Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is juvenile crime in Texas declining?

Is juvenile crime declining in Texas despite a dramatic reduction in inmate population at the Youth Commission? That appears to be the implication of data presented to the Legislature by Angela Isaac at the Legislative Budget Board recently about juvenile probation caseloads.

I'm listening this morning to early portions of last week's joint hearing on juvenile corrections that I missed, and was very interested to hear the committee's discussion with LBB about Texas juvenile probation caseloads.

They discussed LBB-generated data showing the monthly juvenile probation caseload statewide declined slightly almost every month since April 2007, even though the Youth Commission quit taking misdemeanants during that period and began moving youth through their system and back into their home communities more rapidly.

The Legislature actually budgeted an extra $57.9 million for the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission on the assumption that these new populations and other changes would increase their caseload, but the average monthly caseload in the first six months of FY '08 was 145 lower than in FY'07. Since 98% of juvenile offenders are handled through local probation departments, juvie probation commitments are typically viewed as a pretty good indicator of the juvenile crime growth rate. So if caseloads are flat when overall population is growing, arguably there's less juvenile crime occurring, at least on the margins.

That's not to say the money wasn't needed - juvenile probation historically has been underfunded anyway. And although the caseload didn't grow, shifting TYC youth to the locals changed their offender mix substantially, and requires counties to provide additional services. Most of the new juvie probation money specifically goes to pay for contract residential beds. But the overall population in Texas is growing, and the school-age population is growing even faster.

The flat growth is especially impressive because juvie probation commitments over the last two decades far outstripped population growth. According to a recent Office of Court Administration publication:
The annual rate of increase of the juvenile population was steady for 20 years, averaging an increase 1.5 percent per year. However, the annual rate of increase of juvenile filings fluctuated greatly from a decrease of nearly 10 percent (in 1988) to an increase of 33 percent (in 1996), and averaged an increase of 6.1 percent per year.
Given that recent trend, it's pretty amazing to see the state with fewer juvenile probation commitments a year after dumping half the youth prison population into the county's laps! What do readers think explains this trend?

35 comments:

Barney Smellcash said...

More probation officers? When counties get a bunch of new money, tendency is to build or hire right? More PO's would mean lower caseloads...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That wouldn't explain it, Barney. They may have hired more probation officers, but this statistic is for the total number of kids on probation, regardless of how many are supervising them - just over 40,000 kids.

Anonymous said...

Grits - are we talking about apples, oranges, or bananas? What should be the guiding statistic here?
Total # of referrals yearly to JPD's? Total # of kids actually adjudicated (not diverted) and placed on official probation? Or the total # of commitments to TYC yearly? We are currently running the numbers here in the cultural universe of Texas but the first thing we need to do is get everyone on the same page when all these numbers are being hrown around. (Or - am I too dumb to understand what's going on here?)

Plato

judge chief charly hoarse said...

This brought me back to the detention centers. They can't staff their far-flung gulags, and there's more employees than clients, or inmates. This, plus the history of abuse makes me favor Sen. Whitmire's plan to shut down the system.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Plato, I may well be wrong on this, I'm trying to understand it myself. LBB was giving aggregate figures for all juvenile probation caseloads, and declared they were declining, though they'd been projected to increase because of past trends and SB 103. Asked the reasons, LBB replied they didn't know, that it was "possibly" something the counties were doing in response to SB 103. It just struck me that another possibility is that fewer kids committed crimes.

The statistics from the Office of Courts Administration, admittedly, was not apples to apples to the probation caseload stat. I cited it only to say that any reduction would be in opposition to recent history, since I didn't have historical probation caseload easily to hand.

Anonymous said...

Scott: Listen to V. Sprigg's testimony during the 4-22-08 Senate Finance Committee Hearing.

Could it be that the statistical collection methodology may be the answer? Of course not. . . .

Retired 2004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Will do, thanks Retired.

JJ said...

Grits - Need to question what kind of statistics they are talking about. # on court ordered probation plus number on deferred prosecution, how about conditions of release. Also what time frame are the referring to 2007 numbers, 2006?

Referrals to juvenile courts should be looked at and I can say our referrals here have declined over the last 10 years.

Thing is our referrals have increased 40% for the 1st six months of FY 2008 (9/1/07 to 2/29/08) compared to FY 2007. Our felony referrals have increased 200%. Received email from Texas Juvenile Probation Commission asking about number declines and sent them a response of no declines here. We may just a have a rough bunch of kids right now. Most kids don't commit crimes by themselves.

