Spring 2017 - 61397 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Advanced Juvenile & Criminal Justice Policy: The Legislative Process

Instructor permission is required to enroll in this class.

This class is open to students who have taken a previous course in juvenile justice policy, criminal justice policy, or a PRP with Professor Deitch (or who are taking a concurrent course), and students must have the permission of the instructor to enroll.  Students in the class will have the opportunity to continue to focus on juvenile and criminal justice issues through targeted placements at the Texas Legislature.  Many of the issues we have studied in the previous classes are expected to be key issues to be addressed by the Legislature this spring.  By working in the offices of key legislators or relevant Committees, students will be able to participate in the policy-making process and bring their expertise to bear on consideration of these issues.  The class thus provides a rare opportunity for students to observe the legislative process up-close on issues with which they have significant familiarity.

Students are expected to work in a legislative placement for at least 10 – 12 hours per week during the spring semester.  The student and instructor will discuss and jointly decide upon appropriate placement options, and the instructor can help the student line up a placement if necessary.  The legislative offices will understand that the focus of the placement is to be on juvenile and criminal justice matters.

Criminal justice policy issues are expected to be high on the legislative agenda this session, especially given the national focus on criminal justice reform, police shootings, and the Sandra Bland case.  Among the issues likely to be the subjective of significant legislative attention this session are:  raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18; pretrial diversion and bail reform; law enforcement accountability and arrest authority; jail safety and suicide prevention; jail oversight issues; possible closure of state prisons; mental health services for juvenile and adult offenders; changing sentencing policies for low-level adult drug offenders; the use of state jails and adult probation; nondisclosure of criminal and juvenile records; juvenile sex offender policy; and prison rehabilitative programming.

The class will meet irregularly and at a time and place convenient to course participants.  The meeting time will NOT necessarily be at the formally scheduled time, though Friday mornings will be our default option.  There will be a few meetings very early in the semester to ensure that students have a good understanding of legislative procedures, the budgeting process, and the major juvenile and criminal justice issues likely to be at the forefront of legislative debate this session.  After those early meetings, we will meet on an occasional basis as needed to discuss topics that students would find helpful in their work.  The instructor is also available to meet individually with students to address whatever questions arise in their work.

Course requirements include working 10-12 hours per week in a legislative office; attendance at class meetings when they are scheduled; a couple of reflection essays about the students’ work; and a final portfolio, including a report about the students’ activities at the Legislature and an assessment of the policy-making process with regard to a single piece of legislation on which they worked.  There will be no assigned course readings (other than some initial background materials) or weekly homework.

To the extent possible, students are encouraged to keep their schedules as clear as possible on either or both Wednesday mornings and Thursday mornings, both of which are traditionally used for hearings of the relevant legislative committees.  However, later in session, meeting times for the Committees become much more unpredictable, and these hearings can often run into evening hours or occur on different days.

Students interested in enrolling in this class should speak to Professor Deitch at the earliest possible time for planning purposes.