TEXAS YOUTH IN PRISON:
"LEGAL ISSUES"


2015-2010


    Press Release: Publication of New CSG Report
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    January 29, 2015
    Please visit this link below to download
    CLOSER TO HOME: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms


    House Panel OKs Parole After 40 Years for Young Murderers

    • By Maurice Chammah
    • May 13, 2013

    A House panel Monday unanimously approved a measure that would allow defendants younger than 18 to receive life sentences and be eligible for parole after 40 years. The measure was approved in the Senate in March and passed through the House committee without discussion.

    Prosecutors argue they need Senate Bill 187, by Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, because currently 17-year-olds who commit capital murder cannot be charged with that crime. There is a gap between Texas law and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits a life without parole sentence for those younger than 18.

    "This bill would keep us in line with what has been handed down by the Supreme Court," Huffman said in March.

    Opponents of the measure, though, argue that the mandatory sentence does not consider the many influences that lead children to commit serious crimes. They argue that judges should be given discretion to adjust sentences based on the circumstances of the crime.

    In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case of Miller v. Alabama that anyone under 18 could not be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In that case, 14-year-old Evan Miller and a friend had taken drugs and then beat his neighbor and set fire to his trailer. The neighbor died in the blaze, and Miller was convicted of murder. Alabama laws mandated that he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    The nation's highest court had already decided in the 2005 Roper v. Simmons case that the death penalty could not be assigned to anyone under 18.

    Writing for the majority in the Miller decision, Justice Elena Kagan explained that youths were not as culpable for their crimes, no matter how severe or brutal.

    "Their 'lack of maturity' and ‘underdeveloped sense of responsibility’ lead to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking," Kagan wrote.

    In Texas, though, 17-year-olds are considered adults when they are tried for capital murder. The Miller ruling means that prosecutors cannot charge a 17-year-old with capital murder, because there is no punishment for them, explained Justin Wood, a Harris County prosecutor. The only sentences now available for the charge of capital murder are the death penalty or life without parole.

    "We have to go back and prosecute them for the underlying offense, whether murder or aggravated robbery, or whatever else," he said, noting that there are currently cases in which 17-year-old defendants are waiting in jail as prosecutors await the Legislature's decision on punishment for them.

    Lauren Rose, a juvenile justice policy analyst at Texans Care for Children, said the Miller decision should be interpreted as a bar on any mandatory sentences for young people. Judges making decisions about sentencing "need to take into account all of these different factors," Rose said. "The brain is not fully developed until 25. The trigger mechanism of 'Oh, I shouldn't be doing this' isn't always there."

    Rose's concerns were shared by state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, who told Huffman at a Senate committee meeting in March: "I understand what you're trying to do, but does this consider the level of maturity of a particular juvenile? The Supreme Court acknowledged there might be a need to do that."

    Huffman said that since the Supreme Court had never taken issue with parole after 40 years for 14- to 16-year-old defendants, which is currently permissible in Texas, the new law would be no different.

    The bill now heads to the House floor.

    House Panel OKs Parole After 40 Years for Young Murderers


    Uploaded by nswprisonwatch on Dec 21, 2011

    LIFE IN PRISON FOR JUVENILES?
    Is it constitutional to sentence a juvenile offender who commits an offense at age 13 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
    Scott Drake talks with University of Miami Law Adjunct Professor Stephen K. Harper.
    He is the co-coordinator of the Capital Litigation Unit in the Miami-Dade Public Defenders Office.


    “Guiding Principles of Juvenile Justice Reform for Texas” - [PDF]


    2009


    December 2, 2009

    House Judiciary Committee Passes Pivotal Juvenile Justice Legislation
    Youth PROMISE Act Now Heads To House Floor

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 of media@dcaclu.org

    WASHINGTON “A bipartisan bill to combat youth violence was passed by the House Judiciary Committee today. The bill, H.R. 1064, would fund prevention and intervention programs that are comprehensive, community-centered and evidence-based efforts to combat gangs and youth violence. The Youth Prison, Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act, known as Youth PROMISE, is sponsored by Representative Robert C. Bobby Scott (D- VA) and currently has over 230 cosponsors. The bill will now head to the floor for a final House vote.

