Monday’s Children and the Law Roundup

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Texas Lawmaker Proposes Restriction of Solitary Confinement for Juveniles, Juvenile Justice Exchange Forum

Legislators in Texas heard a proposal Tuesday from Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte that would limit solitary confinement throughout the state’s juvenile detention facilities, the Associated Press reports.

“You might think that nobody puts a kid in seclusion for more than 48 hours,” Van de Putte told the Associated Press. “But it happens.”

The proposed bill would restrict solitary confinement to just four hours, with exceptions for several “major rule violations,” which include assault and attempts at escape.

According to state records, there were more than 35,000 incidents in 2012 in which juveniles in Texas facilities were placed in solitary confinement. Currently, counties in Texas, with very little oversight from the state’s Juvenile Justice Department, are allowed to establish their own definitions of what constitutes severe rule violations; in some facilities, youths are placed in confinement for activities such as note passing.

While several mental health and civil rights advocates have shown support for the legislation, some juvenile justice officials defended the use of solitary confinement, citing the practice as a vital disciplinary procedure.

During questioning by Van de Putte, Guadalupe County Detention Services Manager Paul Smith said horseplay was a violation severe enough to warrant placement in isolation.

“It can be dangerous,” he said, stating that it could result in an escalated conflict and possibly a fight between inmates.

Texas state Senate Criminal Justice Committee chairman John Whitmire said he also had concerns about the proposed legislation.

“Some of the dudes that they’re dealing with are some really dangerous, disturbed young people,” he said, according to the AP report.

Law Maker’s Take on Texas Truancy Laws, The New York Times

SAN ANTONIO — When she can focus on class, Rachel Hebert thrives as a student in the Northside Independent School District here. But Rachel, 17, has cerebral palsy, and medical complications often keep her from getting to school.

When she was accused of truancy and summoned to a municipal court in October, her family was shocked. Elizabeth Hebert, her mother, was charged as a ”parent contributing to nonattendance.” If they had failed to show up for court, both could have been arrested. The case was dropped after their lawyer sought the release of Rachel’s attendance records.

”She’s not truant. She’s not shopping and running around in the streets,” Ms. Hebert said of her daughter. ”I don’t feel like it’s the school’s fault. The regulations need to change.” Click for full article.

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