that projections of stable levels of incoming youths may be incorrect. Many nonprofit, county and city institutions are experiencing cutbacks, which may make it difficult for them to serve young offenders.Whether or not those concerns are justified or will bear out in the real world, the deed is done. By the time the 83rd Legislature convenes in 2013, it should be clear whether Mr. Turner is just a Nervous Nellie or Nostradamus. I've heard similar concerns about the merger from a handful of institutional players in and out of the capitol, but nearly every critic of the bill save Turner refused to publicly criticize it because they feared the two powerful committee chairman - Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Jerry Madden - who were pushing the idea.
Those realities, in addition to economic hardships for the families of at-risk children, could bring more youths through the juvenile justice system's doors, Turner said.
During the past four years, the federal government has cut funding to local juvenile programs; Tarrant County's portion fell from as much as $3 million to $300,000, Turner said.
"The cuts are coming," Turner said. "Families are in economic distress, people are losing their jobs, there's been a loss of resources in the schools and a loss of mental-health resources. I can't help but think that the probability is greatly increased because of all the cuts that more of these children will be funneled into the criminal justice system."
OTOH, Grits would be the first to concede there are strong arguments for the merger on efficiency grounds, particularly given TYC's massive recent downsizing. Time will tell whether this merger represents actual "reform," or merely change for change's sake. I honestly don't have an opinion on the propriety of the merger. I can see good points from both sides, but there are quite a few questions neither proponents nor critics seem able to answer. And advocacy groups this year too frequently played the role of cheerleader for the bill instead of loyal opposition, providing political cover for the merger instead of insisting all the hard questions get asked and publicly answered.
As an aside, among juvie justice advocates it's a true shame that the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition couldn't find money to keep my friend Isela Gutierrez on board after her excellent work in the 80th and 81st sessions: She was one of the only juvie advocates who I always trusted to shoot straight, even if it risked pissing off powerful people - a rare commodity indeed under the pink dome. Yet she always did so in a respectful, even humble manner that your correspondent greatly admires but could never replicate. We really missed you this year, Isela! :-(