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Fall 2012 - Juvenile Justice Policy

Deitch, Michele Y

Unique # 29230 Credit Hours: 3 Course ID: 371V
DayTimeLocation
TH2:00 - 5:00 pmSRH 3.220
No exam information is available for this class.
Registration Information
This course is restricted to upper division students only.

Description
Juvenile justice reform efforts have been a major feature of the last three legislative sessions in Texas, and are often in the news nationally.  From Texas to California to New York, policy-makers are trying to reshape the administrative structures set up to handle juvenile offenders.  Guided by both fiscal concerns and research indicating that juveniles are best served in community-based programs, policy-makers are beginning to emphasize local responsibility for juvenile justice rather than state-level incarceration.  There is also an increasing emphasis on prevention and rehabilitative services, even as the system still functions under laws and policies designed during the “tough on crime” period in the 1990s.

This seminar will cover a broad range of topics that examine these shifting policies, with a particular focus on recent reforms in Texas.  Texas provides a perfect laboratory for us as the Texas Legislature recently abolished the state’s longstanding juvenile justice agencies (the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission) and created a new juvenile justice structure for the state that emphasizes probation over incarceration. 

In addition to examining this structural change, we will discuss national best practices in juvenile justice and will learn about the operations of the different parts of the juvenile justice system in Texas, from the courts to the probation system to juvenile correctional facilities.  We will also explore a variety of substantive issues such as mental health services, education and treatment, juvenile sentencing laws, juveniles in the adult criminal justice system, juvenile life without parole, ticketing of juveniles for minor school-based misbehavior, prevention of delinquency, and cross-over youth who are in both the juvenile justice system and the child protection system.

We will invite various key players in the juvenile justice system to join us as guest speakers in the class.  We will also ground our discussions by spending time observing proceedings in juvenile court and touring juvenile correctional facilities.  Students will be expected to write essays that reflect on those experiences.  We may also observe legislative hearings, if any take place during the fall semester, or archived videos of hearings from the most recent legislation session and interim.

Depending on ongoing developments, there could be opportunities for our class to engage with the reforms at the implementation stage.  The instructor is working closely with various state and local stakeholders in the effort to restructure the juvenile justice agencies, and will seek opportunities for students (working either individually or in teams) to take on research assignments or other tasks that will assist these stakeholders.  Thus, the exact nature of the assignments for the course cannot be provided at this time.  However, students should anticipate a significant research and writing project, with the likelihood that this will be part of a team effort and will involve work of publishable quality.  And there will likely be other assignments that involve memo writing and other policy-relevant writing skills.

Students are expected to attend all classes and field trips, and to prepare for and participate fully in class discussions.  Grading will take into account class participation as well as the various research and writing assignments. 

The goals for the course are:  (1) to expose students to the operations of the Texas juvenile justice system, as well as to current challenges and reform efforts; (2) to help students understand how juvenile justice policy has developed, in Texas and beyond; (3) to give students the opportunity to conduct highly relevant and timely research that could potentially provide an important service to key juvenile justice system stakeholders; and (4) to encourage students to think about the juvenile justice field from an interdisciplinary perspective.

This three-credit course is open to a total of 10 students:  five from the LBJ School and five from the Law School.  (Students from other departments may be considered on an individual basis.) All students who are interested in registering for the course are encouraged to contact the instructor as soon as possible as their specific interests and areas of expertise could help determine the projects we will take on as a class.

Students engaged in substantial research projects for system stakeholders may also have the opportunity to continue their work into the spring semester (on either an independent study basis or in an advanced course), in order to ensure that their work has the maximum impact possible during the Spring 2013 legislative session.

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