board will supervise released prisoners and re-incarcerate them if they are recovering contrary to expectations.
Judicial review is only by certiorari.
Measures to Help Prevent the Criminalization of Poverty, Limit Certain Collateral Consequences, and Further Reform CORI
Reduce fees imposed on defendants.
No parole fee for the first year after release from prison.
No probation fee for the first six months after release from prison.
Allow more fees to be waived and standardize waiver language across fees.
Streamline waiver process for probation fees – no written finding required.
Improve procedural protections for people facing incarceration for non-payment of fines and increase rate at which fines are worked off from $30 per day to $90 per day.
Assure that when state criminal records are sealed or expunged, national fingerprint records are also sealed or expunged.
Require that offense-based tracking number (OBTN) associated with a set of fingerprints taken at arrest is recorded in court files (but not expand scope of fingerprinting).
Assure that when cases are disposed of, the disposition is transmitted to the national system (using the OBTN).
Similarly assure that sealing and expungement orders are transmitted for parallel action in the national system.
Make criminal records more private.
Assure that cases dismissed before arraignment do not appear on criminal records.
Assure that youthful offender cases tried in juvenile court are treated as juvenile instead of adult CORI.
Accelerate sealing availability from 10 years to 7 years for felonies and from 5 years to 3 years for misdemeanors.
Fix the glitch that causes resisting arrest charges to be non-sealable.
Allow expungement of cases involving errors of justice.
Allow expungement of non-serious cases up to age 21 (for both juveniles and young adults).
Exclude juvenile arrests from public police log and expunge young adult police logs if the court case is expunged.
Raise threshold that defines felony larceny from $250 to $1200, making more cases misdemeanors that can be quickly sealed or expunged (but preserve ability of officers to arrest defendants in cases above $250).
Require that licensing authorities disclose in advance offenses that may be disqualifying.
Confirm that sealed records need not be mentioned in applications for housing or professional licensure.
Prevent employers from inquiring about sealed or expunged cases.
Reduce entanglements with the registry of motor vehicles.
No longer suspend licenses upon court defaults.
No longer suspend licenses upon conviction of tagging or vandalism.
Assure that parents will not lose their license for non-payment of child support if the warning notice is sent to a bad address (but do not otherwise limit ability of the DOR to suspend licenses).

*** (6) Criminal Justice Reform Act: Juvenile Justice Reform ***
Raise minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 12.
Does not raise age of criminal adulthood to 19.
Expressly authorize creation of young adult units within Houses of Correction (18-24).
Expressly authorize designation of youth probation officers.
Create task force to “to examine and study the treatment and impact of individuals ages 18 to 24 in the court system and correctional system of the commonwealth.
Minimize harsh detention of minors (mostly codifying existing good practice).
Assure swift parental notification and appropriate handling upon arrest.
Limit shackling in court room settings.
Prohibit housing of juveniles in contact with adults.
Limit the use of room confinement as a disciplinary measure for juveniles.
Protect the parent-child relationship by disqualifying parents and children from being called to testify against each other in court (note the prohibition does not apply to domestic situations and does not prevent parents from asking the police for assistance with their children if necessary).
Create a juvenile justice policy and data board to oversee and improve treatment of juveniles.
Create task force on trauma-informed juvenile care.
Provide access to counsel at parole hearings for juveniles sentenced to life.
See decriminalization section above for additional measures affecting juveniles.

(7) Criminal Justice Reform Act: Improve Data Collection and Tracking of Racial and Ethnic Statistics
Mandate National Incident Based Reporting System for arrests, including racial data. Juvenile justice policy and data board is to drive consolidation of information about juvenile contacts with the system.
Require the Secretary of Public Safety to lead improvement of adult criminal justice data systems; create adult criminal justice systems board.
Steps to Reduce Wrongful Convictions and Increase Compensation to Persons Wrongfully Convicted
Empower stronger oversight of forensic labs and techniques.
Increase access to compensation for wrongful convictions.

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Strict causality between the CJRA and Pittsfield’s recent spike in violence cannot be inarguably established, but — after our discussions with cops, attorneys, judges, and several prosecutors — the evidence to say nothing of common sense strongly suggests a causal link.

We will present part two of this series on The Weekend Edition. In the meantime, we invite your comments.


