Monday, October 3, 2011

A chilly bog and too much weed

Those are my initial impressions as a new prosecutor in the juvenile division. I mention the bog (aka toilet) because it's dark and cold and reminds me of boarding school.

Come to think of it, after this week's tour of the detention facility, a lot reminds me of boarding school. But I'll talk more about that the other time, this post is for a general overview.

The biggest differences are as follows:
  • I'm in court two days a week, not five.
  • There are no jury trials. Ever. Which I know I'll miss, sooner rather than later.
  • Defendants are called Respondents.
  • Prosecutors have much less say about the disposition of cases than in adult. Be clear: this is a good thing, because I'm no child psychologist and I trust all the professionals here to know what's in the kid's best interests.
  • The kid's best interests are the primary focus (as I've said before, I personally think this is as it should be).
  • I have fewer cases, and dockets are shorter (yay!)
Finally, I am amazed at the number of kids who have access to and smoke weed. I guess I've lived a sheltered life, but I've been very surprised.

I'm also seeing how important good parenting is. Not that anyone should be surprised by that observation, but it seems to me that so many of the problems these kids have stem from parental issues -- inattention and neglect, mental or drug problems of one or both parents, and sometimes just a single-parent who is overwhelmed.

A very interesting start, I can tell you that.


  1. I agree about the parenting thing. I really think that if there was more good parenting in this country, our crime rate would drop significantly. Sometimes it is as simple as just paying attention to your kids! Obviously there are parents out there with far bigger problems--drug or alcohol addictions, violent tendencies, etc. but truly, I think everything about our society starts at home. That's where we first learn what it means to act like a human being. And by the way, parenting seems like the one thing in this country there is no preparation for--not even when you're in the hospital with this new baby. They don't even show you or tell you how to change a diaper or what to feed your kid. Apparently you're supposed to figure out everything on your own--which is fine if you've had a good example. Not so great if you haven't. In America, you can take a driving course; you learn all kinds of math, reading, writing, history in school; if you want to buy a house, there are courses out there for first-time homebuyers; you can take courses to learn a second language; there are even classes for learning how to GIVE birth but nothing out there about parenting. I think that's kind of scary.

  2. I agree Lisa, it's amazing how little initial guidance there is for the hardest job in the world. That's why I made sure I married someone who is (a) smarter than me, (b) harder working than me, and (c) not a serial killer like me. Like me, as in I'm not a serial killer. Either.
    Cos she's not one.
    Nor am I.
    Come here a minute, please.

  3. Wow, so interesting! Too bad about no jury trials, though. I can imagine you will miss those.

    Is the weed brought in by visiting friends? Guards?

  4. No, they seem to get the weed out in the community. I'm talking 12-year-olds. Who sells weed to a 12-year-old, and where the heck does he/she get the money to buy it? A different world for me, for sure...

  5. DAC, I'll be interested to hear whether you observe or have observed one of my pet peeves about juvenile justice - the criminalization of school discipline. Seems to me that when I was a child, if two kids got into a fight in the hallway or out on the school yard, they got sent to the principal's office and might be sentenced to some behavior-modification-directed extra homework or detention. Now they get arrested and charged with assault.

    My last trip to juvie court was a couple of years ago now but I found it very disturbing and depressing. My client was a 7th grader who had shoved a girl in the cafeteria and had been charged with assault. Mom, who weighed in at 350, easy, showed up in court wearing a t-shirt that said "Do I Look Like I Care?" I had Mom wait in the hall.

    The girl was also obese. I attended a meeting at her school with some of her teachers and counselors, and the principal, and of course a lawyer for the district (groan), and was surprised to learn that the girl was getting good grades, but had recurring behavioral issues. One of the troublesome behaviors was falling asleep in class, particularly in the afternoons, right after lunch (which undoubtedly came out of a vending machine). And then she would be grumpy and irritable after being awakened. "Geez, you don't say?"

    They had all sorts of edu-babble buzz-words and acronyms for the approach they had taken with the girl over the preceding year or two, which apparently was not having the desired effect. I suggested - this seemed like a no-brainer to me - that the school have my client evaluated by a dietician.

    "Ohh, we don't have a dietician."

    In my day, my school HAD a dietician, but not its own police department. :-(

    Another revelation from sitting in juvie court: I had no idea that there is a robust secondary market for stolen Air Jordans.


Comments posted to this blog are NOT the opinion of the Travis County D.A.'s office, under any circumstances. They are only the personal, non-representative opinion of D.A. Confidential if posted under his name.
I welcome all comments, as long as they are expressed with politeness and respect. I will delete all comments that I deem to be personal attacks, or that are posted merely to antagonize or insult.