90% of children tried as adults in Texas courts have had no prior commitments to Texas Youth Commission, completely bypassing the most serious option the juvenile system has to offer. And 44% have had either no prior involvement with the local juvenile justice system or only one prior referral. [efn_note]Deitch, M. (2011, March). Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas. Retrieved from https://lbj.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/file/news/juvenilestexas–final.pdf .[/efn_note]
Who were you at 14, at 15? What kind of choices were you making? What type of guidance did you have in your life?
Currently there are over 1700 individuals in Texas prisons who are serving lengthy, if not life sentences for choices they made before the age of 17, for crimes they committed while they were still children. Hundreds of these juvenile offenders are serving life sentences under the Law of Parties, where a juvenile is held criminally responsible for another’s actions, held responsible, many times, for the actions of an adult.
These men and women, children tried as adults, many of whom are in their forties now, endured extremely challenging circumstances during their childhood. Poverty, negligence, parental drug abuse and gun violence are common themes.
We hold these children solely responsible for their crimes, and often the crimes of others despite the chaotic and abusive environments that led to the behavior that ultimately landed them in prison.
These men and women, who were children incarcerated at very young ages, have raised themselves. They have educated themselves, Some entered prison barely able to read and write and are now applying to to college and some are graduating from college.
They have taken advantage of every program that TDCJ has to offer. They have participated in restorative justice programs like Bridges to Life that have helped them to see the impact of their actions. They have rehabilitated themselves, despite decades long, oftentimes, life sentences. They are giving back to their communities. They are actively mentoring kids who are faced with the same challenges and they are accomplishing this from the inside of a prison cell.
They are reaching back to save the the youth of today.
They are praying for a Second Chance…a Second Look.
These are the Second Lookers of Texas.
We hope you will enjoy their stories, essays, art, and poetry.