Do Juvenile Offenders Deserve a Second Chance?

Juvenile offenders present a problem for many people: are they a failure of the system or simply bad apples that should be separated from the bunch? A Texas bill could give juveniles serving life sentences a second chance.

A Second Second-Chance Bill

A bill from the Texas Legislature gives inmates over 35 a second chance to prove that they've changed during their incarceration. House Bill 3392 was introduced to the legislature in 2021 and stirred up lawmakers and members of the public alike.

This bill would give inmates over 35 who have served at least 15 years and those over 50 who have served at least ten years a second chance. Qualifying inmates would be eligible for a review from the court to determine whether they have changed during their time behind bars. The law would extend only to those who pose no threat to public safety and have not committed capital crimes or first-degree felonies.

Another bill, House Bill 686, would offer a similar second chance for juvenile offenders. Under HB 686, a parole panel would be assembled to evaluate the growth of an inmate and determine their ability to rehabilitate based on whether they were a juvenile at the time of the crime.

This bill would apply to juveniles serving life sentences. If approved, the offender would be eligible for parole after 20 years in prison. If the offender has already served 20 years, they could be released upon approval.

How It Works

Regardless of their current age, an offender who was a juvenile at the time of the crime may be eligible for reevaluation if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that they have become better people since their incarceration.

A parole board would hear their case, and based on their involvement in the original crime, personal growth during incarceration, and potential for reoffence, the board may grant their release on parole. A prime example of a second chance candidate is Jermaine Hicks.

Hicks was convicted of murder for the fatal shooting of a grocery store clerk in 1994. He was 15 at the time and was not the one who pulled the trigger. Hicks was with other boys at the time but, despite having no direct involvement with the murder, was convicted under the law of parties and sentenced to life in prison.

If the law were to pass, Hicks would go before the parole panel to evaluate the case. According to the most current draft of the law, Hicks would likely be released on parole since he has already served 20 years and presents no threat to public safety.

Why HB 686 Matters

In Texas, nearly 1,400 juvenile offenders are serving life sentences in prisons across the state. Out of the total, almost 870 inmates have already served 20 years. However, despite their service and maturity over time, the current laws prohibit these inmates from becoming eligible for parole.

Inmates like Hicks, who were convicted under old laws and show improvement and a commitment to rehabilitation, deserve a second chance. These offenders are not always bad apples – many of them have been caught up in a complicated system and spit out.

Defending Juvenile Offenders

Shane Phelps Law. believes that everyone deserves a second chance. Our founding attorney has dedicated his career to pursuing justice and protecting the rights of the accused. We understand that mistakes shouldn't define you, so we provide legal services for those accused of juvenile crimes.

Have you or a loved one been accused of a juvenile offense? Contact the Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. today.

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