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.
- New Texas Law: SB 1612, now law, is part of a civil fees clean-up effort and abolishes the remaining juvenile court fees levied against youth and their families. Now, justice-involved youth and their families can focus on rehabilitation instead of worrying about paying burdensome court fees. 88th Legislative Session (regular), 2023.
- New Texas Law: HB 1819, now law, abolishes a local government’s ability to enact a curfew ordinance that targets youth and can subject them to a criminal record and high court fees, all without appointed counsel. Now, vulnerable youth, including those who may be homeless or fleeing abuse, cannot be punished for simply being in a public space at certain hours. 88th Legislative Session (regular), 2023.
- New Texas Law: HB 3186, now law, requires local governments to adopt a diversion plan for youth charged with fine-only offenses in municipal and justice courts. Currently, municipal and justice courts can only order diversion strategies after a case has been convicted or deferred, whereas this bill allows diversion at the front end of a case. 88th Legislative Session (regular), 2023.
- Texas Ends Indiscriminate Shackling of Children in Court: The Supreme Court of Texas issued a rule ending the indiscriminate shackling of children in juvenile hearings. Youth will only be shackled in hearings if the court finds they are a risk to themselves or others, or if they are a flight risk. This took effect on June 1, 2023. Stay tuned for more details.
- U.S. Department of Justice Opens Statewide Investigation into Abuse of Youth in Texas’ Juvenile Facilities. This investigation follows the complaint Texas Appleseed filed with partner Disability Rights Texas in 2020. October 13, 2021. Press Release
- 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. October 21, 2020. Press Release | Complaint
- 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.