Thursday, January 29, 2015

House committee: Raise age of criminal culpability from 17-18

The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in its interim report (pdf) recommended raising the age of criminal culpability from 17 to 18 years old. What sorts of offenses are seventeen year olds committing in Texas?
Like teenagers in the juvenile system, 17-year-olds are typically arrested for non-violent, relatively minor offenses as demonstrated. In 2013, for example, 44% of all 17-year-olds arrested were arrested for larceny, marijuana possession, violating liquor or public drunkenness. Also, between 2012 and 2013, arrests of 17-year-olds dropped by 20 %, going from 32,981 arrested in 2012 to 26,274 arrested in 2013.
In all, "17-year-olds added up to about 3% of all adult arrests in 2013." So in the scheme of things we're talking about a significant but not monumental change. There's an excellent, in-depth discussion of this issue in the report that we'll come back to later when the legislation is heard and which is mandatory reading for those interested in the topic.

The committee also recommended expanding eligibility for expunction and shortening the waiting periods before people can apply for orders of expunction or non-disclosure. MORE: See an analysis of this section of the report from Bryan attorney Lane Thibodeaux.

They would expand regulation, modestly, of criminal history sales by the state. They would expand pretrial diversion and treatment programming for mentally ill defendants.

On graffiti, they suggested expanding abatement programs and raising the penalty thresholds to adjust for inflation.

They advocated reducing the number of criminal penalties outside the penal code, and expanding community supervision for state jail felonies, including implementation of "split sentencing" where a defendant is supervised on probation following a brief incarceration stint.

Grits may have more to say on these topics later when I've had a chance to read the report but for now I wanted to pass along the link. Read the full thing (pdf) for yourself.


Simran said...

Like I always say. No adult rights, no adult criminal age.

He's Innocent said...

Simran, VERY good point!

When is the US going to recognize that the brain under 25 is prone to impulsiveness and poor choices?

Lower ages may have worked when everyone expected to be married by 15 or 16, children within a year, and dead by 40 or 45. It just isnt defensible in the society we live in now.

Last, when are we going to stop putting CHILDREN on the sex offender registry for having sex with their girlfriend/boyfriend? Why is it ok to give a pass to a impulsive crime such as PI, but one must be shamed and shunned for life for engaging in sex.

Stupid country.....

Anonymous said...

Drinking age is 21 so let's move it to age 21!

Wolf Sittler said...

This report is a very small, timid, step where larger ones are very much needed. Neuroscience does indeed verify that males brains, especially, are not fully developed till the mid twenties. To think that just because a young man turns 18 that he is therefore an adult is patently absurd. Though such small steps are at least progress, nowhere is any attention given to those already in prisons and sentenced as juveniles. As of August, 2014 TDCJ had 1786 such prisoners with sentences of at least 35 years. Almost 700 for non homicide offenses. Hopefully someone will see that those already inprison with excessive, and probably unconstitutional sentences, get the attention they merit. Huge amounts of tax dollars are wasted keeping too many folks in jail who, given more resources during their trial, could have received more fair treatment.
It's like a cop said once "In a justice system, you get what you deserve. In a legal system, you get what you negotiate. The system's legal, not just."

Anonymous said...

So everyone posting here would be just fine with 17,18,19 year olds being housed in the same building as a 10,11,12,13 year old?? Well, I'm not. I don't care how hard a detention facility tries to keep older kids separated from younger kids there is always the potential for them to cross paths. Who is standing up for the younger ones?
There seems to be a heavy down playing of the seriousness of criminal acts the older crowd is committing. Numbers I have seen show a much larger increase in felony arrests starting with 16 years old up through 25 years so don't fool yourself into believing these are just "misguided youth" as has beed proclaimed by many advocates.

Jerry Wyrosdick said...

"So everyone posting here would be just fine with 17,18,19 year olds being housed in the same building as a 10,11,12,13 year old?? Well, I'm not. I don't care how hard a detention facility tries to keep older kids separated from younger kids there is always the potential for them to cross paths. Who is standing up for the younger ones?"

You are absolutely right but there is another issue, what if those 17, 18 and 19 years old are put in the same prison as older and hardened criminals?

Anonymous said...

The 17,18,19 year olds I have dealt with are hardened enough from their family connections. They are the dangerous ones that go into the prisons and bring the violence. Ask TDCJ for stats surrounding violent activity in the prisons and you will find the instigators in prison fights and other violent acts are 17-26 years of age. It is a culture for many. They WANT to go to prison because all their family before them have.

Anonymous said...

Curious. I know 16 year olds are the largest percentage of juvenile referrals. If 17 year olds are placed in juvenile jurisdiction, it is assumed they will take on that role. Anyone know at which age that begins to decline?

I would guess that because of adolescent brain development research, that the youthful offenders are the most violent population. Just watched the film Starred Up, and while not conflicted about the approach with violent youth, I am a bit about the most appropriate response.

Simran said...

@ 07:16:00 AM

How non-creative are you? Just because we agree that the age shouldn't be such equated and makes automatically agree that they should be housed with children? Is not possible to create another area or facility for ages 16, 17, 18... oh wait not according to you because that ideas is thousands of years ahead of your mental capacity.

Anonymous said...

4:34 all it takes is money. I'm sure your county commissioners will open up the check books to build new wing on.

diogenes said...

Just to put a monkey wrench in the age mixing debate, I had TYC caseloads of 10-14 year olds. Before SB103, we were able to mix in a few hand-selected 16+ year old youth who would serve as role models and a calming influence on the younger ones. They would set the example on how and why it was important to think before acting (i.e., impulse control) and what kinds of behavior were acceptable or not. The younger juveniles din't want to listen to the adults, but when these role models told them that they were acting foolish and/or out of line, they would listen.

My caseloads were better behaved overall when I had the older role models. When we could no longer mix the ages, the young ones were even more impulsive and violent than ever before.

Anonymous said...

Diogenes I am very surprised that there were 1) that young of a age at TYC and 2) the older and younger ones were even allowed to associate with each other. The Annie Case Foundation must not have been involved way back then.