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The folks at night, don’t care about Constitutional rights … deep in the heart of Texas!

texas.jpgWhen kids do bad things in Texas, they get locked up in juvie, under the authority of the Texas Youth Commission. And the TYC has this pesky little policy that they won’t let folks out early unless they admit to the crime that got them in the kiddie clink. This has turned out to be a problem for one teen, Airick Browning, currently locked up for attempted rape. Browning’s case is on appeal and because he insists he’s innocent of the charges, he doesn’t want to give the TYC the confession it’s demanding. Especially since there is no immunity attached, meaning Browning’s confession would likely put the kibosh on his appeal.

Browning’s lawyers have filed a federal motion seeking to have the TYC’s policy deemed unconstitutional due to its violation of the right against self-incrimination. The Texas Civil Right Project, which is representing Browning and other similarly-situated inmates, says that this is clearly an unconstitutional policy of the agency “coercing confessions out of children.” And a con law professor says that this is an example of the government wrongly trying to setup unconstitutional conditions in order to get a government benefit:

For example, your entitlement to Social Security benefits can’t depend on how you exercise your right to vote. A particular tax credit or public housing or police protection can’t be conditioned on promising to hold certain religious beliefs.

On the upside, considering this is Texas, Browning should probably consider himself lucky that the TYC hasn’t simply decided that it would be quicker and easier to just shoot him.

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Comments

I recently did a paper on this very topic in Queensland, Australia. In Australia, however, this is a purely administrative law topic, whereas constitutional factors come into play in the US.

Even with Austrlaia's lacking any constitutionally entrenched rights (save for religion and political discourse, god this place is a Police state), the courts have been very good about ensuring that this is an improper exercise of power by the executive: it is not the function of a parole board of any type to try to compel admittances of guilt.

In the end, it's a startling example of an over-empowered executive branch who interpret their role as going far beyond any statute or regulation. I hope the courts give a good spanking to the TYC and remind them of what their function actually is as well as what the limits of power are.