Said Bush, "Twice in the recent past," by which he means, since World War II, "much-celebrated juvenile justice reforms have ended in disaster, with beaten, bloodied and abused youths in tow. Texans ought to be asking themselves: Will this time be any different?" He warned:
A major selling point for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is its purportedly lower price tag, but the Legislature and the citizens who elect its members must be willing to invest the necessary resources should the cost increase in the short term — as it well might — to equip local agencies to provide the quality services that will be needed to steer at-risk youth in the right direction.History repeats itself, the saying goes: The first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Let's hope the third time's the charm.
Equally as important is a widely shared commitment to supporting the local, noninstitutional approach over the long haul. Our elected officials need to stand firm in the face of inevitable reports of sensational youth violence, which have often accompanied previous "get tough" campaigns to build youth prisons and impose draconian sentencing guidelines.
Oversight will also be key to the new department's success. Local agencies must be held accountable for their actions and policies, and communication must strive for the highest level of transparency. The history of juvenile justice over the past century is littered with abuses that festered due to a lack of sunlight.