juvenile crime has markedly declined at the same time Texas has reduced the number of youths in state institutions by 52.9 percent. By building on these successes in a challenging budget environment, policymakers can continue delivering improved results for public safety and taxpayers.It really is impressive to consider that the Texas Youth Commission reduced its inmate population by more than half after the sex-abuse scandal broke at the beginning of the 2007 legislative session, yet juvenile crime since then has continued its decade-long decline. Doesn't it seem remarkable that releasing half of TYC's inmates had no observable effect on juvenile crime rates? According to Levin:
After Senate Bill 103 became eff ective in June 2007 diverting misdemeanants from TYC, juvenile adjudications declined 10.3 percent from fi scal year 2008 to 2009. Similarly, fi lings to revoke probation for a new off ense or rule violation dropped 6.3 percent from 2008 to 2009. The most recent data on statewide referrals to juvenile probation shows a 4.3 percent drop from 2007 to 2008.This seems like uncommon news - a dog that quite noticeably didn't bark, even if many people (especially anonymous TYC commenters on Grits, FWIW) predicted it would howl and bay all night. Perhaps one could argue that juvie crime was declining anyway, and would have declined more without the ex-TYCers. And of course, the overwhelming majority of adjudicated juveniles - as in, around 98% - are sent to probation or diversion programs instead of TYC. So the overall juvenile crime rate represents a lot more kids than just those released. Still, it's quite an extraordinary observation.
The strategy for reducing TYC's inmate population so rapidly was essentially a version of Texas' 2007 adult probation reforms on steroids: They invested more heavily in community supervision and chose as a matter of policy to incarcerate fewer juveniles, just on a much more radical scale and rapid timeframe than they've done in the (much larger) adult system.
Given that, I'm curious to ask you, Grits readers, these questions:
- What do you think accounts for this seemingly counterintuitive result, and what does it say about the link between incarceration and crime rates?
- Would the strategy work as well deincarcerating the adult system, closing prisons and investing savings in community supervision? If not, why not?