Texas’ youth prison system is something of a mess. There have been repeated issues of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and other forms of misconduct. They’re understaffed and often lock the kids up for 23 hours daily.
In January, the Texas Legislature tried to decide what to do about it.
Lawmakers opted to build three state-run juvenile prisons and passed a provision requiring the transfer of some teenagers from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department into the adult prison system. The budget also gives a boost to local juvenile probation and diversion programs.
Texas has been on a steady trend of shrinking the imprisoned youth population. Where once there were 5,000 or so imprisoned juveniles, now there are less than 600. Yet part of that trend involves sending more teens to the adult justice system.
As it stands, TJJD may already request a transfer for any determinate-sentenced youth any time after they turn 16.
Often, the teens diverted to the adult system have severe mental health problems, and so are harder for TJJD to manage.
In short, yes, more Houston youth could go to adult prisons. In Texas, a child may be transferred to adult court when they are 15. A 14-year-old accused of a serious felony may also be transferred to adult court. A 17-year-old automatically faces adult criminal court in Texas. Once a child is tried as an adult, any other crime they are charged with will subsequently be tried in adult court. In addition, those tried as an adult will not be eligible to have their records expunged the way those tried as juveniles can.
Once a child is sent to adult court, there’s no appeal until their case has been tried in adult court.
Here in Harris County, the assessment to fast-track a juvenile to adult court is a one-page, fill-in-the-blank document with no individual consideration. 93% of requested juvenile certifications are granted.
If your child has been charged with a crime, you must hire a criminal defense attorney to protect them. An overburdened public defender isn’t able to help to the degree your child may require.
A good private lawyer could see your child acquitted. Failing that, a private criminal defense lawyer can push for your child to enter programs closer to home, programs here in Houston that keep your child out of jail.
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