    The following can be attributed to Jennifer Bellamy, American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Counsel:

    The Youth PROMISE Act ensures that our children are not simply funneled into juvenile and adult criminal justice systems by creating prevention strategies for dealing with the complex problem of youth crime. Continuing to lock up our at-risk youth is not only socially and financially damaging to America, but it also compounds our country's existing problem of over-incarceration.

    This bill addresses the underlying root causes of youth violence and gang activity and offers real solutions to real problems facing many American families. By focusing on prevention and intervention, the Youth PROMISE Act recognizes the importance of keeping young Americans out of the criminal justice system and in school in order to lead productive, fulfilling lives. We urge the House to pass the Youth PROMISE Act as quickly as possible.

    To read the ACLU's letter of support for the Youth PROMISE Act, click HERE

    Youth PROMISE Act Now Heads To House Floor


    June 20, 2009

    Governor Perry's 2009 Criminal Justice Vetoes

    Here is the criminal justice-related bill Governor Perry vetoed that concerns the Youth in Texas...

    Bad CPS bill goes down:

    SB 1440 by Watson/Madden is the bill that would have expanded CPS authority to seize kids for questioning without first notifying their parents or showing "good cause."

    (UPDATE: More from the Lone Star Times, which notes that "Perry had received 17,373 calls and letters against the measure and 455 supporting it.")

    However, those who fought the bill have some work to do in the interim to influence how similar legislation may look next session.

    In his veto statement, Perry concluded:

    "I am directing DFPS, through its parental advisory committee, to study the effect of the Gates decision on the ability of the department to appropriately enter a residence and, if necessary for the protection of the child, to transport the child for interviews in a neutral location. I am also directing DFPS, through its parental advisory committee, to develop and recommend statewide procedures to follow when seeking court orders to aid investigations, while protecting the rights of parents and families."


    Justices Agree to Take Up Sentencing for Young Offenders

    By ADAM LIPTAK
    Published: May 4, 2009

    WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to consider whether the reasoning that led it to strike down the death penalty for juvenile offenders four years ago should also apply to sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

    The court accepted two cases on the issue, both from Florida and neither involving a killing. In one, Joe Sullivan was sentenced to life without the possibility of release for raping a 72-year-old woman in 1989, when he was 13.

    In the other, Terrance Graham received the same sentence for participating in a home invasion robbery in 2004, when he was 17 and on probation for other crimes.

    In the majority opinion in the death penalty case, Roper v. Simmons, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that teenagers were immature, unformed, irresponsible and susceptible to negative influences, including peer pressure.

    Even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile, Justice Kennedy concluded, is not evidence of irretrievably depraved character.

    Outside the context of the death penalty, however, the Supreme Court has not shown much interest in cases from prisoners claiming that the sentences they received were too harsh. But Douglas A. Berman, an authority on sentencing law at Ohio State University, said the factors cited by Justice Kennedy concerning juveniles might well apply in noncapital cases.

    The principles driving Roper, Professor Berman said, "would seem to suggest that its impact does not stop at the execution chamber."

    The United States is alone in the world in making routine use of life-without- parole sentences for juvenile offenders. Human rights groups say more than 2,000 prisoners in the United States are serving such sentences for crimes they committed when they were 17 or younger. A vast majority of those crimes involved a killing by the defendant or an accomplice.

    At the argument of the Roper case in 2004, Justice Antonin Scalia said the rationales offered against the juvenile death penalty applied just as forcefully to sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

    "I don't see where there's a logical line," said Justice Scalia, who voted in dissent to retain the juvenile death penalty.

    But Justice Kennedy wrote that life sentences would continue to deter young criminals after the death penalty became unavailable.

    "The punishment of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," Justice Kennedy wrote, "is itself a severe sanction, in particular for a young person."

    Lawyers for the two Florida inmates cited international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits sentences of life without parole for juveniles. Justice Kennedy's invoking foreign and international law in the Roper decision was controversial, and the new cases will reopen the question of how much attention the Supreme Court should pay to international law.

