Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NY Times: Stop the "Rush to Criminalize Children"

Thanks to UNLV Prof. Bill Bush for pointing me to this editorial in The New York Times, "Raising Children Behind Bars," depicting a national trend that accurately describes what's happened here in Texas. The efforts:
to remake often barbaric juvenile justice systems, ... [u]nfortunately, ... have been steadily rolled back since the 1990s when states began sending ever larger numbers of juveniles to adult jails — where they face a high risk of being battered, raped or pushed to suicide.
The Times called it "incredible" that kids as young as ten were sent to youth prisons, and that's legally possible in Texas, but not common - the number of ten year olds in TYC is usually in the low-single digits or sometimes zero, depending on when you check.

Twenty-five years ago all youth offenders in Texas were handled through county jails, just like anyone else who's arrested. However on this Texas deserves credit. Now, all 254 counties have somewhere to take juvenile offenders (though for the most remote rural counties that means a contract bed in a county more than 100 miles away). It sounds like from the Times editorial that's not the case in many other places.

If we are to believe the Times' estimate that "as many as 150,000 young people under the age of 18 are incarcerated in adult jails in any given year," I'll bet relatively few of those (except perhaps some 17 year olds) are in Texas.

As the national paper of record, the Times lays the blame for expanding juvenile prisons at Congress' feet:
The rush to criminalize children has set the country on a dangerous path. Congress must now reshape the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act so that it provides the states with the money and the expertise they need to develop more enlightened juvenile justice policies. For starters, it should rewrite the law to prohibit the confinement of children in adult jails.
Perhaps the JJDPA played a role, but in Texas our own pols bear most responsibility for the biennial expansion of newly criminalized or more harshly punished juvenile and adult conduct. After all, this is a state where some officials think a sixth grade girl writing "I Love Alex" on a bathroom wall deserves felony charges.

Changing federal law will help, but Texas' own state law is the main source of TYC's growth in the past 15 years, just like the ongoing decline in Texas' youth inmate population similarly results from recent changes in state law and agency policy.


Anonymous said...

To America:

I right this letter from behind the walls of an 8 by 12ft. solitary cell for 2 1/2 years now for a murder I did not commit. I cry out to any and all that will listen, and have the authority to prevent other young men, and women like myself, from being in this situation!!!!!!!! At the age of 17, I was certified to stand trial and be sentenced as an adult. (Convicted with no DNA or gun prints the one witness against me lied and was impeached). I was transferred to the Adult Criminal Justice System of Texas, convicted by a jury twice my age and sentenced to 30 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

My story is just one of thousands across the country. Children are being processed to the adult system throughout our great Nation on a daily basis. The majority of these children are children of color and come from the Ghettos and Barrios low income neighborhoods, and poverty stricken areas. Many of these kids have potential, are extremely talented, smart, and intelligent. If only given the opportunity given the proper rehabilitation and training could become productive members of society. The youth of today is our future. Placing these youth into environments where violence, hatred, and racism Reign Supreme will only further distort their still growing minds. Upon entering the system many act out, and join gangs out of fear, or wanting to be accepted by their newly found adult peers. The potential and intelligence these kids have is wasted on the negative that surrounds them. They become products of their environment, and all hope and rehabilitation of ever leading a successful and productive life is lost behind the concrete and steel walls which hold them captive. Many will one day return to society and to your communities! but upon release they only terrorize, and victimize all in their paths due to the abuse from within until one day returning to prison for the same or more heinous offenses than before. The cruel and relentless cycle continues............

For many it's too late, but for many more it could possibly be prevented. I hope and pray that these words do not fall on blind eyes or deaf ears. It is a very real and serious problem that has affected many, and will continue to affect all of us in the future. If our future and the life support of our great Nation lies in the hands of our youth, then some serious consideration should be put into the certification and transfer of kids into the adult system!


Juan Manuel Albarado #1452106
13055 FM 3522
Abilene, Texas 79601

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the process of certifying juveniles to stand trial as adults.

It seems to me that an individual is either of age or not of age.

It is always good tho hear from someone who is actually in the system

Anonymous said...

Must be hard to get a computer inside that cell. Prison has changed since I was there.

Anonymous said...

My son Juan Manuel Albarado sends me many letters and poems to post all over the internet, no he does not have a computer in his cell BUT inmates do have the right to use a computer to correspond with their Attorney.

Anita Guajardo

Anonymous said...

So, the NYT is the national paper of record? Hmmm, and I believe in the tooth fairy. I would never have thought in a million years that you, Grits, would say their editorials are typically unbiased. :)

Anonymous said...

Convict Juan go to your house after you pick up the trash.

Anonymous said...

One more thing Juan.I'll check your TDC # to see if your on the up and up.Does the Writ Room know your posting on Grits,this is not legal work.

Anonymous said...

Say Anonomous do you not know how to read I, his mother post for him that is a FACT but I have to much work to deal with say what you want hate all you want I just hope you or one of your loved ones is never ever effected in any way so you stay perfect and righteous walk the line.

Anonymous said...

10:20 is obviously another TDCJ dumbass. We've seen enough of them already.

Anonymous said...

Editorials by definition are not supposed to be "unbiased."

Their entire purpose is to convince the reader of a point of view.

Disagree with the editorial but at least take on its evidence with facts of your own. Dismissing it as "biased" may feel good but doesn't really mean much in the long run.

The FACT is that the trend over the last 10-15 years of rushing juvie offenders into adult courts and adult prisons is now being matched by the growth of prison-like features even in juvie facilities. For Exhibit A, see TYC since about June.

If it continues, at some point Texas may as well just disband its juvenile system altogether and merge it with the prison system. The two are fast becoming indistinguishable.

Why even have a juvenile system? Seriously, I'd love to hear a reason from the defenders of "whip that ass" and spray-first, who seem to be posting on this site with more frequency. Is there any reason to separate juveniles from adults, or to offer them a rehab program of any kind? If not, why not?

Who is really surrendering their humanity in this situation - the offender or the one who guards him?


Anonymous said...

10:20~ You apparently have never had a child, or loved one in TDCJ. You have no idea what WE go thru on a daily basis. Show "some" compassion for the rest of us. Show us that you are not the neanderthal we all think you are.

Anonymous said...

If they're from TDCJ, there's a good chance they're a neandrethal.