“There is a gulf fixed between those who can sleep and those who cannot. It is one of the great divisions of the human race” Iris Murdoch.



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  1. X-Lachs Lounge
    April 30, 2019 at 8:08 pm #

    Dare we say lord of the flies? And we all know what flies are attracted to. Thus we have Pittsfield in all her glory. Praise the lord and pass the raid.

  2. Julio DeBattigglio
    April 30, 2019 at 8:21 pm #

    Must be new nice knowing the Officer that makes an arrest will feel less appreciated knowing the perp will get off.

  3. Reignbow
    April 30, 2019 at 8:26 pm #

    Tomorrow the mayor will be on the Sturgeon Show for the third time in a month,Mazzeo was on today. Where are the other three candidates? And that’s people just for Mayor,Marchettiis on that show all the time? It is definitely a political bootlicking show for he schools and politicians.

  4. Jonathan Melle
    April 30, 2019 at 8:40 pm #

    Visit Pittsfield to get your fix on scratch tickets, marijuana, booze, and welfare benefits….

    • Johnny Absurd
      May 1, 2019 at 12:47 am #

      as well as potholes, excessive litter and gang bangers

      a veritable tourist Mecca if you will

  5. Spagirl
    May 1, 2019 at 2:23 am #

    Absolutely ludicrous and irresponsible across the board!!

  6. The school committee
    May 1, 2019 at 3:43 am #

    I’m not sure that had anything to do with school intimidation and disruption at Herberg school.The former Sheriff and Eberwien chose to mainstream behavior students back into the schools.Those kids dont want to be in mainstream.Its still about removing disruptions and Staff and student safety.Most of the area school are filled up with Pittsfield kids opting out of dangerous schools.The real deal is McCandless needs to change.Mayor Mazzeo will help him with this I’m sure

  7. Pat
    May 1, 2019 at 3:45 am #

    Not shocked at all that our local reps voted for it. They do everything in lockstep. There is NO individual thought and if it’s very far left, they will all be on board.

    It is part of this insanity spreading across the country to liberalize criminal justice which is code for “creating lawlessness across the country”. The end game is just one more way to destabilize the country, as if we needed any more, what with an out of control immigration system, the legalization of pot, etc. The solution will, of course, be more big government to ride in on its white horse to solve a problem that, you got it, they created.

  8. Charlie
    May 1, 2019 at 5:07 am #

    Even before this law, the judges in district court were so weak on youth offenders that police weren’t doing anything. Why bother to go to court when nothing will happen?

  9. The school committee
    May 1, 2019 at 5:17 am #

    In spite of Pat always blaming the Democrats for not addressing crime we al agree that when a 23 year old male is accused of assault and rape and you read hes been convicted 3 previous times on a variety of crimes more jail time is nessary early in his criminal history.I do not believe rehabilitation is necessary.Like Trump we need to address criminal behavior and not be in denial about crimes committed.

  10. Brian C. Marquis
    May 1, 2019 at 5:21 am #

    Any one else take note a the leap “Andrew” Harrington’s office has taken since flooding the courthouses with progressive prosecutors?

    I have. Her office had gone from no cash bail requests to held w/o bail requests. It seems kinda odd a self-proclaimed progressive would even suggest holding a defendant w/o bail (pending a dangerousness hearing).

    Running from po-po, dropping a baggy of dope, and resisting arrest – doesn’t seem to qualify for a hold w/o bail request pending a dangerousness hearing.

    But what the heck do I know.

    And that’s the bottom-line!!

    • Rule 27
      May 1, 2019 at 1:17 pm #

      Are you going on TV tonight?

    • downtown dweller
      May 2, 2019 at 12:40 pm #

      Just curious, Brian, why do you keep referring to the DA as Andrew?

      • Blare
        May 2, 2019 at 5:27 pm #

        A few months ago an iBerkshires article had a typo. Somebody hit the “w” instead of the “a” and Andrew Harrington was born. Brian has been calling the DA “Andrew” ever since because it is very clever and funny. The kind of rapier wit that could only come from someone who “passed” his LSATs and GMATs and earned multiple degrees from a non-competitive school for no particular reason.

        • Shakes
          May 3, 2019 at 6:35 am #

          I’m sure Brain busted out a 170 on the LSAT.

