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.

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

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