Harris County Juvenile Centers 2021 Winter Holiday Surprise

Image of some of the gifts that were donated for the Juvenile Centers in Harris County.

The holidays should be a wonderous time for children. But this year, thousands of children across the United States will spend the holidays behind bars and in residential facilities away from their families and loved ones. With the Covid pandemic continuing to rage on, it has become even more difficult for families to connect with their kids currently housed behind bars.

While we know it’s no replacement for enjoying the holiday season with loved ones outside of the confines of these facility walls, the students at the University of Houston Law Center have continued their tradition of collecting gifts to donate to the kids with the hope of making their holiday season a little brighter. This year, we’re pleased to report that with the help of many generous donations, we were able to meet out fundraising goal. This coming week, we will be delivering donations to the over 200 children housed at the Harris County Detention Center, Leadership Academy, and Youth Village. Notably, we were able to donate stockings that the kids will be able to decorate and which the staff will fill with goodies (this was a big hit last year). Some of the stocking stuffers will include body wash, deodorant, playing cards, candy, granola bars and other snacks, combs, hand sanitizers, lip balm, and holiday socks. Additionally, we’ve assembled toiletry kits for some of the kids that will be released and sent home as well as board games that can be played to help pass the time.

We couldn’t have done this without the help of our extended community of generous donors. Happy Holidays to all!

Teaching Intro to Juvenile Law in Street Law

 

Being a Street Law instructor involves teaching teenage youth. This is a group of people whose laws if charged as a juvenile is separate from adult law. Many may not know, where some may. Regardless of the importance of teaching the youth about the processes and procedures of their “separate” laws, typically based on policy or precedent, can be important to developing their advocacy skills.

An important aspect to teach the students in Street Law is about representation by a lawyer for a juvenile defender. First and foremost, if ever questioned by a police officer when being detained for a possible crime or suspect to one ask for representation. Typically, when telling the students about asking for a lawyer in the street law course many students are curious to know when to know to ask for a lawyer when being questioned by an officer. The response to this, is the person who is being questioned needs to ask the officer, “am I free to leave?” If the officer responds no, then that is when you may ask for a lawyer.

This typically leads to Miranda Warnings and students’ rights at school. To be able to teach Miranda is very important in knowing one’s rights when being questioned by law enforcement. When teaching the students about Miranda Warnings, usually the lesson will involve the difference between casual conversation, reasonable suspicion, and probable cause. There are many activities done with the students during this lesson to understand the actions that lead to custody and know when Miranda Warnings should be read to them.

When discussing how to get representation, an important policy to bring up with the students from Texas is the Fair Defense Act which “requires each county’s juvenile board to adopt a plan for the appointment of counsel to youth whose families are unable to afford counsel and sets out basic guidelines for the appointment process.” To know that there is a strong possibility of help when coming from a low-income or socioeconomic background can be reassuring with getting representation.

Another important aspect of juvenile defense that can be taught in Street Law is about representation when it comes to mental health disorders. The importance has to do with the rehabilitation of the juvenile towards their actions if they are the culprit of their alleged crime. It is important that the juvenile defense lawyer gets this information and if the juvenile defender fails to ask, it is important for the juvenile to tell the lawyer. This may be a step that is possibly forgotten from time to time and is imperative to help the charged juvenile. When there is a possibility that the charged juvenile has a mental health disorder, once it is told to the lawyer then it may be important to get an evaluation. The outcome of this evaluation will help the court make a better decision towards the charged juveniles’ well-being and the juvenile’s rehabilitation efforts if convicted of the crime.

Juvenile Law is very broad and can be applicable in many situations for teenagers and youth. For them to understand their basic constitutional rights can help in many different situations. Teaching this lesson will empower youth to advocate for themselves in many situations.

What Street Law Means to me

Street law is a time to learn

To gain lawful information, that the mind earns

To learn what to do, and what not to do when a police officer turns

You’ll be more prepared with your legal knowledge being firm

 

Street law is like music

The lesson being taught provide acoustics

While every question being asked is important and not stupid

A shot to love the law like an arrow from cupid

 

Street law is a form of art

You’ll need the easel, paint, and brush from the start

It might have its bumps like riding a bumper cart

But once it starts to settle, it’ll start sounding like Mozart

 

Street law is needed

For every child and others who preceded

So, once you come across the law you won’t be stampeded

You’ll show the world that you succeeded

 

Street law is great

The scholars in the course are brighter than shiny golden gates

The scholar’s creativity and pose are like a professional figure skate

After the end of the course, they achieve so much, that it’s time to celebrate