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

Day 2 of the 13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference

It’s the second day of the 13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference here at the University of Houston Law Center! Mr. Larry McClaugherty, a pharmacist and owner at McClaugherty Consulting Services opened the conference with a discussion on psychotropic medications and children.  Next, Professors Jill Campbell and Susham Modi, clinical supervising attorneys for the Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston Law Center, will follow with a presentation on immigration and juvenile law.  Professor Campbell has conducted various outreach programs throughout the Houston area on the subject of immigrant victims of crime and human trafficking, including training programs with women’s crisis centers, law enforcement agencies, and victims’ services organizations.  Prior to beginning at the University of Houston Law Center, Professor Modi worked as an advocate attorney at Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program.  During lunch, the Center’s own Sarah Muckleroy, a recent graduate of the law center, will be given the Napoleon Beazley Defender Award.  This award recognizes the efforts of a graduating law student who is committed to working on behalf of the defense of children in the southwest region of the United States.  After lunch, Ms. Kim Dvorchak, executive director of the Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, will speak about legislative and case law updates.  Professor Ellen Marrus and Ms. Chris Phillis, director of the Maricopa County Public Advocate, will follow with an interactive game of ethics jeopardy.  Ms. Sarah Guidry, executive director of the Earl Carl Institute at Texas Southern University and Ms. Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, will present on defending against school-based misdemeanors.  Honorable Michael Schneider of the 315th juvenile district court in Harris County and Dr. Olivia McGill will speak about specialty courts, the what, why, who, and how?

13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference

This morning marked the start of the 13th Annual Zealous Advocacy Conference presented by the Center for Children, Law and Policy at the University of Houston Law Center and the Southwest Regional Juvenile Defender Center.  Nearly 100 attorneys from all across the country involved with and interested in juvenile justice have come to participate in the conference. Kicking off the two-day conference was the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Mr. Bart Lubow, who reviewed the Casey Foundation’s JDAI program in Harris County and around the nation. Gwyneth Rost, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, followed Mr. Lubow with a presentation on linguistics and juvenile defense, focusing on language development and its effect on children and adolescents.  After lunch, Professor Ellen Marrus, Ms. Chris Phillis, Director of the Maricopa County Public Advocate, and Ms. Pamela Vickrey of the Utah Juvenile Defender Attorneys, will lead a session on the National Juvenile Defender Center’s Juvenile Training Immersion Program, Multi-Systemic Advocacy: Family, School, and State Agencies.  Next, Professor Malikah Marrus from Missouri State University will present on adolescent development and juvenile defense. Mid-afternoon presentations involve breakout sessions where conference participants will be able to choose between one of three discussions including a continuation of the NJDC’s Juvenile Training Immersion Program, Best Practices for Moving out of Solitary and Removing Shackles, and Linguistics and Juvenile Defense.  Honorable Judge Angela Ellis of the 315th Juvenile District Court in Harris County and Ms. Anna Stool of the Law Offices of Anna Stool will finish up day one with a discussion of the Ethics of Working with Crossover Youth.