One commenter said what the Lege did to TYC started with "f" and ended with "ed" but it wasn't "fixed." :) That may overstate the case, but what was approved leaves a lot of unanswered questions and unfinished work for the 81st Legislature in 2009, or all this will have been naught but a media circus.
For those with a particular interest, read the final text of SB 103 yourself. I adapted this summary from Isela Gutierrez's committee testimony on behalf of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, altering it to account for changes in the final bill. SB 103:
- Requires TYC to provide 300 hours of training to guards before they begin their duties at facilities and to maintain a ratio at least 1 guard for every 12 youth committed to the facility.
- Creates an appeals process for sentence extension orders.
- Requires annual inspections of county juvenile facilities by local judges and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission.
- Reimburses counties for certain expenditures associated with new procedures.
- Requires TYC to establish a Special Prosecutor as well as an Office of Inspector General for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting criminal acts among TYC youth, guards, and other TYC employees.
- Establishes an independent ombudsman
- Enhances criminal penalties for sexual offenses against TYC inmates
- Prohibits TYC from assigning a child younger than 15 years of age to the same dormitory as a youth at least 17 years of age.
- Requires the Texas Rangers to make monthly unannounced visits to TYC facilities and to submit reports to the Texas Sunset Commission for inclusion in TYC’s Sunset review evaluation.
- Requires a chaplain be appointed for each TYC institution.
- Mandates internal and external audits.
The most important change would be the mandate for a 12-1 inmate to JCO staffing ratio, reducing it from the current rate of 24-1. But such prescriptions may be meaningless for an agency with a 48% annual employee turnover and a bunch of facilities located in rural areas with notoriously small labor pools. You can't legislate away economic reality.
Otherwise, the main accountability reforms widely discussed all session will be studied, not implemented in SB 103, which mandated studies on the topics of:
- Transitioning toward regionalized juvenile corrections
- TYC governance and organizational structure
SB 103's full impact won't be felt for a year or two, and by that time perhaps the Sunset Review process will have revealed more clearly what direction TYC needs to take to fix what ails it. But it ain't fixed yet, even if in this writer's opinion it's too early to tell if it's otherwise f'ed.
STAY TUNED: Later this week I'll take a look at budget provisions for TYC and juvenile justice programming, and the author of ACLU's Blueprint for Girls has asked to submit a guest post answering some of the questions raised by Grits commenters and soliciting further input.