In a “Kids or Criminals” series published this week, Jennifer Emily and Diane Jennings of the Dallas Morning News report that more than 2,100 Texas inmates are serving time in adult prison for crimes they committed between the ages of 10 and 16. If Texas counted 17-year-olds as minors, like most states do, that number would grow to nearly 8,000. Some of those behind bars never really grow up and are oblivious to real-world expectations and opportunities.
Paroled as adults, often they are as ill-prepared for life beyond the razor wire as they were when they went in. No programs exist in Texas prisons specifically geared to those about to be released after coming of age on the inside. They come out more likely to commit new offenses and have mental health issues. “The real question?” said Michele Deitch, who studies juvenile offenders at the University of Texas at Austin. “Is putting them in that cage with virtually no treatment or services going to change them in a way that's for the better?”