No Second Chances Or No Chance At All

No Second Chances or No Chances At All

On Monday, March 22, Indiana legislatures conducted the second reading of a bill that would restore prosecutorial discretion to try 16 and 17-year-old children in adult court for their second gun crime.[1]  Representative Wendy McNamara authored the bill in response to an Indiana Supreme Court decision that cast doubt on the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to hear cases in which teenagers are charged with dangerous possession of a firearm.[2]  According to representative McNamara, the bill merely reinforces the status quo by “putting back into law what has currently been in practice for as long as I can know. . . .”  At first blush, it might seem hard to argue with Committee Chairman Senator Mike Young’s assertion that “kids with guns do dangerous things, and we gave them one break, and on the second one we’re going to send them to adult court.”  Such an assertion seems to follow a common belief held by many that kids who do adult crimes should do adult time.

The problem is this is not an adult crime.  In fact, Indiana’s dangerous possession statute “is clear and applies only to children; an adult cannot commit dangerous possession of a firearm.”[3] If IN HB1256 passes, it would be just another example of criminalizing youth, prioritizing the perception of public safety over education and development.  What’s more, another piece of legislation, IN HB 1369, which passed the House by 65-31 vote, would eliminate the license requirement to carry a handgun in Indiana despite the $5.3 million per year the license raises and fears the bill would make police officers and the general public less safe.[4]

So, what’s really going on here?  Does a dangerous possession statute like Indiana’s betray a presumption of dangerousness in youth?  Is the solution to remove kids from their dangerous homes and place them in prisons?  Will waiving a teen gun offender to adult court amount to a denial of services and individualized treatment by placing them on probation or community correction?  And why in the world would we subject a child to the adult criminal justice system for conduct that is not criminal behavior? As I ponder these questions, I can’t help but think this is just another example of the system working as it was designed to, an example of what Alec Karakatsanis would characterize as people in power making very important choices about what is and is not a crime for very particular racial and political purposes.[5]

In my view, it is absurd to deprive a person of their childhood because they made the same mistake twice – which in and of itself seems to indicate a lack of mature reasoning.  It is absurd to “discipline” teenagers in a way that does not teach them about the rights and responsibilities they will have as adults.  But this seems to be the criminal “justice” system working as it was designed.  When 83% of the young offenders being sent directly to adult court on firearms charges are children of color, it seems clear that proponents of the bill are indeed just trying to maintain the status quo of controlling poor people and people of color.  Because, while a “lawful citizen in the state of Indiana” should have the right to protect themselves without state interference, children – particularly children of color – are not afforded the same right.  Imagine, for instance, white, female, country singer, Miranda Lambert said that after receiving threats, she carries a weapon for self-protection.[6]  That is, no doubt, her right and many might celebrate her for doing so.  However, children who grow up in marginalized communities, which inevitably become designated as “high crime areas” to justify infringements on other constitutional rights such as the 4th Amendment, may start carrying a gun for protection.  Driven by the same trauma as a “lawful citizen,” these children are thrown in jail, labeled criminals, and deprived of hope for the future.

Although I have focused on Indiana, this is a nationwide problem.  For example, truancy laws across the country subject children to the “justice” system for conduct that would not be criminal if committed by an adult.  And while these laws may be enforced under the guise of public health and safety, in reality, it is just another way for the legal system to marginalize and subjugate children, preparing them to be disenfranchised and despondent adults.

[1] https://fox59.com/news/politics/indiana-senate-to-debate-bill-to-send-more-juveniles-to-adult-court/

[2] K.C.G. v. State, 156 N.E.3d 1281, 1282 (Ind. 2020)

[3] Id. at 1283.

[4] https://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2021/02/22/indiana-general-assembly-house-votes-eliminate-handgun-license/6765355002/

[5] https://www.texasobserver.org/alec-karakatsanis-usual-cruelty-criminal-justice-reform/

[6] https://tasteofcountry.com/miranda-lambert-admits-she-carries-a-weapon-for-protection/

 

Welcoming the 2013-14 Irene Merker Rosenberg Child Advocacy Scholars

The Center for Children, Law & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center is proud to welcome this year’s Irene Merker Rosenberg Child Advocacy Scholars. The new Scholars come from a wide range of backgrounds and will continue to advance the Center’s mission (including providing fresh content for this blog!).