    Bryan S. Gowdy, a lawyer for Mr. Graham, said in an interview that his client had never been convicted of the robbery that sent him to prison for the rest of his life. Though evidence was presented concerning the robbery, the trial judge found only that Mr. Graham had violated the terms of his probation after an earlier conviction for armed burglary and attempted armed robbery when he was 16.

    "When our children make mistakes, are we going to lock them up and throw away the key for life", Mr. Gowdy said. "If you follow the rationale of Roper, that's not appropriate."

    In rejecting a challenge to Mr. Graham's sentence last year, a Florida appeals court acknowledged that a true life sentence is typically reserved for juveniles guilty of more heinous crimes such as homicide. But the court added that Mr. Graham rejected his second chance in violating the terms of his probation and chose to continue committing crimes at an escalating pace.

    A ruling in favor of the prisoners in the two cases Graham v. Florida, No. 08-7412, and Sullivan v. Florida, No. 08-7621 could be quite narrow. The Supreme Court may leave for another day, for instance, the question of how murders committed by juveniles may be punished.

    Last year, drawing a similar distinction, the court said in Kennedy v. Louisiana that crimes against individuals that do not involve killing, including the rape of a child by an adult, cannot be punished by death.

    A version of this article appeared in print on May 5, 2009,
    on page A16 of the New York edition.

    Justices Agree to Take Up Sentencing for Young Offenders


    May 4, 2009

    Supreme Court to consider life in prison for juveniles

    The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that it would decide the constitutionality of giving juveniles who commit crimes other than murder a sentence of life in prison without the chance of release.

    The nation's high court agreed to hear two Florida cases, one involving a 13-year-old convicted of raping an elderly woman and the other involving a 17-year-old who took part in an armed home-invasion robbery while on probation for an earlier violent crime.

    Their lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, for juveniles whose crimes did not involve murder violated the Constitution' s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

    The Supreme Court in 2005 abolished the death penalty for juveniles.

    The justices will consider in the 2 cases whether to extend that ruling to sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of crimes other than murder.

    The justices are expected to hear and then decide the 2 cases during their upcoming term that begins in October.

    In one case, Joe Sullivan, now 33, was convicted of burglary and rape of a 72-year-old woman in Pensacola, Florida, a crime he committed in 1989 at age 13.

    According to his supporters, Sullivan is only 1 of 2 people in the United States to be serving a life sentence without possible parole for a crime other than murder committed at age 13. The other inmate, also in Florida, was convicted for a 1990 robbery and attempted murder.

    Sullivan's attorneys argued that the extremely rare imposition of a life-without- parole sentence for a 13-year-old for a crime other than murder reflected "a national consensus on the reduced criminal culpability of children."

    The other case involved Terrance Graham, who was 17 when he was arrested for a 2004 home-invasion robbery. He had pleaded guilty the previous year to burglary and attempted armed robbery and was on probation.

    (source: Reuters)


    2008


    November 20, 2008

    TYC sex abuse case stalled for lack of defense counsel

    According to AP:

    The state's sexual abuse case against a former youth prison administrator has stalled since his attorney was arrested and stopped appearing at hearings, court records show.

    Scott M. Dolin, an Austin attorney who had been hired to defend Ray Brookins in the ongoing probe of sexual abuses at a Texas Youth Commission jail, stopped appearing in court after being arrested, according to records filed by the Texas Attorney General's Office.

    Prosecutors, according to the court records, learned of the arrest in February. Courts records do not indicate what charges Dolin was arrested on or where.Dolin was removed from the case in April and Brookins, the former assistant superintendent at TYC's West Texas State School in Pyote, has repeatedly pledged to hire another attorney. But according to court records, that has not happened.

    Brookins was originally set to stand trial in April, but the case was derailed after [his attorney Scott] Dolin failed to show up for pretrial hearings.

    Since then, according to court records in Ward County, the case has stood still.

    The judge has ordered a hearing Dec. 18 to get Brookins lawyered up and move the case along, just in time to get the case back in the media's sights as the Legislature heads back to town.

    Posted by Gritsforbreakfast at; Labels: sex crimes, TYC


    COURTS

    Judge briefly jails child welfare workers, volunteers in juvenile case

    Meurer says she wanted them to know what detention is like before recommending it for 14-year-old girl.

