Having a child in the Texas Juvenile Justice System (TJJS) is scary during normal circumstances. This can be especially true during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Around the country, reports have come out about prisons and jails being overrun with the virus. For this reason, the TJJS has instated temporary changes to rules and regulations to help protect those convicted of juvenile crimes.
As everyone works to protect all juveniles involved, it is important to remember your child still has rights inside the system.
It is essential that you understand the fundamental rights both you and your children maintain. You should also understand what options you have if you feel your child’s rights are being violated.
What Are Some of the Changes TJJS Has Made?
Staff and Youth Protection from Viral Contact
The first changes that the TJJS have made revolve around limiting wards from outside exposure. One step that has been taken is to check employees before they enter a facility. All employees have their temperature checked and a clean mask provided to wear on their shift. They are also required to clean their hands regularly.
Public Entry into TJJD Secure Facilities is Now Limited
A temporary ban has been put in place to limit individuals from the outside entering into facilities. This includes families of wards, volunteers, and other non-essential personnel. The list of people who are allowed to enter facilities include attornies and those leading religious services.
Changes to Family Communication
Because visitation has been temporarily halted, facility administrators have attempted to put alternative methods in place for parents and relatives to keep in contact with their children. Many facilities are setting up virtual conferencing so that children can speak with their parents. Administrators are also permitting additional phone calls to talk with their relatives on the outside.
Agency Response to County Reports of COVID-19 Cases
In counties where confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported, no new admissions are permitted. This policy has been put in place until further notice to limit exposure from the outside.
What Rights Do Juvenile Crime Offenders Have During COVID-19?
Even during these extraordinary circumstances, the rights of those in juvenile detention centers have not changed. There are certain protections they are afforded under the law, which cannot be denied.
Some of these constitutional rights include:
- The right to an attorney
- The right to advance notice of charges
- The right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses
- The right to remedial silent
As the parent or relative of a child in the juvenile justice system, it is essential to ensure their rights are being upheld. One of the most important things you can do is communicate with them to see if proper procedures are being followed.
Some fo the questions you want to ask are:
- Are you able to talk to your attorney?
- Is the facility following advanced cleaning procedures?
- Are wards being properly separated so that social distancing is possible?
The state has the legal obligation to make sure that the wards of the juvenile justice system are properly taken care of. This means that administrators and workers are taking proper precautions to protect wards. It also means that they are upholding the rights of wards.
If for any reason, you suspect your child’s rights are being violated, it is essential to seek legal advice. Remember, the pandemic is no excuse for your child to have their rights violated.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. He has been named one of the 3 Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, recognized by Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, Avvo, and others, and he is Lead Counsel rated.