Continuing (Second Year) Scholars:

AAllison2 115x115@1xllison Arterberry is a third year  student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2011 with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish. She has spent parts of her last two summers interning at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Currently, she is a Senior Articles Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law, the Secretary for the Labor & Employment Law Society as well as a member of the Career Development Student Advisory Board and the Association of Women in Law. Additionally, last year she was the Secretary for Aggie Law Society. Allison is most interested in child victim’s rights in the criminal system.

AAshley2 115x115@1xshley Pierce is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Houston Baptist University in 2010. While she was in college, she worked with a non-profit organization called Ambassadors for Christ that partnered at-risk youth with college students to serve as positive influences. During her first summer as a law student, Ashley worked in employment discrimination law with Bashen Corporation, in order to expand her horizons and see a completely different side of the legal world. During her second summer, she worked as a law clerk with Lilly, Newman & Van Ness, L.L.P., a family law firm. She will continue working there during her third year of law school. Ashley has always been passionate about helping children and families and she has a genuine interest in the intersection of psychology and the law. This year, she is looking forward to learning more about amicus work and she plans on focusing her research and writing on the “best interest” standard as it is applied to children.

Lisa2 115x115@1xLisa Steffek is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center.  Lisa completed her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Texas in Human Development and Family Sciences.  As an undergraduate, Lisa worked as a research assistant studying child attachment.  Lisa also worked for several years at The Settlement Home, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescent females.  Most of the girls at The Settlement Home had been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services, and Lisa worked with the girls to teach them life-skills and provided psychological treatment to prepare them for adulthood and the transition to foster homes.  Lisa also worked for six years in various academic capacities at the University of Texas, including an undergraduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate writing consultant.  Lisa has presented papers regarding human development at various academic conferences in the states and abroad, and has had her writing published in an international, academic journal.

New (First Year) Scholars:

Lauren2 115x115@1xLauren “Addie” Fisher is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center. Addie received her B.A. from Hamilton College and her Masters in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Texas at Brownsville. Before entering law school, she worked at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) where she provided legal services and “Know Your Rights” to detained immigrant children on the Texas-Mexico border. This summer she clerked with the Family Law Department of the Mexican Foreign Ministry in Mexico City. At UHLC, Addie is the President of the Public Interest Law Organization (PILO) and on the Houston Journal of Health Law Policy.

Esther2 115x115@1xEsther Kim is a second year  student at the University of Houston Law Center.  She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts with a focus in Chinese Language and Literature.  As an undergraduate, she worked one summer at the Citizens’ Committee for Children, New York, a child advocacy organization, where she developed an interest in children’s rights, community after-school resources, and immigration.  Prior to law school, she worked as a paralegal at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLP in New York City.  Additionally, Esther serves as treasurer of the UH Student Chapter of AIPN (Association of International Petroleum Negotiators).  Esther is most interested in adoptions and child neglect and abuse.

Megan2 115x115@1xMegan Mikutis is a second year  student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from the University of Houston – Clear Lake in 2012 with a B.A. in Literature. While obtaining her undergraduate degree, Megan tutored undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students in writing while working for the University of Houston – Clear Lake Writing Center. This summer, Megan worked for the Center for Children, Law, and Policy and had the opportunity to compose a policy statement discussing the disproportionate representation of Limited English Proficient students in special education. Currently, Megan serves as the President of the Student Bar Association as well as a member of the Hispanic Law Student Association. Megan is most interested in education and special education issues.

Sarah2 115x115@1xSarah Muckleroy is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a B.A. in Media Studies and Art History. This past summer she interned for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office-Juvenile Division. Sarah has worked for adult criminal defense attorneys, but her main interest is juvenile delinquency.

 

Brandon2 115x115@1xBrandon Schrecengost is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center.  He graduated with his Bachelors degree in Anthropology from the University of Houston in 2007.  After graduation, Brandon taught science and music at Sharpstown Middle School in Houston ISD.  He began working as an intern with the Center for children Law and Policy this summer and is currently the treasurer of the International Law Society at UHLC. Brandon’s interest in how legal policy effects children the world over, particularly in the realm of education, continues to inform his work.