        • downtown dweller
          May 3, 2019 at 6:59 am #

          Ah, thank you, Blare. I hadn’t seen the piece in iBerkshires.

  11. Kermit Frog
    May 1, 2019 at 6:53 am #

    Wait, if those trouble making kids are reading the new, extremely long and boring law and deciding what to get away with the schools must be doing a much better job than we have given credit for!! Also, who the heck is prescribing medical weed to kids? Did I read that correctly?

    Not sure I buy this narrative. Where I live in Pittsfield we have largely good kids. Reid has been a sink hole for almost a decade. Kids at Ergemont and Williams are largely good kids. I don’t believe they morph into delinquents in middle school. It’s bad management and some bad apples. PHS is not terribly bad. Taconic has more problems.

  12. Johnny99
    May 1, 2019 at 8:07 am #

    Allow me to summarize the summary, of the Decriminalization Portion of the Criminal Justice Reform Act: as it relates to non-incarcerated juveniles:

    You can’t arrest a juvenile for, or even summons him/her, for disturbing assembly or disorderly conduct, in school, or on the street. Translation; the inmates are running the asylum, and the streets.

    You can’t take little Johnnies medical marijuana. Translation; the kids can be high in class, and on the street, legally.

    Raised the threshold that defines felony larceny from $250 to $1200, making more cases misdemeanors that can be quickly sealed or expunged. Translation; The kids can steal much more valuable stuff, $1,199 worth, before it is taken seriously.

    No longer suspend licenses upon court defaults. Translation; Take away the incentive to show up for your court dates.

    No longer suspend licenses upon conviction of tagging or vandalism. Translation; Take away some more punishment for this despicable behavior.

    Send text messages and emails to the kids, reminding them of their court date. Translation; Take away some more personal responsibility, to enable further criminal behavior down the line.

    • Pat
      May 1, 2019 at 4:26 pm #

      You really did a great job on spelling out just how horrible this Criminal Justice Reform Act really is. It’s all about coddling bad behavior and medical pot for kids?….please…encouraging kids to take pot?.

  13. Edward R. Murrow
    May 1, 2019 at 8:53 am #

    Sanctimony so thick on the Dems that you can see it in three second during the Barr testimony.

  14. Edward R. Murrow
    May 1, 2019 at 9:30 am #

    This Barr baloney by the Left is classic.

    Keep an eye on the shenanigans to see how they operate.

    And they wonder why they don’t win more, or why people don’t trust them, or why Clinton lost.

  15. Ron Kitterman
    May 1, 2019 at 10:00 am #

    Ron Paul summed it up best when he lost dropped out of Presidential race, ” I never knew selling liberty and freedom would be so hard” Better turn the ship around soon or we’ll be following Venezuela in the next decade.

  16. The school committee
    May 1, 2019 at 10:42 am #

    Kermit I agree,the vast majority of kids are fantastic and are afraid of and intimidated by a small amount of behavior kids.They watch as 1 kid in a class of 20 instigated a ridicoulous interruption of a class and zero is done as the 1 child repeats it day after day with no consequence.We all know this is the problem.Remove the behavior children from the build to a off site therapeutic program.

  17. Auto Phil
    May 1, 2019 at 11:02 am #

    I think it’s High Time to stop making such a big deal
    out of medical marijuana. It is an established medicine with a variety of benefits and used properly, can alleviate many ailments.

    In fact, all these kids with violent tendencies and aggression might do well to actually smoke a fatty and chill out. It’s not called a happy weeed for nothing…

    Secondly, if kids now know what they can get away with based on being up on that ridiculous change in laws then kudos to them for their awareness and understanding of that legislation. Impressive!

  18. doomiedodger
    May 1, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

    Can you just imagine the size of the wave of children trying to opt out of Pittsfield schools this coming fall? Actually I hear that so many have already opted out (mostly teachers and school personnel children) that there is scant room left in the county.

    If a private entity like BART wanted to open a private school in the Berkshire Mall they might be overwhelmed with students begging not to be sent back to Pittsfield schools. Lanesboro might want to pursue this.

  19. Duffy Mc Manus
    May 1, 2019 at 1:38 pm #

    So, when companies see the opt out kids, you would think they would ask,Why?

