Texas Smart-on-Crime Coalition Wants Justice Reform, Raise the Age

Did you know that when 17-year-olds are arrested in Texas, they are prosecuted and sentenced as adults?

Did you know law enforcement is not required to notify parents of these arrests?

In Texas, 17-year-olds can't yet vote or enlist in the army. The law mandates that they attend school, and they can't be out past curfew. They are still considered children.

But to the Texas criminal justice system a 17-year-old child is still tried as an adult.

Photo Credit: Alexis Brown

Photo Credit: Alexis Brown

AT-RISK TEENS

Ninety-six percent of 17-year-olds arrested in 2013 were charged with nonviolent offenses and misdemeanors.

And teenagers sent to adult facilities are at higher risk for physical and sexual abuse.

Because of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), 17-year-old prisoners are kept separated from adults when sentenced to adult prison facilities. As a result, these young people can be kept to up to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

Teenagers imprisoned in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide.

TEXAS SMART-ON-CRIME COALITION

But the Texas Smart-on-Crime Coalition (TSCC) wants to change that.

The TSCC consists of several diverse organizations, groups, and individuals. It was founded in 2014 in response to Texas’ apparent dependence on incarceration as the primary method of punishment for crime.

As a result, the TSCC plans to make criminal justice reform a priority for the 85th Texas Legislative Session. The legislative session begins Tuesday, Jan. 10.

RAISE THE AGE

As a member of the TSCC executive committee, Prison Fellowship® will focus on raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in Texas to 18, as 43 other states have already done.

"We need to end the exclusion of 17-year-olds from the juvenile justice [system] because it will reduce crime and protect parental rights," says Jim Forbes, communications director at Prison Fellowship.

JOIN THE CAUSE

So how can you support justice reform in Texas and the rest of the country? Volunteer your time! Become an advocate!

There are many ways you can advocate for justice and prison reform at both a state- and federal-level. To find out more about advocacy issues in your state, visit our state issues page and select your state on the map. Learn more about national issues at our national issues and legislation page.

In addition, click here for a list of useful advocacy resources.