Senate bill 27, authored by Saron Regassa, regarding the Texas Juvenile Justice Department was passed this morning, unanimously.
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department handles juvenile issues and services within the state of Texas. The juvenile correctional system emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation, as opposed to the focus of public safety and punishment for criminal actions that the adult correctional system puts first. Delegate Regassa from the JER Chilton YMCA synthesized her bill around this system and the improvements she believes it needs. She pushed for: the prohibition of minors being prosecuted as adults within Texas civil and criminal courts, along with allowing the Juvenile Justice Department to work with education systems on reforming school policies regarding behavioral infractions to stop the “school to prison pipeline”.
The concept of minors being tried as adults was unpopular on the senate floor where there was only one opponent speaker to the bill. Daniela Pedraja from the Oak Cliff YMCA strongly supported this idea in her proponent speech on Regassa’s bill stating, “Juvenile’s minds haven’t fully developed a solid sense between right and wrong, so it’s unfair for them to be tried in court as if they do.” Furthermore, according to the National Juvenile Justice Network, Juveniles who are held in adult facilities are 36 times more likely to commit suicide and are more likely to become victims of sexual assault while in prison.” They are also seen to become reoffenders more often than not.
Regassa revealed, “The “school to prison pipeline” has become somewhat of a hot topic in recent years, but it truly is something that needs to be addressed and brought to an end.” This phenomenon most directly affects low income schools and is caused by most school’s zero tolerance policies. “Many minors who are sent to prison because of these policies,” according to Regassa, “don’t deserve to be criminalized for the rest of their lives.”
In the end, Regassa wishes to, “prevent students like me and you from ending up in a prison, instead of living an exciting, curious life the way we, as minors, deserve to.”
Story By: Jamie Bowers, Duncanville High School