GOP judge releases juvenile defendants after election loss: ‘Obviously what the voters wanted’ By Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post
“Judge Devlin appears to be abdicating the basic responsibility of any sitting juvenile judge,” Elizabeth Henneke of the Lone Star Justice Alliance told the Chronicle, adding that she had never seen anything like it in a juvenile court in Texas.
Lone Star Justice Alliance Awarded Texas Bar Foundation Grant to Advance Statewide Training and Direct Services for Juveniles Sentenced to Die in Prison
AUSTIN, TX — The Lone Star Justice Alliance is pleased to announce that it has received a $10,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. The award will be used to increase the organization's legal representation for juveniles sentenced to die in prison.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences are unconstitutional for youth (under 18), requiring states to find that a youth is the “rare juvenile offender” displaying “irreparable corruption” before denying youth a "meaningful opportunity" for parole review within their lifetime.
The Lone Star Justice Alliance’s Second Look Project pairs volunteer lawyers with juveniles who have received either life or life without parole sentences. The Lone Star Justice Alliance provides mentoring, training, and guidance throughout the process to ensure that the pro bono lawyers get the support they need to provide the highest quality legal representation to these clients.
“Over 1600 Texas youth are currently serving either life or life without parole sentences. These youth will benefit immensely from the Texas Bar Foundation’s generous grant,” said Elizabeth Henneke, Executive Director of the Lone Star Justice Alliance. “We are so grateful for their support as we work to serve these youth.”
About the Texas Bar Foundation
“Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $19 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation's largest charitably-funded bar foundation.” For more information, visit www.txbf.org.
About The Lone Star Justice Alliance
LSJA recognizes the inherent shortcomings of a criminal justice system that is focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation. LSJA will provide a public health alternative for youth and emerging adults by developing and implementing innovative strategies for maximizing the supports and services needed to keep youth in the community where their needs are better met at a lower cost to the state. Through its alternative to incarceration program, LSJA will identify inefficiencies across siloed systems and will help communities realign their resources to reduce the criminogenic risk and maximize the potential of program participants. LSJA will also work to bring youth who were sentenced to adult prison back to their communities and support them as they harness the new opportunities available to them. For more information, visit www.lonestarjusticealliance.org.
Today, the Lone Star Justice Alliance submitted public comments to the the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in support of the Texas Medicaid Peer Specialist Services Medical Policy. Peer support services are a critical component of comprehensive care and can increase the likelihood of improved outcomes among vulnerable populations involved with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. The Lone Star Justice Alliance (LSJA) supports the expansion of peer support services as proposed by the Draft Texas Medicaid Peer Specialist Services Medical Policy under review. We are providing these comments to encourage the expansion of the benefits to emerging adults aged 17 to 21.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCECommunities with high levels of crime and violence are also among the most likely to experience widespread economic and social instability. High rates of incarceration, the threat of domestic abuse, child abuse, and interpersonal violence, and prevalent street crime can lead to significant difficulties with maintaining healthy behaviors and accessing care.
Homicide takes more than 16,000 lives each year, and is the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. In 2011, six percent of high school-aged youths said they skipped at least one day of school in a 30-day period due to feeling too unsafe to attend.
Source: FBI / FactCheck.org
Violence can also easily spill over into the healthcare setting, putting clinicians and other staff members at risk. Healthcare organizations spend around $2.7 billion each year on proactive and reactive violence response efforts, the American Hospital Association said in a 2017 report.
The figure includes $280 million for preparedness and prevention, $852 million in uncompensated care for victims of violence, more than $1 billion on training to prevent violence in hospitals, and $429 million coping with care, indemnity, and other costs resulting from violence against hospital employees.
The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management provides a healthcare facility workplace violence assessment toolkit that can help organizations reduce their incidence of violence against staff.
Addressing violence in the community and between individuals requires a concerted, policy-based approach to eliminating opportunities for violence, reducing income inequality that leads to violent tensions, and ensuring that victims of abuse and violence have the resources, support, and skills they need to leave dangerous situations.
In 2012, the Supreme Court took a step toward righting a terrible wrong by banning mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for children. Last year, the court said that ban should apply retroactively: It told prosecutors to conduct resentencing hearings for the approximately 2,500 people who were serving life sentences for crimes they committed as adolescents. Many of them had been in prison for decades.
But if you walked into many courthouses today, you wouldn’t know that the Supreme Court had called for resentencing these juvenile offenders, the majority of them black. That’s because prosecutors are choosing to pursue life-without-parole sentences for these cases again.
Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles in murder cases. Last year, the court went further, saying the more than 2,000 already serving such sentences must get a chance to show their crimes did not reflect “irreparable corruption” and, if not, have some hope for freedom.
But prison gates don’t just swing open. Instead, uncertainty and opposition stirred by the new mandate have resulted in an uneven patchwork of policies as courts and lawmakers wrestle with these complicated, painful cases. The odds of release or continued imprisonment vary from state to state, even county to county, in a pattern that can make justice seem arbitrary.
The Associated Press surveyed all 50 states to see how judges and prosecutors, lawmakers and parole boards are re-examining juvenile lifer cases. Some have resentenced and released dozens of those deemed to have rehabilitated themselves and served sufficient time. Others have delayed review of cases, skirted the ruling on seeming technicalities or fought to keep the vast majority of their affected inmates locked up for life.
When McCary was 17, police arrested him after he broke into a neighbor’s store and stole a handful of items while out drinking one night with friends. The ill-conceived teenage adventure became a lifelong burden when authorities charged McCary with four felonies.
The state of Texas is one of six states that charge 17-year-olds as adults. McCary spent a year in state jail. He’s stayed out of trouble since then, but nearly 20 years later, he still has a record as a convicted felon.
For McCary, that’s meant decades of difficulty finding a job and taking care of his family. When oil prices are high, he finds work in the fields. When prices fall, he competes for other jobs with workers who don’t have a felony record. McCary had a lead on a job as a school janitor, but it fell through because of his teenage conviction.
When McCary’s wife tragically died in an automobile accident last fall, he discovered new hurdles: As a convicted felon, he’s not allowed to manage his wife’s estate. A friend and Christian mentor volunteered to be the executor, but the experience was another tough blow during a particularly hard time.
“The list of what I can do is shorter than what I can’t do,” says McCary. “I’ve never experienced the full liberty of America as an adult.”
Elizabeth was thrilled to accept the Travis County Women Lawyers' Association public interest award at the Four Seasons in Austin Texas today.
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