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Celtics launch public campaign in support of ‘Raise the Age’ legislation

The Boston Celtics are advocating for a Massachusetts bill that proposes prosecuting 18, 19, and 20 year olds as juveniles instead of adults. 

In-Season Tournament - Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

On Friday night, in a nationally televised In-Season Tournament game, the Celtics donned ‘Raise the Age’ warmups to signal their support for legislation in Massachusetts that will keep 18- to 20-year-olds in the juvenile system, rather than the more-harsh adult criminal system.

Jaylen Brown, a longtime advocate for racial justice, addressed the TD Garden crowd ahead of the game: “I want to bring attention to legislation that we, the Celtics, are advocating for. The name of this bill is the Raise the Age bill. If you want to learn more, please visit”

Why Raise the Age?

By keeping 18 to 20-year-olds in the juvenile system, they can continue to attend school, which ultimately helps prevent recidivism. CDC research has shown that adolescents had a 34 percent lower recidivism rate when they were in the juvenile rather than the adult system.

As it currently stands, young adults have the highest recidivism rate of any in the adult system, with 76% being re-arraigned within three years. Time spent in adult prisons has been shown to actually increase offending.

“My wife was in criminal justice and she was a probation officer and we saw, just sometimes how the system can put people back and how it can hold people back and put them in even tougher situations in where they’re at,” Joe Mazzulla said. ”And so, this bill is important to a lot of people because of what it can offer. So just grateful to be a part of an organization that’s doing that, and the campaign starts tonight, and hopefully people can learn more about it.”

Proponents have highlighted that the legislation is a matter of racial equity. While only 25% of Massachusetts’ young adult population is Black or Latino, 70% of young adults incarcerated in state prisons and 57% of young adults in county jails are people of color (RaiseTheAgeMA). Black and Latino young adults are 3.2 and 1.7 times as likely to be imprisoned as their white peers.

In September, Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca testified in support of the legislation, titled An Act to Promote Public Safety and Better Outcomes for Young Adults (H.1740 / S.942).

“The harm of the adult legal system falls most squarely on the back of Black and brown youth,” Pagliuca wrote in his testimony to the Judiciary Committee. “Black older adolescents are more than three times as likely, and Latine older adolescents near two times as likely to be incarcerated in Massachusetts as their white counterparts.”

Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, and Malcolm Brogdon visited the White House in March to discuss Raise the Age at a national scale, and the Celtics have met with bill sponsors a number of times to advocate for the legislation.

What’s in the legislation?

This legislation will gradually raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, proposing a five-year implementation period to allow agencies to adjust to the programming and staffing to accommodate this newer population.

However, young adults facing murder charges would still be tried in adult courts, and perpetrators of other serious crimes will continue to be eligible for adult sentences.

Vermont is the only US state that has passed such a law. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington State are all considering similar legislation.

You can learn more about Raise the Age and sign the petition here.

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