Thursday, October 18, 2012

Counties pushing for more control over juvenile system

Texas could move even further down the path toward state-level de-incarceration and county control of juvenile justice, if a deal being discussed behind the scenes comes to fruition. Reported the Austin Statesman's Mike Ward ("Counties push to bypass state youth lockups," Oct. 17):
Counties in Texas might soon be allowed to incarcerate all their teenage lawbreakers locally rather than send them to state-run lockups that have been plagued by violence, high recidivism rates and gang activity in recent years, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Travis County is among several counties that are pushing for the change in state law that some officials predict could save taxpayers millions of dollars — and have better success at thwarting criminal behavior in youths.

Such a change would mark Texas’ latest move away from state-run juvenile corrections, a trend that started five years ago when a sex-abuse scandal in the state’s juvenile-justice agency triggered reforms that have resulted in the closure of half the state-run lockups. The six that remain house less than 1,200 youths — about the size of an average city high school.
Ward refers to a "plan that is quietly being floated by Travis and other counties’ officials at the Capitol," which:
would require a change in state law, giving counties the authority to commit a youth to their custody, rather than to a state lockup. In addition, they said there are issues that must be resolved, including whether county lockups would have to meet state standards, who would handle transfers to adult prisons for youth offenders who are too violent to keep in county lockups and how much the state would pay counties for incarcerating youths.

The cost of incarcerating a youth in a state-run lockup runs just over $400 a day; the cost in counties is much less — about $118 a day in Travis County.
It sounds like a lot of the key opinion leaders are generally on board, though that's a long way from passing a functional reform bill.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

The biggest hurdle? The huge number of "rules" that have been added by pencil pushers. Many of the rules/standards have nothing to do with safety and security. Is it really a surprise the counties can do a better job than the state?

Anonymous said...

I think decentralized control of juvenile corrections would be a wonderful idea. Just think of all of the local rehabilitative initiatives which could be implemented at the county level (especially in rural counties) for the kiddos. Penal farms, hoe squads, chain gangs "flat weeding" the county road right of ways, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Anonymous said...

Almost half the kids in TJJD are special ed, or in need of some kind of mental help service. Rural counties don't have the resources to provide this. It appears that Whitmire is already implementing his plan: instead of giving them mental health services, just ship them off to big boy prison and let them worry about it. Yeah, that'll fix it.

Anonymous said...

Who pays for it, local taxpayers via ad valorem taxes?

Anonymous said...

Just like with mental health issues and county jails housing mentally ill inmates, many whom are only being held because they are mentally ill, the state of Texas now wants to avoid its responsibilities and hand down it down and the associated costs to locals.

Anonymous said...

While I agree keeping youth in the local areas if services are available I am afraid there is such a lack of services in even medium sized counties that without intense financial support some of these juveniles would be more of a danger to the local community than they would receive benefits. East Texas does not have a facility large enough for many kids other than their own local kids so where would the little counties send them to? We need more information. GRITS can you post a copy of this proposal??

Force Majeure said...

Programs are great, but state or local, someone has to pay for it. Show me the money!

Sam said...

Bad idea.Give the State most of the power and very little responsibility. Flat weeding?

Anonymous said...

Before everyone jumps on this proposal as the answer, check the books at TJJD on the number of abuse and neglect allegations and citations in the county facilities. They are numerous.

Last I knew, only 30-40 counties have detention facilities. We have 254 counties and I'd represent to you that they do not have the capacity to add another 1200 kids.

Also the article mentions counties (plural) but identifies only Travis. Who else is involved in the discussions?

And the mindset in counties always has been, we've done everything we can, let's get them outta here (out of sight, out of mind). It will be very difficult to change that mindset. Counties have never been in the situation where they are the placement of last resort and have nowhere to send these kids when they don't go along with the county programs.

Lots of research and discussion needs to be had.

Anonymous said...

