Ultimately, it is too early to measure the impact of recent reforms on recidivism of youth on probation or exiting TYC, making it difficult to assess the success of the State’s investment in diversion and treatment. Sunset staff found that while the agencies have progressed, more work is needed and some time must elapse before reforms can be fully evaluated. Accordingly, staff concluded that TYC and TJPC should be continued for six years.They did say in the summary that:
While the agencies have implemented most of the required reforms, the juvenile justice system remains in transition and TYC needs to make additional improvements. As the youth population continues to decline, commitment costs and worker injury rates remain high. Staff turnover rates are down, but TYC continues to have difficulty staffing specialized treatment positions, and the agency can still improve the number of youth enrolling in and completing needed treatment.Overall, "TYC received about $262.4 million in revenue in fiscal year 2009. General revenue accounted for 86 percent of the agency’s total revenue. Other major sources of revenue included general obligation bonds, federal funds, and interagency contracts."
"The smaller population has resulted in excess physical capacity and a higher cost per youth per day," says Sunset staff, which has increased to $323.05 per day. Ouch. On one hand, the success at a legislatively directed policy to depopulate Texas youth prisons so rapidly is the direct cause of the high cost per day: The more youth diverted, the more the agency must pay per youth unless more facilities are closed. OTOH, if there are alternatives that counties could access for a lower cost, the high number provides more fuel for Sen. Whitmire's call to merge TYC with juvenile probation and close most remaining youth prisons.
The average length of parole supervision after leaving TYC is 10 months, Sunset found, with 3,714 youth on the agency's supervision rosters in FY 2009.
The Juvenile Probation Commission "received about $144.5 million in funding in fiscal year 2009. General Revenue accounted for 87 percent of the agency’s total revenue," according to Sunset. "In 2009, TJPC funding accounted for, on average, 26 percent of local probation departments’ operating budgets. However, the percent of a department’s budget provided by TJPC varied by county, from as little as 11 percent to as much as 97 percent. The agency funded departments through 19 separate grants, which are described in Appendix C."
TJPC's diversion grants aimed at keeping youth out of TYC received high praise for boosting reductions in commitments between 2009 and 2010:
- The 141 counties that received diversion funding reduced commitments by 32 percent.
- Counties that did not receive funding reduced commitments by 10 percent.
TJPC is already doing its first extensive, long-term evaluations of local probation programs, which I think is wise even if it renders no short-term benefit. "TJPC has begun a major data collection effort with the recent creation of a program registry. This registry will list all programs offered by local probation departments and allow comparisons between programs to evaluate program success. While TJPC has increased data collection efforts, it will likely be several years before enough data is available for meaningful analysis." That's fine with me; it's not like we're not going to need better data in several years.
At TYC, staffing remains a concern, particularly for positions requiring specialized skills:
One of the Youth Commission’s greatest staffing challenges has been high turnover rates, especially for positions providing direct care to youth. The agency’s overall turnover rate has dropped from 41 percent in fiscal year 2007 to 25 percent in fiscal year 2010. However, hiring the specialized treatment and education professionals TYC youth need remains challenging, especially at the Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Beaumont, the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center, the Crockett State School, and Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg. The Youth Commission reports that key substance abuse treatment positions at Al Price have been vacant for months, or more than a year in at least one case. Likewise, senior-level mental health positions at Evins were recently vacant for a significant period. Corsicana, which serves the youth with the most severe mental health needs, currently has five mental health provider vacancies, including the most senior position.Injuries to TYC staff remain a problem, whether as a result of understaffing or a lack of experienced and/or adequately trained staff: "In fiscal year 2010, TYC staff were injured at a rate more than double that of the next highest agency providing 24-hour care, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, and four times the rate of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ)."
TYC has been shifting its treatment resources, as evidenced by a chart at the top of page 17. Fewer youth with identified chemical dependency needs are getting treatment, however nearly all youth identified with mental health needs receive treatment services. As a result, success rates for chemical dependency treatment have gone up while success rates for mental health treatment declined precipitously. Appendix B gives more unit-by-unit detail on "the number of TYC youth served in high- and moderate-intensity treatment programs in fiscal years 2009 and 2010."
Sunset recommends continuing the two agencies, for an annual total cost of $402.5 million at current funding levels, but with another Sunset review in just six years instead of the usual twelve, presumably to give recent reforms time to gel and for data to become available to measure problems or improvements.
Notably missing in the Sunset report were any issues raised by advocacy groups over the summer regarding TYC, with staff sticking tightly to their legislative charge from 2009.
Takeaway: TYC's base cost per youth remain high, ironically getting higher whenever TJPC and local probation departments succeed in diverting youth from state prisons. To cut costs long-term likely would require eliminating facilities to reduce overhead, something I wouldn't be surprised to see happen next spring. Criticisms of TJPC in the Sunset report weren't nearly as poignant as those of its sister agency and they probably feel pretty good about the result.