A look at Texas Youth Commission — and feminist bookstores

Lost Causes

Chad R. Trulson, Darin R. Haerle, Jonathan W. Caudill, Matt Delisi

University of Texas Press, $26.95

This thorough look at the Texas Youth Commission examines how the state has had “a long and awkward history when it comes to managing ‘parenting’ juvenile offenders who have meandered from the straight and narrow.”

The authors deal with the “determinate sentencing” of Texas’ most serious and violent juvenile offenders — an effort to allow second chances while remaining under the rehabilitation-centered umbrella of Texas’ juvenile courts and the Texas Youth Commission.

Specifically, “Lost Causes” focuses on data about juvenile offenders who received a “determinate sentence” in Texas from 1987 through 2011.

During those years, 3,382 youths were prosecuted, adjudicated and incarcerated in TYC as sentenced offenders, the authors write. Most have been released back into the community, typically on parole or under supervision, while the rest have moved on to the Texas prison system.

The demographics of those receiving these sentences are detailed in a chart, with the following racial breakdown: whites, 20.3 percent; African-American, 38.9 percent; Hispanic, 39.1 percent; and other, 1.7 percent. The vast majority were male, 94.5 percent.

The authors also examine the backgrounds of those sentenced, finding that the offenders “were not strangers to the juvenile justice system at the time of their commitment. Indeed, sentenced offenders averaged more than four referrals to juvenile authorities prior to their determinate sentence.” About 60 percent lived in poverty; 69 percent had been previously placed outside their home; 28 percent were on probation; and 27 percent had previously been referred to the system for running away.

Another chapter explores recidivism, with 62 percent being rearrested. But those who were placed under community supervision had significantly lower recidivism risks compared to offenders released without supervision.

“There are those who would put a substantial amount of blame on juvenile justice systems and juvenile correctional authorities for youth recidivism. … We believe this type of criticism is unfair,” the authors write. The system “is being asked to make such monumental changes in the course of perhaps two or three years, in an often inconducive environment, and to make sure the changes last a lifetime. This is unrealistic.”

The Feminist Bookstore Movement

Kristen Hogan

Duke University Press, $24.95

Austin author Kristen Hogan outlines the history of the feminist bookstore movement in her new book, subtitled “Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability.”

She discusses how many feminists were connected from 1976 to 2000 through the publication of “Feminist Bookstore News.” And in her first chapter, “Dykes with a Vision, 1970-1976,” she documents the beginnings of these bookstores in such cities as Austin as well as Cambridge, Mass.; San Francisco; Toronto; Oakland, Calif.; and New York.

In Austin, Common Woman Bookstore, now known as BookWoman, was founded in 1975 and grew in part out of the Austin Lesbian Organization. It has been a site for education and information, including feminist music, spirituality and crafting, she writes.

Several early organizers say that the Austin store was founded after a visit to Oakland, where they visited a women’s center that “helped overcome isolation and create a new culture,” Hogan writes.

People who were involved in the early stages of the Austin bookstore include Nancy Lee Marquis, Cynthia Roberts, Dede Spontak, Judy Grahn, Nina Wouk and Susan Post, the latter of whom has kept an archive documenting the local bookstore movement. And in 1976, Post and other Austinites attended an event in Omaha, Neb., called Women in Print, which helped spur more feminist bookstores around the nation.

Hogan says she’s using the book to offer a “history of how feminist bookwomen both documented and influenced feminist thinking and relationship practices starting in 1970.” She says she’s not waxing nostalgic “for a time when there were more feminist bookstores” but is suggesting “attention to this history to understand how our current conversations have been informed by feminist bookwomen.”

Hogan, who worked at BookWoman in Austin and at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, is education coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Center: Serving Women and LGBTQA Communities, at the University of Texas.

Hogan will be reading and signing her book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at BookWoman, 5501 N. Lamar Blvd., #A-105.

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