Tracey2 115x115@1xTracey Toll is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center.  She attended undergraduate school at Butler University and received a B.F.A., cum laude, with High Honors in Dance Performance.  After graduating, Tracey performed with Ballet Austin for three years.  During that time, she participated in Ballet Austin’s program in which dancers performed and taught movement to at-risk children at schools throughout the Austin area.  After leaving Ballet Austin, Tracey worked as a paralegal practicing insurance defense and product liability defense, which led to her interest in attending law school.  Since starting law school, Tracey has interned for two federal judges at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and she spent the past summer working as a Summer Associate with a law firm specializing in civil litigation in areas such as products liability, commercial litigation, labor and employment, and insurance coverage.  Additionally, she is a member of the Houston Journal of Health Law and Policy.  Tracey looks forward to the opportunity to work in the area of children’s rights and to advocate for children.

Alexandra2 115x115@1xAlex Wolf is a second year law student at the University of Houston Law Center.  In 2010, she received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Prior to attending law school, Alex worked as a paralegal at the Lanier Law Firm’s Los Angeles office.  During college, Alex interned for Covenant House Texas, a shelter for at-risk youth as well as for Conscious Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger for children and adults alike.  Alex also served as an undergraduate research assistant analyzing deviant and suicidal tendencies and behaviors.  This summer, Alex worked as a law clerk for Berg & Androphy, a firm specializing in white-collar defense and qui tam actions.  Alex is on the Houston Journal of International Law and serves as secretary for the Immigration and Human Rights Law Society.

Center for Children, Law & Policy Welcomes Two New Staff Members

Please join the Center for Children, Law & Policy at the University of Houston Law Center in welcoming two new members of the Center’s team! Shiloh and Alex are both recent graduates of the University of Houston Law Center and both were Irene Merker Rosenberg Scholars during their time in law school. Both Shiloh and Alex will continue their fantastic work to further develop and advance the Center’s mission.

Shiloh2 115x115@1xShiloh Carter
UHLC Graduate Public Interest Fellow
J.D., University of Houston Law Center
B.S.,  University of Texas at Austin

Shiloh Carter is working as a Graduate Fellow for the Center for Children, Law, & Policy. Prior to law school, Shiloh received her bachelor degree in Communications Sciences and Disorders from the University of Texas. As an undergraduate, she worked with children with special needs.

During law school, Shiloh worked as a scholar for the Center for Children, Law, & Policy and completed internships with Kids In Need of a Defense (KIND) and the Crimes Against Children Section of the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office. In addition, Shiloh volunteers with Child Advocates as a court appointed special advocate and has completed four cases. She has received numerous awards for her dedication to public interest work including the Center for Children, Law, & Policy Napoleon Beazley Defender Award 2013, the University of Houston Law Center Distinguished Service Award 2013, the Ann Dinsmore Forman Memorial Child Advocacy Award 2012, and the Robert Allen Memorial Student Excellence Award 2012.

Alex2 115x115@1xAlex Hunt
Yale & Irene Merker Rosenberg Graduate Fellow
J.D., University of Houston Law Center
B.A.,  University of Texas at Austin

Alex Hunt is a Yale & Irene Rosenberg Graduate Fellow at the Center for Children, Law & Policy. Alex graduated from the University of Texas in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in government. Before entering law school, he taught middle school math at YES Prep  Southwest in Houston  with Teach For America. In 2010, he received New Leaders’ EPIC Spotlight Teacher Award, a national award for teachers with outstanding student growth.

Alex graduated cum laude from the University of Houston Law Center in May 2013. During law school, Alex was Casenotes & Comments Editor for the Houston Journal of International Law, interned for both state and federal judges, and  served as Vice President of the Health Law Organization (HLO). In addition, Alex has received the Irving J. Weiner Memorial Scholarship Award (for a year of outstanding work in the UH Law Center Legal Clinic), the Napoleon Beazley Defender Award (for outstanding work on behalf of children), the Ann Dinsmore Forman Memorial Child Advocacy Award, the Mont P. Hoyt Memorial Writing Award for an Outstanding Comment on a Topic in International Law, and he was a finalist for Texas Access to Justice’s Law Student Pro Bono Award.