News and Publications
Article: Texas Groups Fighting Against Long Prison Sentences (2020, News21)
Report: Second Look for Justice, Safety, and Savings (2020, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition)
One Pager: Second Look (2019, Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition)
Collection: The Second Look Book (2017, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Epicenter, and the Lone Star Justice Alliance)
Article: I sacrificed all for my country. My son is paying with his life. (2019, TribTalk)
Article: Convicted, young, longtime Texas inmates hope Second Look bill could give them a second chance. (2019, Houston Chronicle)
Article: Hope, lost and found for prison pastor (2017, Houston Chronicle)
Podcast: Ep. 16 Alex and Shauna, Walk of Faith (2019, Character Development Podcasting)
Podcast: Frankie Porter and Juvenile Justice Advocate Leah Metzler (2019, Blog Talk Radio)
The United States of America is the only country in the world who sentences their juveniles to life in prison.
The inmate population within Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is approximately 138,105. (The Texas Tribune, 2019)
About 1,300 Texas prisoners were given extreme (40+ years to life) sentences for crimes they committed as a juvenile.
It costs taxpayers $2.5 million to incarcerate one juvenile for life – an enormous expense considering most such young people should be rehabilitated long before their 40-year parole eligibility date (Texas Criminal Justice Coalition).
Texas has 254 counties; however, only 159 counties have sentenced juveniles to lengthy adult sentences. More than half of all Texas Second Lookers come from four counties: Harris, Dallas, Bexar and Tarrant.
The average age of Texas Second Lookers when they were locked up was 16 years old.
The myth of the Super Predator peaked in the 1990s; however, at that time, juvenile crime was already declining in America.
Total Incarceration Rate of Second Lookers by Decade.
The Texas Tribune. (2019, May). Retrieved from Texas Prison Inmates: https://www.texastribune.org/library/data/texas-prisons/
Please contact email@example.com if you would like a copy of Epicenter’s parole packet.
Aftershock (Reentry Program)
Epicenter is partnered with numerous ministries to provide reentry support for Second Lookers.
- Aftershock (n) - an aftereffect of a distressing or traumatic event.
- Growing up in prison is traumatic. Returning to the free world after 20+ years is a shock to the system. Aftershock is a reentry program for Second Lookers inside TDCJ units to prepare them for life again in the free world. They are not who they once were. They desire nothing more than to be positively contributing members of society.
- Inclusive of Bible study, practical life skills, relationship management, social etiquette, social media, current events, and more. Volunteers will guide Second Lookers through the parole preparation process and what to expect once they are released. This program will launch in Fall 2020, but we are recruiting volunteers now to train and prepare. The number of units we can impact is directly tied to how many people volunteer. The first step is to become a TDCJ-approved volunteer. Please visit the TDCJ volunteer website for a list of training dates and locations near you.
- Contact Shauna Reyes (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jimmy Payne (email@example.com) to learn more and get involved.
- Volunteer form
Epicenter is in the process of securing a house for Second Lookers returning to society. However, Epicenter needs funding to make this vision a reality. Please read on to learn more.
Our residential project, called “Corinthian House,” is premised on the 1 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV) standard of transformational living:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Under Texas “tough-on-juvenile-crime” legislation enacted in the mid-1990s, many youthful offenders between the ages of 14 and 17 were prosecuted as adults and placed into the adult prison system with extreme (40+ year) sentences. Currently, approximately 1,400 Second Lookers are serving virtual life or capital life sentences in Texas adult prisons. They are legislatively excluded from the benefits of earlier parole through earned “Good Conduct Time” and “Work Time” credits. They must serve a minimum of 30 or 40 years, respectively, before becoming eligible for parole. Even then, the current parole process does not take youthfulness into account as a mitigating factor, which means many will languish in prison for 40+ years with no hope in sight. Passage of the Second Look bill in 2021 would allow earlier and more meaningful parole eligibility for Second Lookers at 20 years or half of their sentence, whichever is shorter.
