Texas Appleseed and two national advocacy groups are praising today’s unanimous Sunset Advisory Commission vote to restructure the state’s juvenile system by abolishing the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and creating a new entity.MORE: From the Texas Tribune, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Austin Statesman, and the Lone Star Report.
“The Texas Sunset Commission took a visionary step forward in the ongoing reform of Texas’ juvenile justice system. Today’s vote builds on the reform efforts begun in 2007 and 2009 and positions Texas to move toward a more cost-effective system by emphasizing effective, community-based treatment,” said Texas Appleseed Deputy Director Deborah Fowler.
Pat Arthur, Senior Attorney, National Center for Youth Law, said, “Incarcerating youth in TYC facilities in remote parts of Texas exacerbates problems finding mental health professionals and teachers to serve these youth. "Texas has an opportunity to create a national juvenile justice model that creates meaningful opportunities for appropriate treatment and rehabilitation of youth close to their homes."
Given that Texas’ is facing a $27 billion budget shortfall, streamlining the system can ensure that Texas juvenile justice system provides the services youth need while reducing inefficiencies posed by a top-heavy system. "This is just the right time to take the next big step in the reform of Texas' juvenile justice system,” said Robert Fleischner, Assistant Director with the Center for Public Representation.
Representatives from these three advocacy groups have been working for several years to improve Texas’ juvenile justice system. In August, they requested a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into accounts of unsafe conditions and serious education and mental health programming deficiencies in 10 secure lockdown facilities operated by the TYC.
UPDATE: From another press release on the subject via Texans Care for Children:
Groups’ “Principles of Juvenile Justice Reform” Offer a Plan for Troubled Youth
As Sunset Commission recommends abolishing the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, advocates unite behind recommendations for reform
Understand that restructuring the juvenile justice system is not, in itself, reform. Don’t incarcerate youth for minor crimes or send kids to adult prisons. And let more funds go to counties offering community services that keep kids out of confinement.
These are a few of the “Guiding Principles of Juvenile Justice Reform for Texas” that major advocacy groups asked state leaders to look to, as the Sunset Commission voted Wednesday to end the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) and replace them with a new agency. Texans Care for Children, Advocacy, Inc., Texas Appleseed, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and Texas Network of Youth Services were among the groups signing on to the 12 principles, meant to guide reforms in the state’s juvenile justice system that started in 2007.“As Texas plans for the future of juvenile justice, we need to focus on what works,” said Jodie Smith, policy director at Texans Care for Children, which convenes the Texas Juvenile Justice Roundtable. “The experience of other states and communities here in Texas is that the best way to rehabilitate youth and maintain public safety is to keep juvenile offenders close to home—either under community supervision or in small, home-like settings—where they can get schooling and the supports they need to get their lives on a positive path. Maintaining and improving youths’ access to effective, community-based services, which has been a growing focus in Texas since reforms began, needs to remain the way forward.”The “Guiding Principles of Juvenile Justice Reform for Texas” are enclosed, and available here (pdf)