to remake often barbaric juvenile justice systems, ... [u]nfortunately, ... have been steadily rolled back since the 1990s when states began sending ever larger numbers of juveniles to adult jails — where they face a high risk of being battered, raped or pushed to suicide.The Times called it "incredible" that kids as young as ten were sent to youth prisons, and that's legally possible in Texas, but not common - the number of ten year olds in TYC is usually in the low-single digits or sometimes zero, depending on when you check.
Twenty-five years ago all youth offenders in Texas were handled through county jails, just like anyone else who's arrested. However on this Texas deserves credit. Now, all 254 counties have somewhere to take juvenile offenders (though for the most remote rural counties that means a contract bed in a county more than 100 miles away). It sounds like from the Times editorial that's not the case in many other places.
If we are to believe the Times' estimate that "as many as 150,000 young people under the age of 18 are incarcerated in adult jails in any given year," I'll bet relatively few of those (except perhaps some 17 year olds) are in Texas.
As the national paper of record, the Times lays the blame for expanding juvenile prisons at Congress' feet:
The rush to criminalize children has set the country on a dangerous path. Congress must now reshape the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act so that it provides the states with the money and the expertise they need to develop more enlightened juvenile justice policies. For starters, it should rewrite the law to prohibit the confinement of children in adult jails.Perhaps the JJDPA played a role, but in Texas our own pols bear most responsibility for the biennial expansion of newly criminalized or more harshly punished juvenile and adult conduct. After all, this is a state where some officials think a sixth grade girl writing "I Love Alex" on a bathroom wall deserves felony charges.
Changing federal law will help, but Texas' own state law is the main source of TYC's growth in the past 15 years, just like the ongoing decline in Texas' youth inmate population similarly results from recent changes in state law and agency policy.