A blog about the Texas juvenile and criminal justice systems
Minors breaking curfew can face a fine of up to $50 on the first offense, and of up to $200 for subsequent offenses, plus possible action by a juvenile court.
Even if the rules are well-intended, they distract from dealing with the underlying issues and can create a destabilizing effect on kids who face judicial punishment as a result, agreed Elizabeth Henneke, a policy attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
"All it does is pull them deeper into the system," Henneke says - a system that she, like Wu, finds stigmatizes them and reduces their opportunities.
New legislation regarding both reporting and reduced prison population appear to have made a difference, although some, like Policy Attorney Elizabeth Henneke, say it's not enough.
"This is what I've received this week," says Henneke, as she reaches into her desk and removes a towering stack of letters from concerned parents and kids.
She works for a non-profit advocacy group in Austin and says the hardest letters come from parents.
"You can just imagine the incredible amount of pain, as a parent, that your aren't able to protect your kid," Henneke says.
She says her large stack of letters is often from people who feel like no one is listening.
Henneke also wasn't comforted by the fact that the state records show only a third of all reports in state facilities were confirmed.
She says, "That means the kids are reporting, but no one is following up, and you can imagine how devastating that is, that you report, and no one comes. It falls on deaf ears."
Henneke says she's heard reports of youths in county facilities being forced to do gladiator style fighting and others even being exploited to do personal chores or work for an employee.
She believes there would be more reports, but fear of retaliation and lack of external oversight keep mouths shut.
"We need to know that individuals are not going to come back into our communities angry, distraught about what has happened to them, because that makes all of us unsafe," Henneke said.
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