BY RICHARD WHITTAKER / Austin Chronicle Aug. 28, 2009
Children under the age of 18 can't vote, serve as jurors, or join Blockbuster, but in the U.S. -- the only developed nation with such a policy -- they can be tried in adult courts and imprisoned in facilities designed for adults. A groundbreaking study from the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs could kick-start a national discussion about the foolishness of that policy.
The report, "From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System," was compiled by Michele Deitch, an adjunct professor at the LBJ School, and her students. Its roots were tragic: Deitch and her group worked with the UT Law School Supreme Court Clinic on the case of Christopher Pittman, who, at age 12, was charged with killing his grandparents. He received a 30-year sentence -- the mandatory minimum in South Carolina. After the Supreme Court rejected his appeal, Deitch explained, "we were sitting on a ton of research that we had done, so we thought it was vital to get it out there."
The complete report is available on the LBJ School website at