Friday, June 23, 2006

Overcrowding Justice

Juvenile justice and the school system is still getting al lot of attention. Lets get back to basics. If you look in the Juvenile Justice Handbook from the Attorney Generals office the following goals were behind the statute passed in 1973

• to provide for the care and development of a child;
• to remove the stigma of criminality from the unlawful acts of a child;
• to separate a child from his or her parents only when necessary and to give the child needed
care; and
• to provide a simple judicial procedure to ensure a fair hearing and enforcement of
constitutional rights.

and in 1995 the following was added

• to strengthen public safety;
• to promote the concept of punishment for criminal acts;
• to remove, where appropriate, the taint of criminality from children committing certain
unlawful acts; and
• to provide treatment, training, and rehabilitation that emphasizes the accountability and
responsibility of both the parent and the child for the child’s conduct. (§51.01, F.C.)

The juvenile justice system is where we first teach our children what the justice system and the law is all about. We teach them the concepts of fairness and proportionality by how we treat one infraction vs. another. When we over react to a minor incident with a response that should be reserved for serious crimes, we confuse children about what is serious and what is minor. When we involve the police too early and too often, we teach them that problem solving is out of their hands and is best left to the government or at least some one else "in charge."

Then we have the problem of the Publications from SAISD. We have two handbooks totaling 100 pages. Just for fun, I ran them through the reading level feature in MS Word and a few other programs I have. They came out at high school graduate to college level. I am sure that most of the students that recently graduated Lake View and Central only looked at these publications when they were having trouble falling asleep. The lawyers are probably happy with these handbooks, but mere mortals will find them dificult to use. It seems they were written just to fulfill a mandate from the state.

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