This is a joke.The counties can not handle these kids.Then they want to send them to TDCJ if they do not behave.The thing is that the counties want more money in their budgets. The only way to do this is get rid of TJJD.Look at how many times a kid will reoffend over and over and get a slap in the hand by the county.The kids are finally locked up when the court gets tired of seeing the same kid over and over again.It looks good on paper but eventually county kids still go to TDCJ.If it is all about saving money,it is not going to happen.The money will still be wasted in state and county programs because there is still a lot of waste and fraud.I know if a kid breaks into my house and has a history of breaking into places I will want him locked up away where he can learn his lesson.Not back in the community where he get to hang out with his gang.All laughing and partying because they got away with it again.I say fix the county and state facilities with a good system.Ask all these kids victims and see what they have to say.Most people I have talked to about this problem, agree that this kids should not be let off easy.But they should not go to adult prison either. Again fix this juvenile system.I am a tax payer and I know either way the politicians will waste the money,not save any. The county is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

Mike Ward continues with his yellow journalism and is ignoring important facts about county run facilities. Yesterday October 17, 2012 the Texas Tribune wrote a report “Local youth programs need more funds, Oversight”. The Texas Juvenile Justice Coalition released a report that indicated that county run programs need more money to be effective and these programs need more oversight due to youth being restrained by staff and placed in seclusion. Specifically, youths with mental illness are not receiving the therapeutic services they need. Also, according to the report, during 2011 5,333 youth were restrained by staff and 37,071 were placed in seclusion. It appears that Senator Whitmore’s program is experiencing serious problems.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. We can send all the girls from Ron Jackson back to the county lock ups. Those male jailers will have a field day.

Anonymous said...

At $118 versus $400 a day to keep juvenile felons in line, I'd say the $118 would be the best way to go. Still seems like a big chunk of change to pay out for kids who oftentimes see incarceration as a summer camp adventure...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 10:13 above: What source do you, or anyone else, suggest we go to to look up problems with county-run facilities? Is there some database buried in TJJD/TJPC? Some periodic report to the Legislature? Where should we get that information?

10:21, that's exactly the point. They could increase the amount to $180 or $200 per day for the higher-risk kids, provide excellent programming, and it'd still be cheaper for the state than the current youth prisons, and would probably get better outcomes.

For counties without a local option, there would still need to be state-run youth prisons at some level for the foreseeable future, or perhaps regional contracts with nearby county facilities. But just a relative handful of counties/judges make up a large chunk of the TJJD institutional referrals. Change the sentencing habits of those few individuals and the overall numbers change quickly.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

If you read the report on the condition of county juvie facilities, it seems obvious that they are in sad need of funds and services, and are unable to handle the load they have. How could they do a better/cheaper job than the state if they are already underfunded to begin with? And, those that are currently incarcerated in the state run TJJD facilities are the most serious offenders to begin with, and/or are the most in need of mental heath services.

Anonymous said...

I think a survey should be done around the state asking this question of County Judges and County Commissioners! I think most of them hate having to spend a dime on Juvenile offices! I can't imagine them wanting to house juveniles. I know that in rural counties that would be impossible!

Anonymous said...

The reason you have state facilities is based upon the inability of the local counties to handle the more hardened youth, that would be factual. The real issue I find comical and should raise eyebrows is why are the county officials worried about having to abide by the same criteria as the sttae does? Could it be that the bar is raised to high and the oversight so great that they could not possibly agree to these terms? Just a thought and would like to know the real answer

Anonymous said...

Scott - your question for 10:13:

For years, county probation departments have been mandated to report all allegations of abuse, neglect, etc. to TJPC.
These reports, and their findings, were presented to the TJPC board at every meeting in a closed session.
Resources in all counties were also reported to TJPC on a yearly basis.
Someone in the executive branch at TJJD should know where the information is and how to get it. Far as I know, the information on abuse and neglect was never published or made available to the general public.
I'd start with Griffiths, Senator Whit or maybe the coalition that's pushing this initiative.
FYI, there also is/was a hotline number posted in every public area of every department (mandated) giving parents/etc. the number in Austin to call in their complaints thus bypassing the local department so it couldn't cover up complaints. Never saw any information on that either.

