Do System Biases Preclude Indigent Defendants From Reaping the Benefits of Pre-Trial Diversion Programs? – It is undisputed that racial disparity exists across the criminal justice system spectrum, from arrest, to charge, to disposition. This paper will review and detail available empirical research to explore whether racial neutral criteria for pretrial diversion programs add to the system disparity against minorities and will propose policy changes to alleviate such disparities. It is in the early stages of development. This is a potential policy paper designed to address a state legislative interim charge prior to the 2013 legislative session.
Reducing Teen Dating Violence in the Urban Community (no working title at this time): Due to the gravity of this issue, state legislatures have seen a need to address this issue. Many states, including Texas, have added or improved on provisions specifically addressing dating abuse among teens. The CDC has designated teen dating violence as a disease finding that evidence suggests that dating violence is a significant problem in economically disadvantaged urban communities, where accumulation of risk factors for violence exists due to environmental factors. This paper identifies recent studies on this issue and its impact in the African American community and especially in the urban community. The paper examines recent legislative bills and policy proposals to determine their potential effectiveness. Finally, it makes recommendations for reducing the incidents of teen dating violence among urban adolescents by using a holistic approach to environment factors and providing targeted education specifically to the urban teen population.
Black Males in Prison v. Black Males Enrollment in Higher Education: Texas Statistics: This project address the issues raised by these statistics; comparing the number of black males in 20 of the largest prisons in Texas with that of 20 public and private universities with the largest African American male populations in Texas. The paper will be used to analyze the difference in expenditures on prison versus college for black males and a complete cost-benefit analysis will be drawn from the findings. The paper should demonstrate that a redirection of focus in streamlining black males into post high school education rather than prisons would provide substantial reductions in costs associated with the criminal justice system, and provide substantial societal benefits for the community at large and particularly for African Americans.
The Wrongfully Convicted: Where Are They Now?: This project evaluates the cost to the individual who has been wrongfully. Exonerees are interviewed to ascertain the specifics of their wrongful convictions, the number of years incarcerated, and their life before incarceration and after incarceration. Specifically, we want to ideally detail the impact on their family life, their social economic status, and societal stigma. To date 48 DNA exonerations have occurred in Texas which leads the nation in wrongful convictions. The average number of years incarcerated is 13.5. The purpose of the paper will be to “put a face” on these individuals and to disseminate this information to legislators during the 2013 legislative session to persuade legislators that a more comprehensive approach to addressing issues related to wrongful convictions is imperative.
The Impact Of Homelessness in The African-American Community: A Call For Additional Homeless Courts in Houston, Texas: Houston possesses the third highest homeless population in the nation. An estimated 15,000 homeless individuals live in shelters, abandoned buildings, in encampments, and on the streets. In 2010, the Houston Homeless Coalition reported that African Americans/Blacks account for 62% of the homeless population while only comprising 16% of the city population. Houston has dealt with the homeless population by criminalizing such things as failure to provide identification, vagrancy, theft of services for failure to pay bus fare, traffic, or sleeping in a public park. Houston has a homeless court established in 2005. Participants who appear in Homeless Court with serious misdemeanor cases submit proof of completion in significant program activities and have their criminal record cleared so that they have access to employment and housing opportunities. This paper briefly reviews the criminalization of the homeless and advocates expanding the homeless court as one means of reducing the number of homeless individuals who identify as African American.
Human Sex Trafficking: Although the majority of labor trafficking victims are undocumented or qualified aliens, the majority of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. According to the U. S. Justice Department, in 2011, “of confirmed sex trafficking victims whose race was known, 26 percent were white and 40 percent were black”, typically young females. Texas is a hotspot for domestic human trafficking due to large urban populations of runaway and “throwaway” youth. On average, both Houston and Dallas have about 6,000 runaways each annually. According to National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children, an estimated one out of every three children that run away is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home and the average age of entry into sex trafficking is between 12 and 13 years old.