AUSTIN, TX--(Marketwired - February 02, 2017) - A diverse group of more than 200 local legislators, advocates, students, and faith leaders convened this week to learn more about the juvenile justice system and to demonstrate their support and solidarity for efforts to "Raise the Age" of juvenile jurisdiction in Texas. The "Raise the Age" effort, which helps keep kids out of adult jails and prisons, would increase the age of adult facility incarceration from 17 to 18.
On Monday, approximately 200 supporters rallied at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas for "Raise the Age Day," in an effort to raise awareness for the policy. Hosted by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC) -- a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that helps advance solutions that transform the adult and youth justice systems -- "Raise the Age Day" provided an opportunity for students, legislators, and youth advocates to discuss the importance and impact of raising the age, which will ensure that youth do not end up in adult prisons and reduce later incidents of re-offending.
Students had the opportunity to meet with Capitol staff and legislators to discuss what raising the age would mean for them, as well as participate in a press conference on the Capitol steps, where Senior Vice President of Community Engagement and Education for Goodwill, Traci Berry; State Representative, Gene Wu; Policy Associate and Caucus Coordinator for Prison Fellowship, Kate Trammell; former CEO and President of the Texas Association of Business / President of consulting firm Bill Hammond and Associates, Bill Hammond; Deputy Director for the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Right on Crime Campaign, Derek Cohen; and 17-year-old student, Gretchen Smith spoke about the positive impact that raising the age will have on our youth and community.
"Youth advocates, law enforcement officials, and parents all agree that the adult justice system is no place for a 17-year-old," said Elizabeth Henneke, Policy Attorney at TCJC. "Treating adolescents as adults in the criminal system is extremely short-sighted and ineffective. 'Raising the Age' is a common sense approach that would make our communities safer, protect parental rights, and keep youth out of dangerous mental and physical conditions inside adult facilities."
On Wednesday, a coalition of faith leaders and advocates announced their support for the "Raise the Age" legislation during a press conference at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, adding their names to the growing list of supporters throughout the state. The faith leader coalition represents approximately 70 members of various denominations, all of whom are pushing Texas leadership to protect Texas youth.
"We must act now to raise the age in Texas," said Bishop James Dixon of the Community of Faith Church. "Our legislators must realize that a failure to act this legislative session will leave behind a legacy of injustice."
"This is an issue of moral and spiritual significance, because it is a way of saving many adolescents who commit low-level crimes from the lifelong stigma of being involved in the adult system," said Rabbi Emeritus Samuel Karff of Houston's Congregation Beth Israel. "It also protects them from the abuses in the adult system, while also saving them from the higher recidivism rates that come with being involved in the adult system."
Currently, Texas is one of only seven states that sends 17-year-olds into the adult criminal justice system and charges them as adults, even for minor offenses. Sending youth into the adult system has serious consequences for their mental health and physical wellbeing, as well as for their ability to secure future employment and housing. This sets young people up to become re-offenders, and, indeed, research has shown that young people who go through the adult system are much more likely to re-offend than those in the juvenile system.
You can support TCJC by purchasing a "Raise the Age" t-shirt (https://www.booster.com/raise-the-age-tx) or by donating to help fight for reforms at the Capitol: http://www.texascjc.org/donate. You can also contact your legislative representative by visiting this link: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx.
For more information on "Raise the Age" visit: www.raisetheagetx.org.
For more information on the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and/or to support the Coalition and its work, visit the new TCJC website: www.texascjc.org.
About the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC)
The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition works with peers, policy-makers, practitioners, and community members to identify and promote smart justice policies that safely reduce the state's costly over-reliance on incarceration -- creating stronger families, less taxpayer waste, and safer communities.
TCJC is a proud member of the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition, which also supports the "Raise the Age" campaign effort. Its Executive Committee members include ACLU of Texas, Christian Life Commission, Goodwill Central Texas, Prison Fellowship, Texas Association of Business, and Texas Public Policy Foundation. The Coalition also has 21 supporting partners.
TCJC works in support of "Raise the Age" with other advocates, including R Street Institute, Texans Care for Children, Texas Appleseed, and Texas PTA.