Juvenile crimes fall into a special category in the Texas legal system. The state realizes that those who have yet to reach adulthood are the best candidates for rehabilitation, and the state usually adjudicates their cases in that view. However, many Texas juveniles are still prosecuted harshly in some judicial districts, often punished in serious criminal matters as though they are adults when near 18 years of age. However, advocates within the state say this is not happening, and now are lobbying the Texas legislature to set new parameters for punishment policy.
The ultimate issue
The issue that brought about this discussion is the uptick in the number of serious crimes that have been happening across the nation, including Texas. While overall juvenile arrests are down, the number of more serious crimes is up. The reason for this appears to be organized criminal activity that utilizes those who are underage in actually committing the crime because they are punished lighter. This then establishes the defendant in a cycle of criminal activity as they age.
According to advocates of the shift to programs as opposed to incarceration as punishment for juvenile crimes, setting up programs for underage defendants to complete or participate in for a specific period of time is more effective than the concept applied to adults of jailing those who are convicted of violating the law. Detention is considered an extreme measure in this approach and follows more the concept that idle hands will commit crimes while those who are spending their time constructively will not.
This is actually not a new idea in criminal prosecution policy for the most part. All states have had a reduced punishment attitude towards the detention of antisocial children. However, participating in programs could also give government workers an opportunity to identify those who could possibly be more at risk for more criminal involvement.