“Raise the Age” Legislation Denied in Texas

Inmates wait to enter their dormatory at The Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit, a Texas Youth Commission facility in Marlin, Texas on Friday , March16, 2007.

High-profile legislation to raise the age for criminal responsibility in Texas from 17 to 18 was declared dead in the Senate in early May, as leaders rejected House overtures to pass the bill but delay its implementation until 2021.

Senate leaders said the estimated $35 million cost to implement the change and concerns that putting perhaps thousands of additional youths into the state’s already overburdened juvenile system led them to opt instead for a two-year study as a prelude to enacting the change when the Legislature returns in 2019.

“The concept has merit, but the votes are not there on the Senate floor to do it this year,” said Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and longtime chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “With all due respect to the House, their proposal did not have any funding in the budget they passed, and there was no plan on how to change the juvenile system to successfully accommodate the additional population of 17-year-olds.”

Texas’ age of adult responsibility has been at 17 since 1913. Texas is one of five states that treats 17-year-olds as adults in criminal cases, with New York having recently raised its age from 16 to 18. A dozen states have left that list in the past 10 years, and statistics show that many of them either overestimated the costs of raising the age or ended up paying nothing for the policy change.

Juvenile justice advocates of the change have said treating 17-year-olds as juveniles makes sense because their rehabilitation needs are similar to 16-year-olds in the juvenile justice system; the move would keep them safe from exploitation by older prisoners; and the likelihood they won’t re-offend would increase. It seems as though those advocates will have to wait until the study is complete and the House can come up with the money to make this proposed action a reality.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Weekly Roundup

Rapper Common Lobbies for Juvenile Justice

On Monday, August 21st, Common and other artists threw a concert to raise funds and awareness for juvenile justice reform in California.  “I believe it is my duty to lend my voice to the voiceless and stand with the men and women in prison who have been silenced for so long,” Common said in a statement. “We need a justice system that is a tool for rehabilitation rather than a weapon for punishment.” They hope to shed a light on bail reform initiatives, among others. You can read more about the concert here and here.

Logic’s Song 1-800-273-8255 Brings Awareness to Suicide Prevention

Another rapper is using their art form to help children and adults struggling with depression. Logic partnered with Alessia Cara and Khalid on the track titled “1-800-273-8255”, which just so happens to be the National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s number. The song discusses how difficult it can be to feel alone and discounted, suicidal even, but its main message is hope. Not only did the call center receive the 2nd most calls it ever has the day following the release, but calls are up 33%. This song not only brings hope to those struggling, but awareness to potential allies. Read more about it here and watch the emotional 7-minute music video here.

Congress Faces Child Healthcare Deadline

Federal funding for 9 million low- and middle-income children is set to expire at the end of September, setting up a crucial deadline for a Congress. The looming deadline for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been overshadowed by the GOP effort to repeal ObamaCare, and lawmakers left D.C. for the summer without addressing the issue. The stakes are high, and the uncertainty has states worried. The longer Congress waits to renew the program, the more likely it will be that they have to impose enrollment slowdowns or even cancel policies. You can read more about what is at stake for kids here.

Leading with Conviction

Prison Reform Organization Initiative – Apply Now

JustLeadershipUSA is an organization dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform and you can read more about their mission here. This organization uses advocacy campaigns, leadership training and member engagement to work towards this end goal.

JLUSA has created an initiative, entitled Leading with Conviction (LwC), that identifies community leaders who have been personally affected by incarceration and employing them to help drive policy change. LwC is a cohort based, 12-month opportunity for leaders from around the country that takes place both in-person and remotely. You can read more about the program here and here.

If you know anyone who might be a good candidate for this program, please pass along the information to them. The application deadline in September 15th and they can apply online using this link.