Spring 2021 - 60609 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
Advanced Juvenile and Criminal Justice Policy: The Legislative Process-WB
Advanced Juvenile and Criminal Justice Policy:
The Legislative Process
Prof. Michele Deitch
Spring Semester 2021
NOTE: All class meetings are online. Legislative placements will likely be virtual, but this is still unknown, and it may vary from office to office.
Students interested in enrolling in this class should speak to Professor Deitch at the earliest possible time for planning purposes.
This class is open to students who have taken a previous course in juvenile justice policy or criminal justice policy 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 12-15 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. The legislative offices will understand that the focus of the placement is to be on juvenile and criminal justice matters. At this time, I am assuming that it will be possible—and it may even be required—for legislative placements to be virtual. There may be some offices that require onsite work, and that can be a factor in your decision of whether a particular placement is a good fit for you.
Criminal justice policy issues are expected to be high on the legislative agenda this session, especially given the national focus on criminal justice reform. Among the issues likely to be the subject of significant legislative attention this session are: the proposed “George Floyd Act”; bail reform; police reform; the impact of COVID on correctional facilities; prison oversight; jail oversight; “second look” legislation for youth sentenced as adults; raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18; school safety and police; possible closure of state prisons; and mental health services for youth and adults.
All class meetings will be online, and the class will meet irregularly. 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 class 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 12–15 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.
Planning Your Schedule
To the extent possible, students are encouraged to keep large blocks of time available in their academic schedules to facilitate a regular work schedule. As a general matter, it is helpful to keep schedules as open as possible on Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday mornings, and/or Thursday mornings, which are traditionally used for hearings of the relevant legislative committees (though there is no guarantee the Committees will in fact meet on the same schedules as in the past). 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.
No one will be admitted to this class after January 14, due to the need to line up legislative placements in advance.