Texas Appleseed continues to push for high quality, community-based treatment of youth in the legal system — with a focus on supporting strong educational programs in county facilities. We support staff training and implementation of evidence-based rehabilitative strategies, over isolation and confinement in state secure juvenile facilities, and strongly oppose incarcerating youth in prison as counterproductive to rehabilitating lives and promoting public safety.
- Complaint to U.S. Department of Justice. We partnered with Disability Rights Texas to file a complaint with the U.S. DoJ Civil Rights Division, urging the agency to investigate constitutional violations of youth in Texas’ five remaining juvenile state secure facilities. Through open records data requests, site visits, and conversations with impacted individuals, we identified multiple failures by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to adequately protect and rehabilitate the youth placed under its supervision. Such failures include, but are not limited to, high instances of staff-on-youth sexual and physical abuse, significant staffing shortages, and an extreme lack of mental health care. Press Release | Complaint
- Eliminating Juvenile Curfew Ordinances. Many cities in Texas impose strict curfew ordinances that punish youth for being in public spaces during curfew hours. Though intended to keep youth safe and prevent crime, curfews are actually ineffective and can burden a child with a $500 fine, adult court hearing, and a criminal record. While a statewide ban on juvenile curfews didn’t make it to the Governor’s desk, we have helped eliminate the practice in some cities and will continue to do so.
- Ending Indiscriminate Shackling of Juveniles. Juvenile defendants are often unnecessarily brought into courtrooms in correctional uniforms and physical restraints. The practice is dehumanizing and often traumatizing for young people. We are working at the county level to limit the use of these restraints and allow juvenile defendants to wear clothing other than a correctional uniform for court proceedings. We hope to encourage the adoption of a statewide rule banning the indiscriminate use of shackling.
- Juvenile Fees: We worked with the Office of Court Administration and the Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic to advocate for the elimination of many fees levied on kids in juvenile court. The Legislature passed SB 41 in 2021, abolishing many juvenile fees that exacerbate racial/ethnic disparities, increase youth recidivism, and generally cost more money than jurisdictions can collect. The bill was led by the Office of Court Administration and informed by our advocacy. We also successfully advocated for the cancellation of juvenile fees for youth in the care of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) by working with legislators to pass House Bill 80. The new law prohibits judges from requiring youth in the care of DFPS to pay court costs or fines for low level misdemeanors. These young people often lack the means to pay such costs and fines, which results in a pile of debt and higher rates of reoffending before even reaching adulthood. In lieu of payment, judges can prescribe community service.