While Texas “tough-on-juvenile-crime” politics attempted to resolve immediate youth crime concerns, they failed to factor in the long-term ramifications of extreme prison sentences. Long-term incarceration has not only proven to increase the dangers of institutionalization, including both mental and physical health deterioration, but it suppresses the formation of normal social skills and etiquette, limiting the acquisition of real-world job training and technological prowess. Incarcerating juvenile offenders until they are 40, 50, or 60 years old is counterproductive toward goals of prisoner rehabilitation and recidivism rate reduction.
By the time these youthful offenders reach parole eligibility, many of their family and friends will have either died or abandoned them. With little to no support, they will be ill-prepared for life in the real world. As a result, homelessness is the primary immediate concern for many long-incarcerated juvenile offenders paroling from prison:
Considering how Texas “tough-on-juvenile-crime” legislation fails to account for the post-release aftercare of long-incarcerated youthful offenders, many of them face an increased likelihood of becoming welfare-dependent, resorting to criminal survival and recidivating, succumbing to drug and alcohol abuse, and/or perhaps even suicide.
Epicenter believes children are more than their worst mistake. Our advocacy for youth justice reform (Texas “Second Look” legislation) aligns with neuroscientific evidence indicating that juvenile offenders should not be held to adult standards of culpability and punishment. According to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, most juvenile offenders can be expected to “age-out” of criminal behavior. We seek to assist the successful reintegration of long-incarcerated juvenile offenders paroling back into society by providing them with an affordable place to live where they may begin their lives. Unlike the negative environments and scarce reentry service support of traditional halfway houses, our faith-based post-release residency project, “Corinthian House,” aims to provide a more positive and nurturing residential program with less of an institutionalized atmosphere.
Located in Galveston County, our capital project site is unique because, according to the TDCJ Reentry Services Division, it resides in a county that has zero post-release housing programs. “Corinthian House” will then be the only post-release residency program in Galveston County. It will be within a residential and commercial zoning area, making it within walking distance for quick access to the business district. More importantly, it will be surrounded by 110 chemical plants, numerous construction sites, and the Houston Port Authority, making it a particularly employment-friendly area to returning citizens.
Although placement into “Corinthian House” will be rent-free for each of our resident’s first 60 days, we do have a sustainability plan for low incremental rent increases based on residency duration and earned income. However, Epicenter is a volunteer-based nonprofit operating solely on small donations. We are looking to raise funds through grants and private donors. If you or an organization you know could assist in these efforts, please contact Deanna Luprete at deannaluprete@secondlooktexas.
Pen Pal Ministry
- Facilitating friendship and mentorship for Second Lookers via mail correspondence. More than 500 Second Lookers are in need of a pen pal. Here is a document with more information and FAQs.
- Please complete this volunteer form to become a pen pal.
- Here is a great resource from Prison Fellowship about what you can expect as a pen pal with some helpful context.
- Testimonials of impact:
- "Writing regularly with my Second Looker pen pal has not only blessed his life incredibly, the process has enriched my life as well. I keep him encouraged with Bible verses and online Christian resources that can be printed and mailed in, up-to-date on current events in the free world, and lifted up in prayer. Through our letters he knows he is cherished, valued, and not forgotten." - Pen pal (Dallas, TX)
- "Receiving letters from my pen pal is the best part of my week. My pen pal cares, listens, prays and fasts for me and other Second Lookers. I have such a feeling of peace and joy come over me with each letter I get. It's just awesome." - Second Looker (Coffield Unit)
180 Program (Giddings State School)
- Facilitating life recovery and life skills curriculum within TJJD state schools that will lead to ongoing mentoring support. Participants will gain self-worth, confidence, discipline, truth, and practical life lessons. Without this, chances are higher of juvenile offenders doing a “360” and perpetuating the cycle of incarceration. The time is now for a 180.
- Contact Leah Metzler at leahmetzler@secondlooktexas.
org to learn more and get involved.