Three Reasons Why Texas Lawmakers Should Raise the Age

 

In Texas, a 17-year-old that is arrested is automatically sent to the adult criminal justice system. This is done regardless of how minor the offense is. In fact, the majority of these youth are arrested for non-violent and misdemeanor crimes.

Texans have advocated for raising the age that a child can be prosecuted as an adult for years. Nonetheless, Texas remains one of only three states left that treats these teens as adults for Criminal Justice Purposes. While this is long overdue, legislators must raise the age this session.

The Adult Criminal Justice System is no place for 17-Year-old Youth.

Adult facilities and services are not equipped for the needs of youth. Juvenile systems focus more on rehabilitative care as compared to adult facilities. It is often the case that treatment programs for adults don’t allow 17-year-old in their program.  Additionally, youth are at an increased risk of violence and sexual assault. PREA, the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, requires jails to separate children in their care from adults. Anyone under the age of 18 must be separated by sight and sound. This can lead to 17-year-olds being held in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day. It is also very costly for county jails to comply with PREA.

Youth involved in the adult criminal system receive worse outcomes than their youth peers.

Youth involved in the adult criminal system are more likely to recidivate. Youth who are transferred from the juvenile court system to the adult criminal system are approximately 34% more likely than youth in the juvenile court system to be re-arrested for violent or other crimes. And unlike in the juvenile system, youth are given adult criminal records. This adversely impacts their chances of obtaining employment, obtaining housing, furthering their education, and serving in the military.

The best time to make this change is now!

Due to the COVID pandemic, juvenile facility populations are at an all-time low. Even before the pandemic, these facilities were projected to be at a record low. The juvenile state residential population is projected to decrease 2.7 percent per year for the next 5 years. During the projected period,  these facilities will remain 44.7 percent below operating capacity. This, combined with a 65 percent decline of the arrest of 17-year-olds, creates capacity and opportunity to raise the age.[1]

Bills that will raise the age have already been filed. Texas should join the other 47 states that have already chosen to prioritize helping children. The 87th Texas Legislatures must raise the age.

Find more information on Raising the Age in Texas here.

 

[1] Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), The Texas Crime Report for 2019 –Texas Arrest Data, https://www.dps.texas.gov/administration/crime_records/pages/crimestatistics.htm

Raising the Age in Michigan

Starting October 2021, 18 will be the minimum age in Michigan for prosecutions in the adult criminal court system.  Michigan now joins the strong majority of states who set their minimum age at 18 years old. The bipartisan bill passed both the house and the senate before being signed by Governor Whitmore (D).  The bill’s sponsors were clear: “Why are we calling them a child for child support services, but an adult for criminal purposes? Kinda doesn’t make sense,” said Republican Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) .  His Democratic cohort agreed and pointed out the the money was better spent in education and wraparound services to help in prevention: “That’s the forefront of what we need to do is educate individuals, not lock them up and throw away the key.”

Earlier this year, Louisiana implemented their 2016 policy of keeping 17 year olds accused of non-violent crimes in youth system.  “17-year-olds are children. We define them as children in almost every other way in the law, and I think most parents would tell you their 17-year-olds are definitely still kids,” Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights policy director Rachel Gassert said. “They aren’t allowed to vote, buy cigarettes, or enlist in the military. We draw the line at 18 for so many other things that it doesn’t make sense for them to be automatically treated as adults in the justice system.”

To learn more about each state’s age limits and other critical components regarding their systems, visit https://njdc.info/practice-policy-resources/state-profiles/

Weekly Roundup (October 8, 2019)

DOES ABUSE LEAD TO INCARCERATION FOR GIRLS? USUALLY YES

Recently a trial judge in Washington state’s King County Superior Court discussed his three years presiding in juvenile court. Roger Rogoff described this time as “the most emotionally-charged, inspiring and terrifying of my 25-year legal career,” citing the complicated and conflicting nature of the juvenile justice system as well as the tension, apprehension and nuances of decision-making in this environment.

While Rogoff repeats a common plea for more resources for juvenile justice, he also argues a powerful case for needing more expertise, support and thoughtful consideration.

Read more. . . 

 

JUVENILE JUSTICE: HOW MARYLAND BREAKS THE CYCLE OF DETENTION WITH FAMILY SUPPORT

Over the last two decades, states across the U.S. — including Maryland — have shifted their approach to juvenile justice.

In 2018, the total number of juvenile detention admissions on the lower Eastern Shore dropped 12 percent from the previous year, according to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.

While there are many factors that may have contributed to the intake decline, the department’s community-based treatment programs likely played a role. These services have been scientifically proven to reduce recidivism rates at a fraction of the cost of treating a juvenile inside a detention facility.

The push for community-based treatment for Maryland juveniles came to the forefront in 2014 when the state announced it had set aside $225 million to build three new juvenile detention facilities.

Read more. . . 

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES JUVENILE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OVER SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

Two 13-year-olds and a 16-year-old sued the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice on Thursday, alleging their health and well-being were put in danger when the state placed them in solitary confinement.

Lawyers representing the three minors in the federal lawsuit are seeking to overturn an agency policy that they contend allows juveniles to be placed in isolation with “no meaningful social interaction, environmental stimulation, outdoor recreation, schooling or property.”

Read more. . .