By: Filip Ivanis
A bill by Gabriel Letcher was “highly controversial,” Mrs. Talley said. The author didn’t give much information and, accordingly, delegates had many questions and amendments.
The bill states that if a minor commits four misdemeanors they are eligible to go to juvenile jail. Misdemeanors could range anywhere from getting a ticket for crossing a street in the wrong place, to certain drug crimes with small amounts of a controlled substance, and weapon possession offenses.
“This would mean that a 13-year-old who stole a five cent bubble gum and a 17-year-old drug addict would be treated the same,” said an amendment author trying to precisely define offenses covered by this bill.
Another amendment was made to the bill. It changed the destination of these minors from jail to a juvenile detention center, “to the provide education minors need”
There were four other amendments debated, two of them “really similar” as pointed out by delegates. “They were both just focusing on the change in age at which the bill will be applicable” commented one delegate.
Some stated that “If a minor has been punished three times already, the fourth time is honestly too much, and a detention center is fair.” However, others asked, “If the minor has been punished three times already and nothing has changed, what is the point of taking the minor outside the education system and straight to jail?”
The opponent speaker made a statement that “The bill is too straightforward and it skips over the details like they had no time to be considered. There is nothing in this bill that stops a death sentence to be issued, and no minor should be sentenced like that.”
Proponents were pointing out that “This bill will drastically help Texas by discouraging criminals, even if they are only children.”
The opponents had combated the proponents with statements as “This bill isn’t completely clear, and it sets no limits for the punishments.”
The opponent which the delegates agreed with the most was Jalen Lake. He said, “I believe this bill will destroy young minority communities. This bill is an undercurrent and it doesn’t prevent some judge to sentence a minor to 30 years in prison where they should only serve 5.“
After more than one hour of debate, the bill didn’t pass, with three people voting aye, while everybody else voted nay.