House Rule May Bring Changes to Criminal Justice in Texas

The newly proposed H.R. No. 4 brings two very interesting things to the table in the criminal justice arena. One of these changes is a required notation on bills if they create new criminal offenses. This is a clear improvement that will alert legislators to the significant ramifications their vote will have. The other, the creation of a new Juvenile Justice Committee, has the potential to breathe new life into criminal justice reforms, but alternatively could bring many useful innovations to a screeching halt.

In an age of overcriminalization, where criminal offenses are multiplying like rabbits, a simple notation that lets those involved realize when this occurs could – and should – cut back on the amount of government intervention. Legislators need to be aware that a new bill, which could be about something as minor as an interior design permit, creates a criminal offense that will add to the burden on the criminal justice system, as well as present serious consequences for the convicted individual.

Juvenile justice is a very important issue, one that definitely deserves a committee solely dedicated to it alone. Juveniles present the criminal justice system with an opportunity to get ahead of the cycle of criminality. A juvenile has a higher likelihood of being affected by treatment, educational or vocational training, or simply the fact that they are in trouble. This creates opportunities for the system to put them on a track to a more successful life, outside of corrections.

The new committee will have more time and be able to focus on juveniles as differentiated from adults. If this is used to find smarter and more efficient methods of decreasing recidivism, this could be a boon to Texas’ strained criminal justice system. If this is used instead to hammer juveniles with purposelessly heavy and expensive sentences or to spend excess money on non-evidence-based programming that compromises public safety, then this could complicate matters further.