"Is Juvenile Crime declining?" Yes it has been on a steady decline for years. Will it continue despite the TYC issues? That is a question that can't be answered yet.

Hays County opened a Juvenile facility 4 or 5 years ago and the county debated and debated on whether to operate it themselves or have a private operator. Thank goodness they run it and they do a great job. Anyway, 6 months into it they were worried because the numbers weren't what they wanted. It was explained to the elected officials over and over that they needed to be patient and let the program develop itself and the numbers would increase. A year or year and half into the facility they filled up and have had waiting lists ever since.

Point is we won't exactly know the effect this TYC situation as had on the system until some time has gone by.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Retired, I haven't listened to the 4-22 hearing yet, but later in the 4-16 hearing I LOL when Spriggs said news stories about abuse at TYC may have caused juvenile offenders to be temporarily scared straight! That's pretty rich. Sounds like she had a better answer at Senate Finance! ;)

Anonymous said...

These stats are b.s. The numbers are rising or at least steady. Also, the system is being inundated with repeat misdemeanor offenders with totally inadequate sanction options.

JJ said...

OK Grits... I went and listened to the LBB talking about a population reduction in juvenile probation supervision. She stated that the number went from 40,783 kids under supervision to 40,638 and she really didn't nail down the dates or what she was looking at but I don't think I would call that some big reduction in juvenile crime.

The only way to figure out if juvenile crime is declining is to look at the referrals.

Seems to me that the number increase they are talking about is the fact that the locals would have to maintain more kids in the community because of SB 103.

There are different ways to control your supervision levels.

JJ said...

OK Grits... I went and listened to the LBB talking about a population reduction in juvenile probation supervision. She stated that the number went from 40,783 kids under supervision to 40,638 and she really didn't nail down the dates or what she was looking at but I don't think I would call that some big reduction in juvenile crime.

The only way to figure out if juvenile crime is declining is to look at the referrals. Some kids actually get arrested more than once.

Seems to me that the number increase they are talking about is the fact that the locals would have to maintain more kids in the community because of SB 103.

There are different ways to control your supervision levels.

Anonymous said...

I remember my stats professor in college telling us how stats can be worked to prove any point.

Anonymous said...

The number of referrals to juvenile probation (from schools, cops & parents) is apparently down from this time as compared to previous years. That's the number in question. There are actually more kids under supervision though (formal disposition) than in the past, despite the fact that the total number of referrals is down.

Yes, juvy crime rates have been going down steadily since the '90s, so the question is not, "is juvenile crime declining". Since there aren't more kids going into TYC, but they aren't being referred to juvenile probation either, the question is "where are these kids?”

The answer (given by Spriggs at this week's Senate Finance hearing, pointed to by Retired '04) is that the kids are being certified to the adult system.

Youth can be certified at age 14 for certain types of crimes, including non-violent drug offenses. Many of the determinate sentenced youth currently in TYC (who will largely go on to be on adult parole) could also have been certified, based on their offense. When SB 103 changed the age limit for youth in TYC from 19 to 21 it inadvertently messed up the determinate sentencing structure that was preventing a certain population of youth from being certified.

At the next hearings, TDCJ and local DAs should be brought in to speak to whether this is where the missing kids are.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I have to say, it is not going down, because everyday we get new kids coming to TYC, EVERYDAY!!! Mon thru Friday, we get them, it is not on the decline, I see it for myself.

Anonymous said...

What county are you in, 2:51? Do you think it's just a data lag -- that county's haven't sent their updated numbers in yet for the year?

JJ said...

TJPC developed and provide the database that all juvenile probation department use (Caseworker 5). The data is donw/uploaded to TJPC by the 10th day of each month. Very little lag time and accurate data.

If a kid is referred for murder and they are later certified as an adult, they still show up on the books as a referral to the juvenile justice system for murder. There may be more kids getting certified and that may explain a slight supervision reduction. LBB brought up supervision numbers being down.

TYC numbers are down from FY 2006 to FY 2007 by 411 kids. That stat is located on TYCs website.

JJ said...

Sorry - didn't specify the TYC number - 411 less new committments

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Uh, JJ I did call the slight decline "flat growth," which isn't really overstating things. But that's after increasing around 6% annually for two decades, AND in the face of transferring hard core misdemeanants to locals (who account for a lot of recidivism). One explanation could be that juvie crime could be declining overall, if referrals are flat while the overall population increases.

