The juvenile justice system is very different in nature than the criminal justice system, as anybody who works in the field can tell you. The primary approach in the criminal justice system is to punish offenders so as to deter criminal activity and to protect society from those who are dangerous or threatening.
Juvenile justice, on the other hand, is primarily based on the notion of teaching young offenders to take accountability helping them to reestablish themselves on a better path. While this is somewhat of a caricature, it does generally hold true in the tools available to prosecutors, judges and offenders in each respective system. One of the challenges in many places across the United States in recent years, though, has been maintaining funding for juvenile justice programs. Here in Texas, a bill was recently introduced into the House of Representatives for just that purpose.
Under the bipartisan Youth Justice Act of 2015, Texas would reauthorize national standards initiated under the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent Act of 1974, particularly as that law addresses the care of young offenders in juvenile justice programs. Some of the issues the Texas law would address include the disproportionate rate of colored people held in detention, the increasing amount of girls participating in the juvenile justice system, and how to improve education, prevention and safety for young offenders.
The bill, in other words, promises to make the juvenile justice system here in Texas more effective and relevant to current needs and concerns. For young people to really benefit from the opportunities in the juvenile justice system, though, they need to have a legal advocate.