Holiday Gift Drive for Harris County Juvenile Facilities

Roughly 200 children will spend this holiday season in juvenile facilities across Houston. Law students at the University of Houston Law Center are inviting you to make their time a little brighter by helping them reach their fundraising goal and by directly purchasing items off their Wishlist. Gifts will be distributed at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center, Leadership Academy, and Youth Village.

Items to be purchased include:

  • Snacks
  • Journals
  • Toiletries
  • Candy
  • Games
  • And more!

Please visit https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1BNR8TQGKYDNM?ref_=wl_share to purchase directly from the Wishlist or visit https://gofund.me/bf274ce6 to make a contribution towards the purchase of gifts. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 10, 2022.

We appreciate your generosity!

Jones v. Mississippi-the end of an era?

The Supreme Court without a doubt delivered a sucker punch to the gut with its decision in Jones– a sentencing authority need not find a juvenile is permanently incorrigible before imposing a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. [i]

Did Kavanaugh and co. end the forward progress of distinguishing children from adults in the criminal justice system that defined the Kennedy-era court? Let’s take a look back and a step forward to assess the damage.

In Roper, Kennedy relied on science to determine adolescents are different than adults in holding that the death penalty for juveniles was unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual.”[ii] These three key differences included: (1) a “lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility”; (2) children are “more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures”; and (3) their “personality traits … are more transitory, less fixed.” [iii]

These fundamental differences were the basis of subsequent Supreme Court decisions affecting children in the juvenile justice system. In Graham v. Florida, the court held that it was unconstitutional for a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life without parole for non-homicidal offenses with Kennedy writing for the majority: “[j]uveniles are more capable of change than are adults, and their actions are less likely to be evidence of ‘irretrievably depraved character’ than are the actions of adults.”[iv] In J.D.B. v. North Carolina, the Court held that a child’s age is relevant for the Miranda custody analysis[v] and in Miller v. Alabama, the court held that mandatory life without the possibility of parole for juveniles was unconstitutional.[vi]

A few things to keep in mind post-Jones as detailed in Kristina Kersey’s article “Keeping up with the Jonses 10 Things I Kinda Maybe Don’t hate About Jones” (please see her article for a humor-filled spin on Jones with a more detailed analysis)[vii]:

  1. The Kennedy-era cases and their oft-cited language remain intact;
  2. States are allowed to provide additional limits;
  3. The “permanently incorrigible” standard is inconsistent with the science that laid the foundation in Roper and it progeny;
  4. Making youth a mitigating factor as opposed to a criteria requiring a finding of fact regarding incorrigibility allows for more creative arguments;
  5. All the conservative Justices agreed that age plays a role in sentencing; and
  6. When all else fails, skip to Sotomayor’s dissent and pretend it’s the opinion.

With the Court’s shift to the right, the road ahead may appear bumpier post-Jones, but hey, that’s never stopped us before.

[i] Jones v. Mississippi, 141 S. Ct. 1307, 1317 (2021).

[ii] Esther Hong, “Justice Kennedy’s Justice for Juveniles: Roper’s Reach” (OxHRH Blog, 26 November 2018), <https://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/justice-kennedys-justice-for-juveniles-ropers-reach> [October 29, 2021].

[iii] Id.

[iv] Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 68 (2010).

[v] Hong, supra note 2.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Kristina Kersey, Keeping up with the Jones 10 Things I Kinda Maybe Don’t Hate About Jones, Nat’l Juvenile Def. Ctr. (July 2, 2021), https://njdc.info/wp-content/uploads/Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-7-2.pdf.

 

National Juvenile Justice Network is Hosting Several Events throughout October

In a Proclamation from the White House, President Biden officially claimed October 2021 as National Youth Justice Action Month. He called on Americans to “observe this month by taking action to support our youth and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs in their communities.” [1] Heeding that call, I have provided events and actions that we can take throughout the month (and beyond) to support this year’s mission, “Acting to End Racism: Pursuing Equity through Policy.”[2]

  • The National Juvenile Justice Network is hosting several events throughout the month:
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12th 3:00-4:30 PM ET “Treat Kids as Kids: Stop the Adult Criminalization of Youth.” This workshop will focus on policy changes that ensure youth are not treated like adults, including ending youth interrogations, direct file reform, and repealing Juvenile Life Without Parole laws.
  • Monday, Oct. 18th 3:00-4:30 PM ET “Care Not Cages: Invest in Families and Community.” This workshop will focus on how states have begun closing youth prisons, ending contracts with for-profit residential treatment centers, and committed to reducing use of congregate care.
  • Monday, Oct. 18th through Friday, October 22nd “Virtual Hill Visits.” Participants are encouraged to schedule meetings with their federal delegations to discuss important youth justice issues. NJJN will provide information/training on pending federal legislation and materials.

To register for workshops, please visit https://www.tfaforms.com/4926781.

  • The Texas Network of Youth Services is hosting a Town Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 19th from 3:00-4:00 PM CDT where they will “explore how youth-serving providers can prevent justice involvement and best support young people involved in the juvenile justice system.” For information and to RSVP, please visit http://tnoys.org/events/.
  • Support legislation aimed at reinvesting in America’s Youth. As part of his Fiscal Year 2022 budget, President Biden proposed $800 million for juvenile justice and youth reentry programs. If passed, this would be the highest allocation in the history of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection Act.[3] Contact your Members of Congress and demand they pass a budget that adequately addresses the needs of our children.

Now more than ever, we must make our voices heard to protect and advocate for our children. Please join us during this #YJAM to do just that.

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/09/30/a-proclamation-on-national-youth-justice-action-month-2021/

[2] https://www.tfaforms.com/4926781

[3] https://www.juvjustice.org/blog/1339