Texas is one of only four states which still charges 17 year olds as adults. But new federal legislation awaiting President Trump's signature will soon prevent the Lone Star State from housing 17-year olds in adult county jails, providing a big incentive to change their status to match 92% of other states and the federal government.
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A bill headed to the president's desk could mean big changes for the way children are treated in the justice system. One of the first places to see change will be the Travis County Jail. “So, we have 17 year olds in our jail,” said Kristen Dark, the senior spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail. There are 14 inmates under the age of 18 today. The number usually hovers around 20. Even though they are not yet old enough to vote, they are considered adults.
Thanks to changes by Camille Cain, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, children housed in youth justice facilities now get proper sleep and healthy snacks throughout the day. In addition to promoting healthy child development, "These changes also set the stage for future initiatives aimed at helping youth learn to regulate their own emotions, responses and behaviors," Cain said in a press release.