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JCAP (Juvenile and Children's Advocacy Project)

Co-Founders

David Dow

Professor David Dow

Katya Dow

Katya Dow

 

 

JCAP’s mission is to reduce juvenile crime and delinquency and improve the long-term educational success rates and life outcomes for socially and economically disadvantaged juveniles.

In a 2012 TEDx talk that has been viewed more than 1.4 million times, Professor Dow observed that more than 80 percent of the inmates on death row had contact with the juvenile justice system years before. Dow therefore proposed early intervention in the lives of at-risk juveniles as part of a strategy to improve the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged youth and thereby decrease adult crime.  JCAP is being developed to help implement that strategy.

JCAP provides law students with valuable opportunities to engage with the community through its mentorship program and Juvenile Record Sealing Course. More information about both programs is found below.

Juvenile Record Sealing Course

Current law students at the University of Houston Law Center have the opportunity to assist attorneys Katya Dow and Ingrida Norbergs in the record sealing process by taking the Juvenile Record Sealing course taught by Professor Katya Dow. The Juvenile Record Sealing course is offered during the fall, spring and summer semesters at UHLC. The course provides the opportunity for law students to act as volunteer lawyers in the intake of clients, creation of the application and order for the request of a juvenile record sealing, and serving the appropriate agencies the client's application and order. Law students will also attend hearings at the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center. The course is taken pass/fail and provides law students with real world experience in the Texas juvenile justice system.

Records Sealing

Aren't Juvenile Records Always sealed?

No. Up until recently, juvenile records of delinquent conduct in Texas were not automatically sealed, but instead remained a discoverable part of an individual's criminal record unless an application to seal the records was filed by an attorney and granted by the court. Per recent statutory changes, all juvenile cases that become eligible for sealing after September 1, 2015 are supposed to now be automatically sealed. However, older cases still need to follow the prior procedure of applying with the court, and newly eligible cases are experiencing a backlog and implementation delays, so there is currently no guarantee that automatic sealing is happening. In addition, not all juvenile offenses are eligible for sealing—certain serious felonies cannot be sealed.

Sealing v. Expunction

Juvenile delinquency law is different from adult criminal law in a number of ways, including its terminology; for example, juveniles are "detained" rather than arrested and are found to have engaged in "delinquent," as opposed to "criminal," conduct. "Expunction" refers to the elimination of an adult criminal offense from an individual's record, while "sealing" refers to a similar procedure for eliminating juvenile delinquency records. The statutory provisions for juvenile records sealing can be found under Texas Family Code § 58.003.

Why Is Sealing Important?

Unless a juvenile record is formally sealed, it can be accessed by any person, agency, or institution having a "legitimate interest" in the matter. Having a juvenile record can create major barriers in applying to college or enlisting in the military and obtaining financial aid, housing, public benefits, educational and licensing opportunities, or employment. An unsealed juvenile record can make it difficult for young people to get past youthful mistakes and improve their lives.

Eligibility for Records Sealing

Records of delinquent conduct become eligible for sealing depending on the degree of the offense (felony or misdemeanor), how much time has passed since the case was resolved (e.g., when the case was non-suited or community supervision was completed), and the individual's current age. If the criteria are met, certain cases must be sealed (mandatory) and others may be sealed (discretionary). Certain felonies are ineligible for sealing.

What Can I Do?

Whether you are trying to seal your juvenile record, or helping a young person seal her own record, JCAP is available to help. Please contact info@jcaptexas.org to inquire about eligibility for sealing. If your record is eligible for sealing, JCAP provides free legal services to get your record sealed. 

For more information about our legal programs, contact info@jcaptexas.org or visit http://www.jcaptexas.org 

Dual-status Youth Clinic

Dual-status youth (also often referred to as Crossover Youth) are juveniles who are involved in both the Juvenile Justice system as well as the child welfare system.  In this clinic, students will be trained to represent and advocate for juveniles who are in contact with two different legal systems.

Students will be assigned to delinquency cases for dual-status youth and will be responsible for handling all legal aspects of the delinquency case under the supervision of the supervising attorney. Students will learn the law in a real-life context and develop professional and problem-solving skills and will be exposed to a wide range of cases, from misdemeanors to felonies. Students will have the opportunity to investigate cases, interview witnesses and prepare cases for trial, as well as learning how to seal juvenile records.

Students will also learn about the CPS system and factors in this system that impact the delinquency cases and the youth that are facing charges.

The clinic will consist of a classroom component and a practical component. The classroom component will focus on case preparation, negotiating the CPS system, advocacy skills and ethical considerations.

The practical component will allow students to handle different aspects of real cases including appearing in court, negotiating plea agreements, preparing cases for trial, and preparing and arguing petitions to seal juvenile records.

Clinic

Semester/ Credit Hours

Prerequisites

Juvenile Representation

Fall, Spring & Summer
2 hours, Pass/Fail.

Students must complete 50 hours for every credit.

Good academic standing.

Education Rights Clinic

The Education Rights Clinic aims to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by which juveniles are pushed out of schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems by providing direct representation to public school students in school disciplinary proceedings. Law students in the Education Rights Clinic will have the opportunity to interview clients, investigate facts, create a case plan, conduct legal research, and represent clients directly in school disciplinary proceedings. Depending on the case, this may include a trial-like administrative proceeding in front of a school board with timed opening statements, responses to opposing counsel, and closing statements. 

The Education Rights Clinic has a classroom component that meets once a week for 90 minutes over the course of the semester. During class, students will learn about the school-to-prison pipeline, students’ rights in public schools, and the Texas Education Code.

Clinic

Semester/ Credit Hours

Prerequisites

Education Rights Clinic

Fall & Spring
2 hours, graded.
Students must complete 50 hours for every credit.

Good academic standing.