Giving Kids Adult Records: Cohen and Fowler in the Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News published a piece by Right on Crime policy analyst Derek Cohen and Deborah Fowler, deputy director for Texas Appleseed. They write that, despite large criminal justice reform waves sweeping across Texas, there is still one area where government over reach and inefficiency is apparent. Truancy, previously a minor misbehavior dealt with by parents and teachers, is today a crime that can earn a child an adult record. This process hurts the child, damages families, and has stunts economic growth. Handing out criminal records for behavior like truancy lowers the likelihood of the child getting a job and raises the likelihood of future welfare support.

Texas is one of only two states (the other is Wyoming) that employ the criminal justice system to punish truancy. The Texas Education Code — the body of law that regulates the activity of all educational institutions in the state — empowers school districts to file a criminal complaint against a child as young as 10 who has missed three days of school. After 10 missed days within a six-month period, however, the district’s discretion is removed and it is required to file against the child.

This is known as “Failure to Attend School,” or FTAS, a Class C misdemeanor that can carry up to $500 in fines and leave an indelible mark on the child’s criminal record. These fines are levied all too often on low-income families who don’t have the savings to pay them. If a child or parent is unable to pay the $500, or if the child misses one more day after adjudication, he or she can face jail time for the violation of a valid court order. In addition to the burden this places on families, the criminalization of truancy is a drain on limited court resources.

In addition, NBC News affiliate KXAN-Austin interviewed Cohen on the issue of truancy in Texas schools. Watch the clip below.

 

 

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Marc Levin’s Charleston Gazette letter to the editor

ROC policy director Marc Levin authored a letter to the editor of the Charleson Gazette congratulating West Virginia policymakers for implementing cost-effective juvenile justice reforms that will also increase public safety.

Editor:

Congratulations to leaders in West Virginia for kicking off a data-driven process to examine the costs and outcomes of their juvenile justice system. Across the country, conservatives are supporting policymakers who endeavor to take a hard look at corrections policy to address wasteful spending and improve results in public safety.

This conservative lens is especially vital when approaching juvenile justice policy. It is not only about being the best stewards of taxpayer dollars, but also about keeping families together. That’s why national conservatives, such as Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist, have joined the Right on Crime movement to support states looking to maximize system efficiency, and keep youth accountable.

Years of research informs the best way to achieve less juvenile crime with fewer taxpayer dollars, but only West Virginia leaders and policy makers can review the data and come up with a solution that works for their state. We applaud the leaders for committing to this process that is proven to both get youth back on track and provide relief to taxpayers.

Marc Levin
Policy Director, Right on Crime
Austin, Texas

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“Feds Authorize New Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform Dollars”

Federal juvenile justice officials have noticed Georgia’s aggressive reforms and must like what they see because Washington is offering to pony up hundreds of thousands of new dollars to help the state implement ongoing juvenile reforms. On Monday the U.S. Justice Department said it could make up to $600,000 available this year, with similar offers in Hawaii and Kentucky.

Click here to read more from Mike Klein of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

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North Carolina’s “Raise the Age” bill

The bipartisan bill to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction passed the N.C. House and will now move on to the Senate. The legislation aims to raise the age of youth jurisdiction so that 16- and 17-year olds who allegedly commit misdemeanors are handled in the juvenile system. Sixteen and 17-year-olds accused of felonies will remain in the adult system.

Craig DeRoche, president of Justice Fellowship and ROC signatory, said they “have seen this policy in other states lead to both fiscal savings and the restoration of children’s lives.”

Click here to read more from The Triangle Tribune, News Observer, and The Charlotte Post.

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Marc Levin on “Capital Tonight”

ROC Policy Director Marc Levin appeared on “Capital Tonight” to talk about North Carolina’s Raise the Age bill.

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