WASHINGTON (Feb. 5, 2020) – Texas has been heralded as a leader in the criminal justice reform space for at least the past decade. The need for reform began circa 2000, when the prison population reached over 150,000 inmates. The 2007 Justice Reinvestment Initiative shifted the landscape of criminal justice reform in Texas and created space for additional reforms to be discussed and implemented. But while Texas has made a lot of progress towards positive criminal justice reform, juvenile justice reform has been left in the dust.

In a new policy short, R Street Institute Government Affairs Manager for Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties Jesse Kelley finds that if Texas wants to reassert its position as a leader in reforms, the best and most effective way would be to improve its juvenile justice system by raising the age of criminal majority, providing a “second look” for those juveniles who were sentenced to life in prison, and shifting the way the state views and prosecutes youth who have committed serious and violent crimes.

Kelley concludes that in order “to once again lead the way and to create meaningful change in the lives of individuals affected and positive change in our communities, Texas should seriously consider implementing and funding needed juvenile justice reforms, and hopefully, as in the past, other states and even the federal government will follow.”