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Refining and Resolving the Blur of Gault for Juvenile Capital Offenders in Texas: A World Without the Juvenile Death Penalty

NCJ Number
Victims & Offenders Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: April 2006 Pages: 99-121
David Mikhail
Date Published
April 2006
23 pages
Texas's approach to juvenile capital offenders has been profoundly lacking any balance of the interests of accountability and rehabilitation.
Texas has employed adult transfer for juvenile capital offenders with potential life imprisonment and possible parole in 40 years and determinate sentencing to adjudicate capital offenders in juvenile court, yielding a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Legislative initiatives in the 1990s to curtail parole have led to only 22 percent of violent offenders receiving early release while serving an average of 61 percent of their sentence. Aggravated offenders, including youth capital offenders, serve at least 80 percent of their total incarceration time. Notably the Texas framework does not effectively allow for offenders whose acts were the product of either an undeveloped or disabled mental capability to be punished appropriately and distinctly from those who possess psychotic or antisocial tendenciesor adult offenders. This deficiency is worsened as a result of the recently passed legislation SB.60, which establishes that juvenile capital offenders must receive the sentence of life without the possibility of parole upon conviction. Texas can create a more precise approach with three modifications: (1) centralize all youth capital adjudications to a criminal court, (2) effectuate separate imprisonment and enhanced educational programs for the first ten years of incarceration, (3) implement a "soft-ten" sentence where after the initial ten years of imprisonment the presumption for release favors the offender unless the State establishes that additional time is needed; this determination is primarily based on a complete psychological assessment of the offender. (Published Abstract)