Through subsequent reports, Deitch and her students helped spur the 2011 passage of Texas Senate Bill 1209, which gives judges the option to send children to juvenile detention centers instead of adult jails while awaiting trial, so that “these youths could be housed with age-appropriate peers, participate in educational classes and receive necessary services,” according to a news account from the university. Deitch and students also produced a chapter on youth behavior management for a National Institute of Corrections guide.
Deitch described the problems with trying and imprisoning youth as adults in a November 2014 TEDx Talk at Amherst. It became an Editor’s Pick on the TEDx website and has been viewed more than 20,000 times on YouTube. Deitch—a former Amherst trustee, with graduate degrees from Oxford and Harvard Law— spent the early 1990s as a courtappointed monitor of conditions in Texas prisons and went on to become general counsel to the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee and policy director of the Texas Punishment Standards Commission.
Her current work concerns the importance of independent oversight for juvenile and adult correctional facilities, and the goal of raising Texas’ minimum age at which a person must be tried as an adult from 17 to 18. This way, she believes, many 17-year-olds could learn and grow from the juvenile system.