When the Dallas Morning News recently featured the case of Khristopher Hood it highlighted one of the most disturbing aspects of Texas’s criminal justice system.
Hood was locked up when he was just 11-years-old and hasn’t seen freedom since. That’s about to change next year when he will be released in his 30s.
The article highlighted many of the downsides of locking up kids when they are so young. It deprives them of learning to function on their own as adults and keeping down a job after being released.
The article explained how Khristopher Hood was just 11 when he was locked up for molesting two younger female relatives and how he cried alone in his cell.
Hood is now 32. He has been behind bars ever since, The Dallas Morning News reported he recently earned parole and will be released by the state next year after nine months of intensive therapy.
Hood was sentenced to 40 years in 1995. Much of his childhood was spent in state juvenile lockup. When he turned 17 he was transferred to an adult prison.
Had it not been for the Dallas Morning News series “Kids or Criminals” which featured a number of inmates who grew up incarcerated in Texas and what happened to them when they got out, he might have remained locked up for longer.
“Because kids like Hood experience their teen years and young adulthood in prison, they miss out on what most learn during that time. They’ve never held a job, found a place to live or gone on a date,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
The series noted about 2,100 prisoners in Texas are serving time for offenses committed between the ages of 10 and 16. If Texas counted 17-year-olds as minors, as is the case in many other states, the number would grow to nearly 8,000.
The series reported on how youngsters undergo dramatic changes when they are incarcerated.
Most of those who are locked up at an early age have committed very serious crimes. However, their age means they will be released at some point.
Criticism of the system came from Christina Melton Crain, a former chairwoman of the board that oversees the prison system in the Lone Star State. She said inmates like Hood return to society lacking the skills they need to function. It’s hard enough for any inmate who is released after a long sentence, harder still for those who were locked up when they were children.
“They are basically being raised in the prison system. They don’t have the benefit of growing up in the community,” stated Crain, who now heads up the nonprofit group Unlocking Doors, which helps offenders adjust to society by assisting them in finding jobs and places to live.
Hood has not received therapy since being transferred to an adult prison and will have to register as a sex offender on his release for the rest of his life.
Not all of the children who are locked up in Texas have done anything wrong. Earlier this year, In These Times reported how illegal immigrants and their kids are being locked up at camps near San Antonio.