Spurned by voters, a Texas juvenile court justice known for incarcerating lots of teen offenders opted to release virtually all the defendants who appeared in his court today.
Harris County Juvenile Judge Glenn Devlin asked each defendant whether they planned to kill anyone, and then ordered their release when they responded in the negative.
"He was releasing everybody," public defender Steven Halpert told The Houston Chronicle. "Apparently he was saying that's what the voters wanted."
Devlin, a Republican, lost his re-election Tuesday after Democrats captured the benches in 59 local courts. He had earned a reputation as a judge who favors incarceration—the number of kids sent to juvenile detention doubled in recent years, despite falling elsewhere in Texas, according to The Chronicle.
State law mandates hearings every 10 days for minors with pending court cases. Many are detained in the meantime.
The district attorney was concerned about the haphazard releases. "We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. "This could endanger the public."
Indeed, it does sound reckless to release teens accused of violent crimes, their promises to refrain from murder notwithstanding. But kids involved in far less serious matters really shouldn't be sitting behind bars as they await resolution to their cases. The school-to-prison pipeline is a terrible thing, and overzealously sending young people to juvenile detention centers is bad for everyone.
While it sounds like Devlin losing his job is a good thing—given his cavalier approach—I hope his replacement is more inclined to consider releases for all young people who deserve them.