June 22, 2020 – A recent University of Houston Law Center seminar held via Zoom emphasized how the detention process has a detrimental impact on young people during the Center for Children, Law & Policy’s recent "Zealous Advocacy for Detention Hearings" event.
Kameron Johnson, the chief public defender of the Travis County Juvenile Public Defender Office, began the discussion by explaining how the U.S. detains more youth than any other country and how this negatively impacts mental health.
"Last year there were over 67,000 juveniles brought into the juvenile justice system in Texas," "Before they get into the detention facilities and have a detention hearing, these youth are arrested, taken into custody, and processed. That process in itself can be traumatic for a young individual.
When we talk about detention hearings, it's important to note that there is trauma associated in being arrested, taken into custody, being placed in a police car, being brought to a station, being processed and being booked. Having to call your parents or family and being chained is all detrimental to the child."
Ellen Marrus, director of the Center for Children, Law & Policy, and the Royce Till Professor of Law explained the importance of remembering that probable cause comes before a detention hearing
"There isn't any reason for a detention hearing if they don't find probable cause," she said. "You don't necessarily want to bring up all the other information at the probable cause hearing. You want to concentrate on the police report and the affidavits and showing that there is not enough evidence for probable cause.
"If you can’t show there is no probable cause you should still strongly advocate for your client’s release at the detention hearing. Detention is no place for children."
Malikah Marrus, a Licensed Master Social Worker and Assistant Professor of Social Work at Hood College discussed some of the resources available to attorneys.
"You do not have to do this alone," Malikah Marrus said. "Either with your case load or everything you have going on, you may not have the time necessarily to gather all of the information you need. A social worker can come in and help and may have resources that you may not know about.
"There are other people besides just the parents or guardian who may be able to step up and take up some role in a child's life to ensure that they do not stay in detention prior to the adjudicatory hearing. At detention the child still has not been found to be delinquent."