Monday, March 29, 2010


Today's Symposium was an amazing success! I want to give a special THANKS to our Symposium Chair Kenya Wells for putting this all together! As promised, all our speakers were amazing - a big THANKS to them too!

In case you couldn't make it, I was live blogging during Panel 2 and 3 so be sure to read the transcripts below. I included links, etc. to try to narrate what it was all about. Also, take a look at a re-cap of Panel 1 posted by Notes Editor, (and one of next year's EICs!) Mary Murphy.

Panel 1 Recap

The first group of panelists (Richard Lavallo from Advocacy, Inc., Deborah Fowler from Texas Appleseed, and Mark Levin from the Center for Effective Justice) discussed many of the larger systemic problems that contribute to problems in the juvenile justice system. Mr. Lavallo shared a video documentary which included interviews with youth with mental health issues at Texas Youth Commission. He noted the significant lack of planning involved when youth with mental health issues are released from TYC. These youth are often released to more rural areas without the mental health resources (both professionals and medication) as readily available as they were at TYC. Mr. Lavallo presented that many of these youth have mental problems that perhaps should preclude them from standing trial in the first place. He also noted that these youth are, in most cases, victims of abuse and trauma themselves and are entitled to treatment. TYC's incarceration policy includes use of force and restraint, which tends to exacerbate the affect of trauma on youth with mental health issues.

Ms. Fowler introduced the concept of the "School to Prison Pipeline." Texas Appleseed is conducting research on the statistic that the number one indicator of an individuals future incarceration is past disciplinary action taken against them in schools. She noted that this means, primarily, that schools' discipline procedures are failing to improve behavior in students. Ms. Fowler also discussed the way in which schools "took and ran" with the idea of zero tolerance policy from the juvenile criminal system. While schools are required to report certain behaviors, discretionary referrals far outnumber mandatory referrals.

Finally, Mr. Levin briefly discussed changes in the juvenile justice system that have decreased the number of youth in TYC. Youth who commit misdemeanors now go through juvenile probation rather than immediately to TYC, and TYC has instituted "length of time" review panels that seeks to be proactive in evaluating the appropriate time necessary for a youth's incarceration in TYC. Mr. Levin noted that peer contagion is a serious problem in TYC, and efforts should continue to mete appropriate consequences to youth who have committed less serious offenses.

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