    By Steven Kreytak
    AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
    August 30, 2008

    A group of advocates for childrenand a 14-year-old defendant's mother were ordered into Travis County juvenile court holding cells this week after state District Judge Jeanne Meurer grew frustrated with them during a hearing.

    Meurer said she told the six people to spend 20 minutes in the cells after they recommended that the girl, who is accused of punching her mother, be held in detention while awaiting trial.

    "I told them that before you make these things (a recommendation to the court on whether detention is warranted), you go spend time in a jail cell," Meurer said during an interview in her office.

    The longtime juvenile court judge, who is not seeking re-election this year, is known as a passionate advocate for children who does not tolerate excuses. She said she wanted the group to get a taste of what it's like to be in detention, which she believes takes an emotional toll on youths and, at $166 per day, is costly. She called the jailing a "learning opportunity" akin to a "site visit" and said that if the people had objected, they would not have been forced into the cells.

    But that is not how two state Child Protective Services employees who were jailed saw it, according to a CPS spokesman.

    "The judge is the final arbiter of our cases, and when the judge tells you to do something, you do it," Chris Van Deusen said. "It was not a voluntary thing."

    Meurer declined to give the names of those jailed. Van Deusen said the two CPS employees were caseworker Rushmi Karim and supervisor Wendy Sonnenberg. The state Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees CPS, does not plan to pursue any complaints about the incident, but Karim and Sonnenberg may do so on their own, Van Deusen said.

    "I don't know what they learned sitting in a cell for a few minutes," he said. "This is not something that we want to see happen again."

    In addition to the CPS workers and the girl's mother, Meurer said the others put in the holding cells were a worker for the reintegration project of the Casey Family Foundation, a volunteer mentor to the girl and a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates.

    Assistant Travis County District Attorney LaRu Woody, chief of the family justice division, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.

    Meurer said the teenage defendant spent a year in foster care before being returned to live with her mother last month. On Monday, the girl punched her mother after her mother kicked the family dog, Meurer said. The mother called police, and the girl was arrested and spent Monday night at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center in South Austin.

    At the Tuesday hearing at Gardner Betts, Meurer, as is her custom, asked those present to recommend whether the teen should remain detained. Some said the girl needed a psychiatric evaluation, was having a hard time getting one through a state program and should be detained until she could get one, Meurer said. Later, Meurer said, they explained that they wanted her detained because the mother did not want her at home.

    "I was not happy with that," she said. "Detention is not a parenting tool; it's not a mental health tool."

    Van Deusen said the recommendation was unclear because the girl's mother was not sure whether she would take her back into her home. "It's clearly better for this child in this situation to be at home," he said.

    Meurer said those jailed were placed two people per cell in three holding cells. Their belongings were not taken, and the doors were not locked, she said.

    When the six people got out, the group was unanimous: The girl should be allowed to live at home until the trial. Van Deusen said the shift occurred because the mother changed her mind.

    "They came back in, and I discussed that this was not to punish," Meurer said, "this was not to do anything but a site visit.

    "These were professional people that I care about, and I am very sorry they would take it in any way but a positive experience."

    skreytak@statesman.com; 912-2946

    Judge briefly jails


    Editorial

    The Case for Juvenile Courts

    Published: August 13, 2008

    This country made a terrible mistake when it began routinely trying youthful offenders as adults. This get-tough approach was supposed to deter crime.

    But a growing number of government-financed studies have shown that minors prosecuted as adults commit more crimes � and are more likely to become career criminals � than ones processed through juvenile courts.

    The value of specialized courts for young people is underscored in a new report from the Justice Department�s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. After evaluating the available research, it concludes that transferring juveniles for trial and sentencing to an adult criminal court has increased recidivism, especially among violent offenders, and has led many young people to a permanent life of crime.

    The juvenile justice system was one of the great reforms of the Progressive Era.

    The push to go back to trying children as adults began in the mid-1990s, when state lawmakers fixated on a few, high-profile crimes by young people and � convinced there was a youth crime wave � came up with a politically convenient solution.

    Young people who commit serious, violent crimes deserve severe punishment.

    But reflexively transferring juvenile offenders � many of whom are accused of nonviolent crimes � into the adult system is not making anyone safer.

