Counties provide the backbone of the juvenile justice system, even if most of the debate publicly always seems to surround TYC (and now TJPC). Here's an excellent summation from the Sunset report of the system's broad outlines:
Texas counties supervise by far the most youth and outspend state and federal governments in Texas’ state-local juvenile justice system. Although driven largely by county initiatives, the State plays two key roles in the overall system.A chart on page 7 (p. 14 of the pdf) titled "Juvenile Referrals and Dispositions: FY 2007, gives a terrific big-picture overview of how the system processes cases. At the macro level, 136,188 youths were arrested in Texas in 2007, but 42% were diverted by police or a magistrate and were never referred to juvenile probation.
The State, through the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC), disburses funds to county juvenile probation departments and monitors them for compliance with established standards. In fi scal year 2007, TJPC provided counties with state and federal funding totaling more than $143 million, an average of 31 percent of counties’ total probation expenditures. Counties contributed another $325 million to support local probation services, including the operation of 86 secure countyoperated or contracted facilities. Probation departments supervise most youth in the system, from misdemeanants to felons, with programs that range from basic supervision to 24-hour secure detention. Local courts sent about 51,623 youth to probation departments for supervision, including probation and deferred prosecution, in fi scal year 2007.
In its second role, the State operates the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). This agency is reserved for felons, which it houses in 12 secure facilities, nine halfway houses, and 12 contract care residential programs. In fiscal year 2007, TYC expended $258 million on its facilities and programs. At their option, local juvenile judges commit their hardest-to-serve youth to TYC, but typically take this course only as a last option after exhausting local probation alternatives. Of youth referred to the juvenile justice system in fiscal year 2007, local courts sent about 2,276 youth to TYC. (Ed note: see charts at bottom left on p. 6 - p. 13 of the pdf)
Overall, law enforcement referred most youth to probation - 79,618 times in 2007 - while another 24,174 cases came from other sources, mostly schools, for a total of 103,792 referrals that year. Here are categories of dispositions from 2007:
- Consolidated or Transferred Cases: 7%
- Dismissed, Not Guilty, No Probable Cause: 19%
- Supervisory Caution: 22%
- Deferred Prosecution: 22%
- Probation: 27%
- Texas Youth Commission: 2%
- Certified to Adult Court: .2%
So we're talking about a relatively small number of cases actually referred to youth prisons, and even fewer who are violent offenders. Every kid who enters TYC has been processed by a county probation department regulated by TJPC, but the vast majority of youth cases (97.8% of referrals) aren't so serious.
Several people in the last week, both at the capitol recently and via private email, have told me they're worried that, on the adult side, merging the state's probation oversight functions with the prison system turned adult probation into essentially an unwanted stepchild at the state level, overrun in a culture dominated penal administrators who didn't know or care much about community supervision.
With juvie corrections so heavily weighted toward the probation side, as seen in these data (not to mention more focused on pre-adjudication outcomes), it's an understandable concern - certainly a risk - that a merger could leave juvie probation similarly de-priotized. After all, how much attention has the Lege paid in the last two years to TJPC compared to TYC?
Coming up: Sunset's analysis of TYC treatment failures.