When you’re a teen or young adult, emotions tend to run high. Sometimes, it does not take a whole lot to make you angry. Physical altercations even come easier because juveniles often act without really thinking things through.
Obviously, if a juvenile breaks the law, they need to face consequences. However, that should not be the end goal. With juveniles especially, our society wants to educate and rehabilitate rather than merely incarcerating.
Unfortunately, there is a big question right now about whether the type of consequences typically imposed by the Texas Juvenile Justice System actually work.
How the Traditional Texas Juvenile Justice System Works
Here are the basic steps involved in the traditional Texas juvenile justice system.
- A report is made to law enforcement regarding a juvenile’s unlawful conduct.
- A warning may be issued under certain circumstances.
- A peace officer takes the child to a juvenile processing office, where the child may be held for a maximum of six hours. At the processing office, fingerprints and photographs may be taken, statements may be made, and forms will be completed.
- The child is either released to parents or guardians, or taken to a juvenile detention facility.
- The child is permitted to make a written confession. An attorney may be present to advise the child.
- The child is either released to parents or guardians, taken to a detention or medical facility, or brought before the juvenile board, depending on the circumstances.
- The superintendent and principal of the child’s school is notified of the offense within 24 hours.
- The child may be referred to a first offender program to receive training, education and counseling; to perform community service; and to offer restitution.
- Deferred prosecution may be recommended for non-habitual, low-level offenses. This treatment is similar to a six-month probation period.
- A detention hearing may be presented to the juvenile court promptly after the child is taken into custody. An attorney for the child is required to be present.
- A petition may be filed against the child.
- A summons is issued to the child’s family.
- The judge holds a pre-trial hearing with the child and parents.
- The judge or jury holds an adjudication hearing to determine the child’s liability.
- A hearing for sentencing is held. The child is placed on probation, which may include close supervision or monitoring by electronic device. The child may be released before the age of 19.
At least, that is what is supposed to happen. In 2007, however, abuses were discovered in the system. Because of this, Texas lawmakers put a five-year reform initiative into action, which involved closing several facilities, reserving correctional facilities for higher-level crimes, and redirecting funds to local crime prevention efforts.
Part of the changes have involved implementing community-based diversion programs, and so far they have worked incredibly well. In fact, a recent study found that juvenile offenders in Texas are far less likely to commit repeat offenses when accepted to community-based supervision programs.
The Success of Community-Based Supervision Programs Like YODA in Texas
Luckily, we have these programs right here in Tarrant County – like YODA, the Youthful Offender Diversion Alternative. How does YODA work? Here are the basics:
- The offense must involve a family assault “against a non-intimate family member (defined as blood relative, related by marriage or intimate relationship with another family member)”
- The case must be presented in Criminal Court No. 5
- Participants must be between the ages of 17 and 25
- Participants to be sober and drug-free
- The program provides case management and counseling via a “Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has specialty training in trauma and abuse”
- It focuses on “solutions and skills development,” and providing juveniles with access to resources
- Charges may be dismissed depending on the efforts displayed by the defendants to “change and promote better trajectories in their lives”
Both YODA and OBI WAN offer a combination of counseling, goal-identification, and solution-finding to direct offenders away from future crimes.
To learn more about these programs, contact an experienced Tarrant County juvenile defense lawyer.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.