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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Juveniles In The Adult Criminal System In Texas

is is from the news release announcing the report:

LBJ School Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch has published a new report titled Juveniles in the

Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas (LBJ School of Public Affairs, 2011). The report provides

a comprehensive look at Texas’s methods for dealing with the state’s most serious juvenile

offenders. It gathers all available Texas data with respect to certified juveniles—those youth who

are transferred to adult criminal court—and compares them to the population of determined

sentence juveniles who are retained in the juvenile justice system. The report also compares the

significant differences in programming and services for the two populations of juvenile

offenders—those who get sent to adult jails and prisons, and those who receive placements in

the Texas Youth Commission (TYC).

The report and its findings are especially timely during the Texas Legislature’s ongoing effort to

reform and restructure the state’s juvenile justice system.

Among the report’s most significant findings about juveniles transferred to the adult system are


Minimal differences exist between certified juveniles in the adult criminal justice system and

determinate sentence juveniles in TYC, except for county of conviction.
Certified juveniles do not represent the “worst of the worst”—they are neither more violent nor

more persistent in their criminal behavior than those retained in juvenile court and sent to TYC.
While the large majority of certified juveniles have committed violent offenses, only 17% have

committed homicide.
About 15% of juveniles transferred to adult court are charged with non-violent felonies, including

state jail offenses.
72% of certified juveniles do not have a prior violent criminal history,
29% of certified juveniles are first-time offenders.
89% of certified juveniles have never been committed to TYC, indicating that most certified

youth have never had the opportunity to benefit from effective rehabilitative programs in the

juvenile justice system, such as TYC’s highly regarded Capital and Serious Violent Offenders

Program, which has a 95% success rate.
The report also examines what happens when juveniles are housed in adult prisons and jails in

Texas. National research shows that housing juveniles in adult prisons and jails compromises both

public safety and the personal safety of the youth. Juveniles housed in adult prisons and jails

face vastly higher risks of suicide, sexual assault, physical assault, and mental illness, and they

have been shown to have a 100% higher risk of violent recidivism.

In Texas, juveniles as young as 14 who are certified as adults and awaiting trial are sent to adult

county jails, where they can languish in isolation for periods of a year or more.

Brandi Grissom writes, "Report: Hundreds of Youths in Adult Prisons," for the Texas Tribune,


Texas judges, particularly in Harris County, are sending hundreds of adolescent, first-time violent

offenders to state prison, a punishment lawmakers intended for youths considered the worst of

the worst, according to a report set for release today.

“Adult jails and adult prisons are simply the wrong place to hold these kids,” says Michele

Deitch, a professor at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs and author of the

report "Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas."


From fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2010, Texas courts certified nearly 1,300 youths as adults.

During that same time, about 860 youths received determinate sentences. According to the

report, though, there was little difference in the criminality among youths sentenced to the adult

system and those who were sent to youth facilities. In both cases, the majority committed a

violent crime like aggravated robbery or sexual assault, and had one or no previous juvenile

court cases.

In most cases, the obvious difference was where the offender was tried. Harris County courts

certified twice as many juvenile offenders as adults as any other county over the four-year time

period studied. Judges in Harris County certified 301 youths as adults. Dallas County, by

comparison, certified 141 offenders as adults during the same time period.

The problem with sending so many youths to adult facilities, particularly those who are not

repeat violent offenders, is that they are not designed to rehabilitate and educate adolescents,

Deitch said. Youths who are sent to adult prisons, she said, have a 100 percent greater risk of

committing future violent offenses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. They are also

more likely to develop mental health problems in prison, to be physically and sexually assaulted

and to commit suicide.

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