    When they are locked up with adults, young people learn criminal behaviors. They are also deprived of the counseling and family support that they would likely get in the juvenile system, which is more focused on rehabilitation. And once they are released, their felony convictions make it hard for them to find a job and rebuild their lives.

    Nearly every state now has laws that encourage prosecutors to try minors as adults. The recent studies of this approach should lead legislatures to abandon these counterproductive policies.

    Juvenile Courts


    HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

    Kids pay the price for Judiciary Committee's inaction

    By Carol Chodroff,
    Advocacy Director, US Program
    Published in The Salt Lake Tribune
    July 26, 2008

    Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee, should show up for kids.

    The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008, the most important juvenile justice legislation Congress has addressed in years, is up for consideration in the Senate next week.

    This critical bill, which has strong bipartisan support, would improve public safety by reforming the juvenile justice system. It would increase mental health and drug treatment services for youth, improve confinement conditions and reduce disproportionate sanctions for minor adolescent misbehavior.

    The effective prevention, mental health and drug treatment programs called for in the bill would help children exit the criminal justice system, return to school and become responsible, productive citizens.

    Three Republicans and three Democrats have co-sponsored the bill, which would reduce crime and enhance public safety.

    Unfortunately, the bill is going nowhere fast, unless members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Sen. Hatch serves, show up for their committee hearings.

    When the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to consider the bill, Republicans refused to attend. Upset about an unrelated issue (lack of time to discuss judicial nominations), Republicans boycotted the committee, which can't proceed without a quorum.

    If the committee doesn't convene, the legislation doesn't get heard. And 100,000 children in this country who are confined in juvenile detention and residential facilities, often plagued by harsh and abusive conditions, will pay the price.

    In Utah, 1,232 children locked in 22 different facilities will be affected. So will society at large.

    Current juvenile justice practices ignore children's age and amenability to rehabilitation and threaten community safety. Almost 10,000 children in the United States are held in adult jails and prisons, where their size and youth render them vulnerable to victimization.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that, after release, children incarcerated in adult prisons commit more crimes, and more serious crimes, than children with similar histories held in juvenile facilities. In Utah, 41 youth were certified into the adult criminal justice system last year.

    The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health reports 80 percent of youth in the juvenile justice system suffer from mental health or substance abuse disorders. Those youth are too often denied essential treatment that could change the trajectory of their lives and prevent crime.

    Status offenders are still held too often in locked facilities in this country. Status offenders are youth who engage in non-criminal offenses such as running away or truancy conduct that would not be considered criminal if committed by an adult.

    Research reveals that commingling status offenders with delinquent youth increases crime, further compromising public safety. Fortunately, Utah's state law already prohibits lock-up of status offenders. The juvenile bill would encourage other states to follow Utah's positive example.

    Sen. Hatch says he is steadfast in his "dedication to consider and introduce any appropriate federal legislation which might limit the effects of crime in our communities. " This bill is a prime example of such legislation.

    There is no question that the issue of judicial nominations is important and deserves attention. But the Senate should not throw out the baby with the bathwater and deny children help because of unrelated concerns.

    Sen. Hatch and the entire Senate Judiciary Committee should show up to the next hearing and make a critical difference for children. Children should not have to pay the price of partisan bickering.

    Kids pay the price

    Copyright 2003, Human Rights Watch
    350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10118-3299 USA


    Juvenile Justice

    Some changes would improve legislation in the Senate.

    July 13, 2008; Page B06

    SINCE 1974, federal law has required that juveniles picked up for breaking the law be kept separate from alleged adult offenders -- and for good reason. Juveniles held in adult facilities are more likely to be attacked, more likely to commit crimes once released and more likely to commit suicide than those held in facilities that house only minors. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider reauthorizing an updated version of the 1974 bill.

    The Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008 strengthens protections for juveniles while safeguarding judicial discretion to deal with exceptional cases. It also calls for preservation and expansion of programs that have been particularly effective in combating delinquency and crime among youth, including mentoring and after-school supervision. The bill should be passed, with some changes.

