State Representative Gene Wu has pre-filed legislation for the 85th Legislative Session to ensure that the Texas Juvenile Justice system works better to rehabilitate young offenders and end the school-to-prison pipeline.
The primary legislation to reform the Texas Juvenile Justice system is House Bill 676 (H.B. 676) to raise the juvenile jurisdiction age, or the age when a person will be considered an adult, to 18 years of age. This change would bring Texas’ policy in-line with the vast majority of states and the federal justice system.
“I made ‘Raise the Age’ the first bill in our packet to send a clear message that this a priority for our state,” said Rep. Wu. “If this bill becomes law, we can give hundreds of thousands of young people a second chance; to not brand them with a life-long criminal conviction for minor offenses. We can keep these kids off of the path to prison.”
Texas is one of only a few states remaining in the nation that still treats children between the ages of 17 and 18 as adults for all crimes. When Rep. Wu filed this legislation in the 84th Session, Texas was of nine (9) state left that had not made this change. As the 85th Session is about to begin, Texas is now one of seven (7) left.
“We need to be smarter on crime instead of just looking tough,” adds Wu. “Every kid makes mistakes big and small, it’s a part of growing up. The Juvenile Justice system has proven to be far more effective in rehabilitating young people than the adult system. And, the Juvenile system won’t destroy a young person’s life by branding them with a public criminal record.”
Rep. Wu also pre-filed additional Juvenile Justice Legislation, in addition to H.B. 676, which include:
- H.B. 677 – would allow a judge, following a hearing, to seal a juvenile’s Determinate Probation records. This bill is intended to give juveniles placed on long probations for more serious offenses a chance to seal their records, if they perform admirably during their probation.
- H.B. 678 – would allow an associate judge to take part of a determinate sentence plea; freeing the District Court Judge to perform other duties. This bill is intended to improve administrative efficiency.
- H.B. 679 – would ban the use of heavy mechanical shackles on juveniles unless it is specifically ordered by a judge. This bill is intended to curb the instances of chain shackling juveniles as young as 10 years old, when they do not pose any real threat.