During the past six years, Texas overhauled its juvenile corrections system, enacting a series of reforms that led to a significant reduction in the state-level committed population and yielded millions of dollars in cost savings while protecting public safety.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Texas responded to an increase in juvenile arrests with stiffer penalties for juvenile offenders. Those changes, coupled with expanded funding for secure state facilities, led to a near-tripling of the number of committed youth between 1993 and 2001.1
To accommodate this growth, Texas built one of the nation's largest juvenile corrections facilities, with planned capacity of more than 600 beds, in the early 2000s.2 In 2007, abuse was exposed in several secure state facilities, prompting a comprehensive juvenile corrections reform effort in the state.3
Beginning in 2007, Texas took a series of steps to overhaul its juvenile corrections system, with a focus on encouraging local, evidence-based supervision for low-level youth offenders in order to improve system efficiency and public safety while reducing costs.
The reforms of the past six years contributed to a significant reduction in the committed juvenile population and helped Texas save substantial funds while boosting public safety.
1 Data provided by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (July 2012).
2 Texas Youth Commission, Annual Report (FY2002), http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/archive/annual_rpt02/section2/p12_construction.html.
3 See, for example, Nate Blakeslee "Hidden in Plain Sight," Texas Observer (Feb. 23, 2007); and Ralph Blumenthal "Citing Abuses, Texas Governor Ousts Leader of Youth Agency," The New York Times (Feb. 23, 2007).
4 Senate Bill 103. http://www.legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/text.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=SB103
5 Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Annual Report to the Governor and Legislative Budget Board. Juvenile Probation Appropriations, Riders and Special Diversion Programs, p. 38 (December 2011), http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/reports/RPTOTH201202.pdf.
6 Texas Administrative Code, Title 37, Part 11, Chapter 346, Subchapter B, Rule §346.202, http://info.sos.state.tx.us/pls/pub/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=37&pt=11&ch=346&rl=202. Note, the Commitment Reduction Program is also known as Grant C–Community Corrections Diversion Program. See, for example, http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/committees/reports/81interim/House-Committee-on-Corrections-Interim-Report-2010.pdf. The summary of grant requirements is available online: http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/standards/Grants12/TJPCGRANTSC.pdf.
7 Texas Juvenile Justice Department Commitment Grant C–Commitment Reduction Program Compliance Resource Manual, http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/standards/Grants12/TJPCGRANTSCCRM.pdf.
8 Texas Juvenile Justice Department Annual Report to the Governor and Legislative Budget Board (December 2012), Community Juvenile Justice Appropriations, Riders and Special Diversion Programs, http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/reports/AnnualReportFundingandRiders2012-12.pdf.
9 Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (2010), The risk and needs assessment tool: What statewide data reveal. PowerPoint presentation at the 2010 Data Coordinators Conference, Austin. http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/statistics/2010DataCoordConf/RiskAndNeedsAssessmentTool.pdf.
10 Senate Bill 653. legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=SB653. Texas Juvenile Justice Department website: http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/
11 Texas Juvenile Justice Department (2012), Strategic Plan 2013-2017. Austin, TX. http://www.tjjd.texas.gov/publications/reports/TJJD%20Strategic%20Plan%20-%20FINAL%20-%20JULY%202012.pdf.
13 Data provided by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (July 2012).
14 Sheffield (2008), McLennan (two-unit consolidation, 2011), Victory Field (2010), West Texas State School (2010), Crockett (2011), Ron Jackson Unit II (2011), and Al Price (2011). Texas Juvenile Justice Department communication.
15 Texas Department of Public Safety's Annual Report of 2011 UCR Data Collection: Crime in Texas 2011 Overview (p. 2) http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/public_information/2011CIT.pdf.
16 Texas Legislative Budget Board, Statewide Criminal and Juvenile Recidivism and Revocation Rates (January 2013). http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Public_Safety_Criminal_Justice/RecRev_Rates/Statewide%20Criminal%20Justice%20Recidivism%20and%20Revocation%20Rates2012.pdf.