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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Representative Ulery Working with Dartmouth on Criminal Costs Project

Represent Ulery is working with the Policy Research Shop of the Nelson D. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College on the costs of incarceration in the New Hampshire State Prison system.  A team of students under the direction of Visiting Assistant Professor Matthew Cravens is using a previously introduced bill which Ulery Co-Sponsored with Senator Sharon Carson to attempt to control the costs of imprisonment as a starting point.  That bill was held for Interim Study and needed additional information.  “The introduction of the bill was an attempt to bring to light the high costs associated with imprisonment and seek alternatives” said Ulery of his support.  Ulery commented that “while New Hampshire is ranked as one of the safest States in the nation, we have some of highest costs per person.  That is an area that can and should be addressed.”

The students in the project hail from as far away as Korea, but include folks from Memphis and Ft. Lauderdale as well.  Ulery will bring his work in Criminal Justice in the past, recommendations from fellow legislators, association with Right On Crime think tank and his participation in ALEC to the task.  The Research Group will examine alternative approaches to incarceration that have reduced costs in Hawai’i and Texas.  Perhaps more importantly, such approaches have reduced recidivism and thus criminal activity in those states. Said Ulery, “It is hoped that the scholastic research of this group will develop data to help New Hampshire reduce criminal behavior and reduce what some estimate as the $33,000/per prisoner annual costs” http://www.jailnation.com/nh/.   Armed with the data developed and analyzed over the next few months effective legislation supporting the goals of reducing recidivism and prison costs is planned to be introduced by Ulery should he be re-elected.

Jordan Ulery
Hillsborough-37
NH State Representative
163rd General Court

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Dallas Plans to Take Advantage of the 2007 Cite and Summons Law

dallas_co_jailNext year, the Dallas Police Department and county officials will make another attempt at reducing the amount of time an officer will spend on nonviolent misdemeanor suspects by taking advantage of the 2007 cite-and-summons law. The law was written by former Rep. and Right on Crime Fellow, Jerry Madden, and passed with bipartisan support and backing from both conservative and liberal criminal justice advocates.

Successful roll-out in Dallas — and a similar new program in Houston — would give criminal justice reformers across the political spectrum added momentum for next year’s lawmaking session. Priority goals for the left-right Texas Smart on Crime Coalition include further refinement of Texas’ drug laws, with emphasis on keeping the repercussions minor for minor offenses.

Continue reading at The Dallas Morning News

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Maintaining Safety While Being Fiscally Responsible

The last several decades have seen a massive government expansion in crime. Over-criminalization has expanded state and federal prisons, causes a burden to taxpayers and a concerning cycle of recidivism. Because states can no longer finance this overkill response to low-level non-violent offenses, it is fiscally necessary that they reduce sentences. To accomplish this while maintaining safety for citizens, reentry programs, vocational training and drug-treatment programs are needed to ensure lower recidivism. This is particularly important for juveniles for which interventions are much more effective, saving taxpayer dollars in the future. To accomplish all of this for citizens states and municipalities are key for effective implementation.

The “get tough on crime” movement, emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to enormous increases in drug arrests, longer prison sentences with mandatory minimums, more punitive juvenile justice sentencing and greater incarceration of juveniles, low-income individuals and people of color.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), about 6.98 million people were under some form of adult correctional supervision in the U.S. at yearend, 2011. This is the equivalent of about 1 in 34 adults – or about 2.9 percent of the adult population – in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.

By the end of 2012, there were around 1.35 million people incarcerated in state prisons, 217,800 in federal prisons and 744,500 in local jails. From 1998 to 2009, the state cost of mass incarceration of criminals increased from $12 billion to $52 billion per year.

Today, there is movement to reform the criminal justice system and reverse the trend of mass incarceration of nonviolent and drug related offenders. Federal, state and local leaders are looking for innovative ways to reduce the costs of criminal justice and corrections by keeping low-risk, nonviolent, drug involved offenders out of prison or jail, while still holding them accountable and ensuring the safety of our communities.

The Administration, Congress and many states are enacting new policies to slow the growth of prison populations and even downsizing corrections systems to save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Continue reading at Public CEO

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Illinois Criminal Justice Crossroads

Even acknowledging the change in dialogue for both parties about criminal justice reform, many states still have a long way to go. Illinois is at a crossroads, poised to follow either states such as California whose overcrowded swollen prisons pose both a safety and financial burden to its citizens, or states like Texas and New York that have safely decreased their numbers of offenders. Hopefully Illinois will choose the option to lower the government expansion of crime, finding a more cost-effective way to divert low-level non-violent offenders from becoming high-risk criminals. The beginnings of change have been seen in the state and need to be continued.

After decades of using incarceration as the country’s primary response to crime, leading Republicans and Democrats are embracing safe, fair, and cost-effective prison reform.

As Illinois prepares to elect its next governor, voters should ask the candidates where they stand on this issue and what their vision and goals are for the state’s crowded and under-resourced $1.3-billion prison system.

Like all states, Illinois’ prison population has grown exponentially over the past 40 years, going from around 6,000 inmates in 1974 to 49,000 today, despite the fact that the system was designed to hold only 32,000.

Continue reading at Huffington Post

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