There could be many other explanations for the numbers. But LBB and TJPC projected and budgeted for an increase that did not come. The subject of their discussion and my post was "Why?" It's a good question.

Anonymous said...

If you think the trend of declining numbers will continue you are wrong. With the economy tanking fast these numbers are only heading one direction. Thats why locals will never take over the state's responsibility no matter what they promise.

Anonymous said...

Associated Press April 24

DALLAS – A Texas Youth Commission superintendent quit before she was fired after allowing two juvenile inmates to work alongside an adult whose probation banned him from working unsupervised with minors, an agency investigation revealed.

Lisa Cooke, who had headed the McFadden Ranch in Roanoke in Denton County for five years, also accepted cash from relatives of inmates at the facility for youths with substance abuse problems, according to documents obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, 5:15!

Anonymous said...

A review of OJJDP will find a decline in total juvenile arrests over the past decade (which isn't saying much given the tremendous surge in the 90's) but significant increases in offenses against persons (typically violent crimes) and drug offenses.

Is the 40,000 whatever number actual kids under supervision or is it number of referrals for the year? What percentage of those youth are in detention? Is this more or less than a year ago?

Also Grits, is there really growth for the juvenile aged population?

I also wonder if the cops are just giving the misdemeanant youth warnings, letting them walk because of overburdened juvenile systems?

It is most certainly not because the youth were scared of coming to TYC due to the abuse allegations as they all think it will never happen to them anyway.

Anonymous said...

It could be that some misdemeanant youth decide to behave because they know the next time they go before the court they will likely be pinned with a felony. Unlikely prospect but possible.

It also could be due to the overall general increase in youth who have been tried as adults in recent years. These kids are certainly not at-risk for recidivism any time soon.

Whitsfoe said...

Hey Scott, I would bet in the next eight months, we are going to see an increase of felony offenders being sent from the counties. I'm starting to see that trend happening now. The judges, as predicted, are starting to felonize youth whereas in the past, they'd allow for a plea down. Keep your eye on this one, because it just goes to show the counties aren't very trusting of the ledge. They've seen these budget cuts we've faced, and even with a guarantee, I wouldn't put a dime on the bet the counties won't felonize youngsters. Watch the trends before the session, because I'm sure it's going to be tale-telling.

Anonymous said...

Cops write reports of crime all day long. Only way a juvie gets arrested is if they jump in the cops car. Of all crime reported statewide, what is the arrest rate for said crimes? 10%? Less? don't talk this juvie crime rate smack.

Anonymous said...

The outflux of youth from TYC is to parole not probation. They would not likely fit into the probation statistics if they were to reoffend while on parole would they? So the expectation that caseloads would increase related to the decrease TYC population is not necessarily expected, except for having to carry more misdemeanants.

Anonymous said...

If we are talking about number of kids under supervision than the increase of youth transferred to the adult system would have a direct impact on those under supervision, even though they were initially a juvenile referral. I think this plays a tremendous part in the system. i think lowering the age of TYC to 19 will ultimately be viewed as draconian. I think Violent A offenders (24 month minimum) and DSO's (24-120 months minimum)should be allowed to stay in TYC until they are 21. Too many youth who are candidates for rehabilitation are going to be transferred to TDCJ because they will not have enough time to do treatment in TYC. The 16 year old who commits a serious offense and has some court delays will never be sent to TYC. They will be transferred to TDCJ not having the opportunity to complete the violent offender program. throwing the kid away.

Anonymous said...

Based on the stories out of Houston the numbers could be even lower if the kids didn't have crappy representation selected on the base on cronyism.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good discussion, folks. In particular, moving the 19-21 year olds really would shift the numbers. I'll listen to the 4-22 hearing, see what else I can figure out on this, and post again on it this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Hey 9:31

That is the most reasonable suggestion I have heard on this topic thus far!!! Without doubt, this issue will be revisited next session.

Anonymous said...

2:54,
i hope you have the influence to actually make a review of that happen...

Anonymous said...

2:54,
Just wanted to highlight that the problem is not just with DSO's. Many VOA youth are now just "riding out" their time. They will age out at 19, have no supervision (no parole because TYC no longer has jurisdiction). Huge problems now occurring with the lowering of the age regarding DSO sentencing structure and VOA's not being motivated to engage the treatment process.

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of juvenile crime news summaries: http://ng2000.com/ng2000bb/YaBB.pl?num=1221461351

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of juvenile crime news summaries: http://ng2000.com/ng2000bb/YaBB.pl?num=1221461351