  20. Pat
    May 2, 2019 at 4:21 am #

    I agree with others above that the Barr hearing yesterday was nearly impossible to watch because the Dems were so outrageous in their questioning.

    • doomiedodger
      May 2, 2019 at 4:33 am #

      I wonder why republican committee chair Lindsey Graham said at the end that it went pretty well and that is the way govt is supposed to work. Is he turning into a fake news democrat?

    • The school committee
      May 2, 2019 at 5:17 am #

      Pat, Trump is above the law.He can do what he wants.You have given him Messiah false God status.You can not hide your belief in him.You believe he was sent here for a special purpose.I know him as a spoiled brat ahole from New York City.Get a grip on who he is.The greatest liar in American history.

      • Johnny99
        May 2, 2019 at 6:42 am #

        No doubt he is a fraud and a phony and a liar but he ain’t Clinton, and he is making America great again, and most important of all, he is the duly elected POTUS, like it or not, and the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for trying to screw him out of the position. Just imagine if the shoe were on the other foot, and the Republicans tried to do that to Obama, their chosen one.

        • Pat
          May 2, 2019 at 9:16 am #

          Then they say that Barr has too much loyalty to President Trump, but Obama’s former AG, Eric Holder, said he was Obama’s wing man and he called Obama “my boy”. Can you imagine the uproar if Barr said that about President Trump?

        • Thomas More
          May 2, 2019 at 4:37 pm #

          Just imagine

  21. LoneGunMan
    May 2, 2019 at 6:53 am #,572074

    Priorities, priorities

    You failed because you were distraught looking at another persons perspective.

    Other districts cared, but didn’t do a PR campaign to blame our failures on it.


  22. The school committee
    May 2, 2019 at 8:07 am #

    America is officially in the midst of a cover-up regarding information on Russia and what Trump did to stop this Russian investigation.Trump said he’s innocent and Trump said he wants everyone to testify.

  23. The school committee
    May 2, 2019 at 11:03 am #

    The violence is verbal or intimidation is a leftover philosophy of the therapeutic staff under Eberwien that does not have responsibility of actions attached to behavior students in building.Its a insane idea that all students must observe this violence for the offender to get better.Mccandless and SPED must have zero tolerance but they will continue to let this happen….the count I have is 13 students are leaving because of this policy.Mccandless is costing the city money.

    • Johnny Absurd
      May 2, 2019 at 11:58 am #

      Like this city,, school system and govt. need more embarrassment. Glad I am not in charge

      • Thomas More
        May 2, 2019 at 4:40 pm #

        Everyone is glad you’re not in charge

    • The school committee
      May 2, 2019 at 5:31 pm #

      Yon,Mccandless,Cameron are consumed by the MCAS inappropriate question and its sad this is their issue.

  24. Kermit Frog
    May 2, 2019 at 11:46 am #

    Violent behavior of this level is very antisocial. ADHD disruptions or whatever and kids with guns are two different things. This violence seems to be happening at the age where any therapeutic problems would have been diagnosed. Some of the bad apple administrators from Reid got promoted to Taconic.
    Did anyone see the article re Springfield police on mass live? Those police don’t really set a good example for the community with all the fighting and lying and avoiding responsibility. It’s no wonder society is a mess.

  25. Merry & Bright
    May 2, 2019 at 3:58 pm #

    With all the issues going on in the Pittsfield School System all our pathetic School Committee is concerned about is one question on the MCAS! It is about time the School Committee and McCanass are held accountable on why the schools are such a mess, why children are in fear of going to school, why the attendance is such a mess and basically why students are leaving the Pittsfield School System! They should not be given another penny until they answer to the taxpayers. Another subject, I still wonder where the Dynamic/Vibrant Mayor and her pal Chief Wynn’s Traffic Bureau is? Cars are hitting 65 to 70 on Dalton Ave. and Merrill Road, not a cruiser to be seen. Oh, excuse me there is a beat up/broken down empty cruiser planted on Plastics Ave. to stop the speeders. It is bad enough that the Spectrum Methadone Clinic is right across the street from Pittsfield biggest employer, now Pittsfield leaves a beat up cruiser right out in front of General Dynamics for all out of town visitors/potential customers to view. Great vision of Pittsfield! Go Tyer and Wynn, great job!!!