Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Raise-the-age bill solves practical problem for Sheriffs

And here we see why the Sheriffs Association of Texas last session supported the Raise-the-Age legislation to treat 17-year old defendants as juveniles, like the feds and most of the rest of the country, instead of adults. According to the Houston Chronicle (July 1), "Stuck in limbo: Feds say jails need separate housing for youngest inmates":
The Harris County Sheriff's Office has run afoul of a federal law aimed at reducing sexual assaults in jails, leaving 17-year-old inmates with virtually no place to go while awaiting trial in adult court.

The county's jail doesn't have room in its overcrowded facility to carve out a separate space for inmates under 18, who must be housed separately from older inmates under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Efforts to transfer the youthful offenders to other counties have fallen through, officials said.
"We're challenged with the space we have now," Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman acknowledged in a recent interview.

Jails are facing similar problems across Texas and in six other states, where 17-year-olds are considered adults in the criminal justice system. Federal law and the remaining states consider 18 to be the age of adulthood.

And while it's a logistical challenge for Texas jails, experts say it has serious, real-world consequences for youthful offenders.

"Seventeen-year-olds are really at risk in adult facilities; it's not the right place for them," said Michele Deitch, an expert on Texas jail issues and lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin.

"They're at risk of physical sexual assault, mental health issues, suicide - much higher rates of all of those things in adult facilities," she said.
Shifting 17-year olds to the juvenile system would not only relieve county jail classification conundrums, it would reduce adult incarceration levels, shifting thousands of cases out of the adult system. Moreover, the youth would be treated in a juvenile system that's less reliant on incarceration and with more access to treatment and rehabilitative resources than adult prisons.

If raise-the-age happens next year, it will be because the Lege acquiesces to pragmatic concerns like those expressed by the Sheriffs Association, which usually opposes decarceration reforms. But that happy turn of events doesn't change the fact that, from a normative perspective, it's also the right thing to do. It's always a pleasant surprise when those things align.


Anonymous said...

The answer is for the Sheriffs to protect all their inmates. If 17 year olds are pushed into the juvenile system this will also include 18 year old offenders. Juvenile detention centers, that are more costly to operate, will have to separate their younger and more vulnerable persons from older more dangerous detainees. Either way safety is paramount and whether in the adult or juvenile system to achieve maximum safety you have to separate.
Now should we talk about developmental issues? Many 17 and 18 year old teens are ready to get out on their own. They don't want one more year to be micromanaged by their parents and the juvenile court.

Anonymous said...

I am a Chief Juvenile Probation Officer who supports Raise the Age because I think it is the right the to do for those 17 year old youths. But please consider 2 things:

(1) Raise the Age on the opposite end. Those 10 and 11 year old kids who come to our system are invariably acting out due to complex trauma and need services and interventions other than those found in the justice system, and
(2) Since the merger of county probation (TJPC) and TYC county probation is getting the short end of the stick. The "Regionalization" legislation enacted last session is having a negative impact on local departments and TJJD is so focused on state institutions that local probation has no voice in the legislative process. Raise the Age will require more, not less, resources at the local level and more focus at the state level on supporting local probation departments.

Anonymous said...

While Raise The Age may be socially acceptable to some it would be devastating in reality to a already taxed juvenile justice system. Most 17 year olds in the system are very mature streetwise and placing them in a setting around 10,11,12,13 year olds will only serve to bring the younger level of criminal sophistication up . Economically this extra age group would burden the financial capacity of the juvenile justice system at the county level who are already suffering more budget cuts. This movement does not take into consideration the impact to the regionalization and closer to home movement that is taxing the county probation system already, not to mention the inevitable upswing in commitments to state facilities. Why try to fix something that isn't broke just to say it feels good.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 7/08/2016 4:49PM. To say that RTA advocates are not considering the cost is a gross underestimation of the work that they do.. As Grits noted, County jails are struggling to keep in compliance with "sight and sound" isolation for 17 year olds being held in their facilities. This costs many counties thousands of dollars a week to uphold, others are failing compliance because they cannot separate out this age group.

To say that this system is not broken is also failing to understand what happens to these kids when they are involved with the adult system. Again, as grits noted, 17 year olds report physical and sexual violence at an alarming rate when housed with adults, they are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those housed at juvenile facilities and due to "sight and sound" restrictions they often spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

To your other point of housing 17 year olds with 10, 11, 12, and 13 year olds. They already are. There are kids held at TJJD up until the age of 19. This would not drastically change their population. Instead of being concerned about older kids being housed with younger kids, maybe we should consider why 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds are being referred to TJJD facilities in the first place. If you are concerned for the population, perhaps you should support raising the lower age of juvenile commitment.

Anonymous said...

To 12:05 Raise the Age of Referrals To Probation from 10 to 12. We do not need to have them in local detention facilities along with 17 year old juveniles.

Anonymous said...

It's all a bunch of feel good stuff. Show me the actual RECENT study that justifies the numbers about violence. Show me a cost comparison of jail cost vs juvenile cost. Show me data that PREA cost less at the juvenile level than adult. All the reports compiled out there by advocacy groups that are in FAVOR of RTA paint a doom and gloom picture. Stats can be interpreted to mean whatever the presenter wants them to say.
While raising the lower age spectrum sounds good reality is CPS is a broken mess and the younger age age population are the most likely to respond to services.

Anonymous said...

Moving 17 year olds to the juvenile system will be problematic. 17 year olds who have aged through the juvenile system have in some cases exhausted all the resources in the community. Because of this services are few and far between. Juvenile Departments will have to tap into some adult resources for services. Juvenile detention centers will have to increase staffing and open alternative housing units for these young people. The cost to county in my opinion is a wash. What some people have not come to grips with if there is no funding for the increase services for all juvenile offenders, the adult system will eventually get these youth. Service providers are requesting more money for treatment of the youth who have more severe needs than what counties and the state are willing to pay.