    Over the past decade, an increasing number of states have adopted laws allowing juveniles to be charged as adults for certain serious crimes; prosecutors in these jurisdictions often have the last word on charging decisions. Those jurisdictions often also require that these juveniles be held in adult facilities. Under the proposed bill, even juveniles charged as adults must be held in juvenile facilities or out of "sound and sight" of adults in adult facilities unless a judge specifically orders otherwise. A judge must take into account the alleged offender's age, his physical and mental maturity, and the nature of the crime, among other factors; a judge must review every 30 days the decision to send a juvenile to an adult facility. This approach is sensible. The bill should be amended to explicitly allow prosecutors and other state officials to flag for the judge juveniles they believe would be a danger to other minors and so would be better held in adult quarters.

    The legislation also takes a step in the right direction by setting stricter limits on detentions for status offenders -- those youths who are picked up for skipping school or running away from home. Such youths have not committed crimes and would not have been locked up for these infractions had they been adults.

    Studies show that these juveniles -- and the community -- are better served when they are directed to mentoring or school-based programs. As it is, judges in many jurisdictions may hold juveniles indefinitely for status offenses; the proposed bill would limit that to seven days. That's an improvement, but lawmakers should consider eliminating these detentions altogether.

    The Congressional Budget Office has not yet estimated the cost of the new juvenile justice bill. According to Justice Department figures, the existing version of the law cost taxpayers just under $300 million last year -- real money but a fair price to pay for smart and effective programs.

    Some changes would improve legislation in the Senate


    Profiles of the TYC plaintiffs

    June 12, 2008


    >K.C. is an 18-year-old woman from Fort Worth. She has been incarcerated since she was 14, when she was sent to Brownwood for accidentally hitting her teacher during a fight in class. She was sentenced to one year at Brownwood, but her sentence has been extended repeatedly, and she has been held in Brownwood for four years. K.C., like many girls confined in youth prisons, had a traumatic childhood filled with drugs and violence. She was raped by her uncle when she was 6 years old and was introduced to prostitution with her mother at age 7. She has been placed in solitary confinement numerous times, often for months at a time.

    >F.T. is a 15-year-old girl from San Antonio. At 14 she was sent to Brownwood for "failing to identify herself to a police officer." As a child, she was molested by her father and has struggled with psychiatric illness and drug abuse. While in Brownwood, F.T. has been sent to solitary confinement for suicidal gestures and self-injury -- such as wrapping a bra around her neck and cutting her arms with her fingernails -- instead of being provided counseling and other appropriate treatment for her depression.

    >N.E. is a 15-year-old girl from Houston. She was sent to Brownwood when she was 14 for failing to comply with the terms of her ankle monitor, violating curfew and fighting with her mother. At an early age, N.E. was abused by both her father and stepfather, and she also witnessed her mother being abused. N.E. has been put in solitary confinement numerous times, often for misbehavior such as refusing to put her hands behind her back.

    >M.N. is a 15-year-old girl from Dallas. After being placed in numerous treatment facilities starting at the age of 12, M.N. was sent to Brownwood when she was 14 for fighting back when a school safety officer tried to physically restrain her. M.N.'s problems stem from her time in foster care, where she suffered emotional and sexual abuse. Asked about the use of physical force in Brownwood, she said: "If I see someone getting restraints, I hate it. Even if I don't like the girl, I'll jump in because I think she's getting hurt. I'll take the pain for her." M.N. has been sent to solitary confinement for reasons such as covering her face with a blanket while sleeping in her bed and confiding to a TYC worker that she felt bad and had thoughts about cutting herself.

    >S.H. is a 16-year-old girl from San Antonio. While S.H. was growing up, she and her mother were abused by her father. She was sent to Brownwood in 2007 and has been put in solitary confinement for swearing and for telling a worker that she wanted to hurt herself. Once, she refused to be strip-searched and was pepper sprayed by guards and put in solitary confinement.

    Source: www.aclu.org

    Profiles


    ACLU sues Texas youth prison system

    Associated Press
    June 12, 2008

    AUSTIN (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Texas youth prison system over use of solitary confinement, strip searches and other practices at a lockup for girls in Brownwood.

