Patrick unveils plan to stem youth violence

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PITTSFIELD -- Gov. Deval Patrick announced plans Monday to stem youth violence by proposing new gun laws and an intervention strategy focused on males between 14 and 24, a group at high risk for gun violence and gang activity.

Patrick is seeking $10 million for the multi-pronged plan called the "Massachusetts Safe and Successful Youth Initiative."

The governor's initiative involves legislation that would add three new gun-related crimes to the law: assault and battery with a firearm, assault with a firearm, and a "felon in possession law," similar to the federal law that prohibits convicted felons from owning guns. Patrick also plans to revamp the state's wiretapping laws to help combat street gangs and drug trafficking.

A key facet of the plan is making sure that young men getting out of jail have the resources to stay out of trouble, including helping them find work and reintegrating into the community, according to Patrick.

"This plan centers on the belief that peace in urban communities is achievable," Patrick said on Monday. "We must stop children from killing children."

Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless said he was particularly glad to hear of the proposed legislation targeting gun violence.

"This legislation will prove effective in the investigation and prosecution of gun violence," he said.

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Capeless said he hopes some of the money will make it to Berkshire County but was "concerned it would be funneled into the larger urban areas."

In Berkshire County, programs are in place that provide juvenile offenders with an alternative sentencing model that pushes education over punishment, according to William Gale, Berkshire County's head juvenile chief probation officer.

One is a collaborative effort between the Berkshire County Juvenile Court and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, which puts youthful offenders in an education program about art and communication.

Another is the Shakespeare in the Courts program, a collaboration between Shakespeare & Company and the court. The program is "an intense acting and communication program," in which youths learn about and perform Shakespeare as part of their "sentence."

Gale believes other areas in the state would benefit greatly from such programs. "Absolutely," he said. "One hundred percent."

Patrick's announcement came just two days after a 19-year-old man was shot and killed during a fight on the platform of the Savin Hill subway stop in Boston.

It also comes a year after the shooting death of eighth-grade Boston honors student Jaewon Martin, who was killed after he went to buy Mother's Day cards for his mother and grandmother.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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