Lawmakers and lawyers in the state of Texas know that the top issues in criminal justice are always evolving.
Here, we’ve created a briefing-style list of the top four issues in Texas criminal justice – and how this legislative session will impact those issues.
Issue In Criminal Justice 1: Juvenile Justice And Raising The Age
Over a period of nearly 10 years, Texas saw a 48% growth in those incarcerated for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.
This session, one issue in criminal justice that will be addressed is raising the age of juvenile justice from 17 to 18 – meaning that to be tried as an adult, defendants must be over 18 – not 17 years or older as previously mandated.
Though the change was also pushed for in 2015, this could be the year it goes through. Many in the legal world argue that putting 17-year-old criminals in the same prisons as those under 18 violates the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Issue In Criminal Justice 2: Sandra Bland
This story dominated headlines across the country, and many are still on the fence about what really happened in that Waller County jail cell, where Bland was found dead of what was ruled as a suicide.
This landmark issue in criminal justice will likely redefine the way prisoners with mental health issues are treated – and this legislative session may also help to end falsified jail documents.
Many also think the case will lead to a re-examination of arrestable offenses.
Issue In Criminal Justice 3: The Protection of Police Forces
With continued conversations about the so-called “War on Cops”, often being raised in Texas (especially after a Dallas police ambush left 5 officers dead) police protection is a huge issue in criminal justice – in Texas and everywhere else.
This legislative session will likely address the possibility of taxpayer-funded police bulletproof vests, whether or not an attack on a police officer should qualify as a hate crime, and more classroom time devoted towards the interaction between police and civilians in schools (under Senate Bill 273.) If this is taken up, we think it important to teach people the full story about police: their job is not to “protect and serve” (try calling them up and asking for protection and see what happens) but rather to investigate and arrest citizens based on their personal beliefs.
Issue In Criminal Justice 4: Increased Security In Courts
In another case that made national headlines, a Texas judge was attacked in her driveway in 2016. The threat was poorly investigated and handled improperly by law enforcement.
Now the legislature is being pushed for a funding increase for improved court security – and that includes personal bodyguards for judges in high-profile cases and those who have been the target of any form of threat.
Proposed amendments are also being brought up that demand the protection of the personal information of judges, pushing for it to be kept from the public domain.
Now, You Know The Top Issues In Texas Courts
Now that you know the most important talking points when it comes to issues in criminal justice in the state, it’s time to take your knowledge and contact your legislators.
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