    The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Austin on behalf of 5 girls held at Brownwood. The suit claims the Texas Youth Commission is violating inmates' constitutional rights and international standards on protecting children from abuse and cruel treatment.

    TYC spokesman Jim Hurley, who had not seen the lawsuit, said the agency is taking steps to improve how it deals with female inmates. He also noted the agency recently ended a long-term isolation program that had been used a different facility.

    Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
    ACLU sues Texas youth prison system


    Legislation > 2007-2008 (110th Congress)

    H.R. 4109: Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007

    To provide for the redress of prison abuses, and for other purposes.

    Congressional Research Service Summary

    The following summary is provided by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan government entity that serves Congress and is run by the Library of Congress. The summary is taken from the official website THOMAS.

    11/7/2007--Introduced.

    Prison Abuse Remedies Act of 2007 - Amends the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act to:
    (1) eliminate the requirement of a prior showing of physical injury before a prisoner may bring a claim for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody; and
    (2) provide for a 90-day stay of nonfrivolous claims relating to prison conditions to allow prison officials to consider such claims through the administrative process;
    (3) exclude from the application of such Act prisoners under the age of 18; and
    (4) eliminate certain restrictions on awarding attorney fees in civil actions brought by prisoners.

    Amends the federal criminal code to:
    (1) exempt prisoners under the age of 18 from the restrictions imposed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act; and
    (2) expand the discretionary authority of judges in awarding relief in actions involving prison conditions.

    Amends the federal judicial code to:
    (1) exempt prisoners under the age of 18 from certain restrictions on in forma pauperis proceedings;
    (2) expand the number of in forma pauperis actions a prisoner may bring; and
    (3) revise requirements for assessing filing fees and costs against prisoners in such actions.


    2007


    October 19, 2007

    Judges appoint cronies over more experienced lawyers in Houston juvie courts

    Why do Harris County juvenile court judges refuse appointments to board-certified juvenile attorneys while giving lucrative assignments to their less qualified friends? That's the question Rick Casey asks in his Houston Chronicle column this morning, and it's a good 'un. Reports Casey:

    Since somewhere around three-quarters of defendants in juvenile court get court-appointed attorneys, such cases are a major source of income for more than a few lawyers, especially those who are tight with the judges.

    John Devlin, for example, is Judge John Phillips' campaign treasurer and former law partner. Devlin had been paid $167,475 for work in the three juvenile courts this year, as of Aug. 1. More than $90,000 came from Phillips' court.

    Former Harris County Republican Party Chairman Gary Polland has done even better, earning $187,056 this year as of Aug. 1.

    Neither of these lawyers is board-certified in juvenile law, a level of recognition earned by demonstrating experience in a specialized area and passing a rigorous exam.

    Harris County has just 14 board-certified juvenile lawyers. One is Judge Pat Shelton, two are associate judges and two are prosecutors.

    Only nine are defense attorneys, meaning that in one fell swoop the judges deprived Harris County juveniles of the services of one-third of the county's board-certified attorneys.

    Why? All three of the attorneys said they have been given no reasons, though they have theories.

    The three juvenile judges last spring published new procedures for being added to or removed from the list of eligible attorneys. It sets some basic qualifications: one year in practice, observing various types of hearings, demonstrating "professionalism and reliability when interacting with juvenile court judges and staff."

    And they must be "approved by a secret ballot by a majority of the Harris County Juvenile Judges.

    The three board-certified lawyers denied appointments, Casey reports, believe they're being retaliated against by the judges for diligently doing their job. One of the attorneys "said it was possible her offense was too aggressively representing her clients. The judges like to 'move' their dockets and prefer lawyers who arrange quick plea bargains."

    In any event, aren't juvenile cases subject to Fair Defense Act? I thought that 2001 statute was supposed to stop this kind of foolishness. I don't understand how these judges get to avoid using a "wheel" or other neutral selection process for juvie lawyers. Giving disproportionate appointments to your own campaign treasurer or the county chairman of your own political party certainly strikes me as presenting an appearance of an ethics violation, and possibly an actual one.

    Read the whole thing, and also Casey's column on Wednesday about the kind of lawyers these judges DO like to appoint.

    Posted by Gritsforbreakfast

    Labels: Indigent defense, juvie corrections


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