HOUSTON — Hundreds of juveniles in the county where Houston is located are jailed for weeks at a time for minor probation violations, records show.
Data from the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department show juveniles are often jailed for infractions such as failing drugs test, violating curfews, running away or failing to attend school classes or rehabilitative programs, the Houston Chronicle reported .
The records show a pattern of detaining children for technical violations that should instead be dealt with through the probation system, according to attorneys and juvenile justice advocates.
“You never want to have a technical violation, especially for a kid, result in detention, because we know the negative effects,” said Elizabeth Henneke, an attorney with the Lone Star Justice Alliance. “Even a short amount of time can be problematic for kids, but long, protracted weeks out of school, weeks out of your home environment — that can have really big consequences for them.”
Nearly 73 percent of the more than 1,000 juveniles cited for violating probation in 2016 were detained, according to county data. Henneke said those figures are alarming, especially in a county where the 250-capacity juvenile justice center has faced several issues related to overcrowding.
State District Judge Michael Schneider said the findings are concerning and that he will seek help to analyze why low-level juvenile offenders are being detained.
“The entire juvenile system should have nothing to do with punishment,” he said. “If you look at what the Legislature said, it should only be about rehabilitation. You take that a step further, when they’re in detention and there’s not even been a finding that they committed the offense or the violation of probation that they’re accused of, I think you need to be even more careful about who you lock up.”
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com