Bottom line is the information has been gathered, just a question of whether TJJD will release it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not completely clear on what law needs to be changed for the counties to keep the kids? They already have 'post adjudication' facilities and can keep youth in them up to a year. Is the change to keep them longer than a year?
If the purpose of keeping the kids at the county level is to provide 'better' services closer to home, then regional facilities (figure out the money on that?) would serve the purpose - you don't have to retain the state facilities for the relatively few youth committed from small counties.
But one could guess that the purpose is more about money - keep the same number of kids off the streets, but for less money is the theory, right? I think you would have to see the cost per day go up from the $118 quoted - primarily due to the mental health treatment needs of so many of the youth sent to TJJD now. I'd love to see the breakdown of the cost per day in counties versus state - what is it TJJD spends more money on? As one poster pointed out, the counties already need more money to run the programs they want now - the 'more money' would have to come from the money now spent on state lockups. Meaning, the state would still be spending money (just differently). I can't imagine anyone in the lege giving money away with no strings (e.g. 'standards') attached.
In any case, since everyone keeps saying the counties 'do a better job' - why not let them try to do a better job' with the kids they send to TJJD now?

RAS said...

So the mandates of SB 103 don't apply to Texas kids in county lockups? Cameras?Single rooms? Televisions? Voc ed? Substance abuse therapy? anger management therapy? mental disorder mangement? rehabilitation? A county with 10 kids will only need 3 or 4 licensed counselors/ therapists, teachers, etc. $118.00 a day will cover that no problem.

Anonymous said...

can't judges keep a youth in the county lockups right now if they so choose?

i don't see why we need a law for this...

Anonymous said...

If county had more control maybe we could at least get the grass mowed.

Anonymous said...

Grits for breakfast, it is obvious from your publication that you favor placing juvenile perpetrators in county run facilities as opposed to sending them to State run facilities far away from their homes. You have several bloggers that are in agreement with your position. At least on face value your cost savings is impressive. Notwithstanding all of this, you are leaving out some very important people from or discussion. The people that I am talking about are the crime victims; including those that have been physically/ sexually assaulted and the families of murder victims. We need to ask ourselves what is best for them and what do they want. I can’t believe they want these perpetrators anywhere close to them. Grits, what do you think?

Anonymous said...

09:26
Those who are infatuated by the criminal, have little sympathy for the victims.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I do not know how you stand it. These last 3/4 posts are almost surreal. Obviously, they can't comprehend or read what you have written as recently as 10/19/12, 11:49. Are they just freaked that they might lose their jobs? Nobody has said ALL state facilities would be shut down. Murder and other very serious offenses would probably still be sent to "state facilities". Heaven forbid anybody have an idea or an original thought. Good luck, Grits. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

10/22/12 06:43:00AM- Please allow grits to speak for himself. He's a grown man.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that we can have 40 kids break out of the dorms, steal a car, get on top of roofs, just two weeks ago and nobody seems to report this. Anyone who thinks these places are safe have no clue.
Staff have no control, and as soon as Kimbro leaves we go right back to the good old days. When will we get control of these institutions, will we ever? I have plans to get 5 to 6 of my co-workers and have a sit down with the media and give them detailed accounts of what we have to go through daily to just survive.

Anonymous said...

We had 4 juveniles on the roof this week at Giddings, nobody got hurt but agree that we are not moving forward. The constant overtime, never seeing supervisors work the PM shift, how can we ever gain traction. I am looking for a job but will hol onto this one until I find one, pretty sad when nobody will listen anymore.

Anonymous said...

Nothing will change, Griffths will shake hands and smile and tell you what you hink you want to hear, but it will remain the same. Just look at what were dealing with today.

Anonymous said...

Yes - just what we need - more youths in the counties where they don't receive the services they get at the state facilities. I'll make a bold prediction and say that you won't hear a peep from Mike Ward and John Whitmire praising TJJD for providing more services to girls than the counties.

http://www.texastribune.org/texas-state-agencies/texas-juvenile-justice-department/report-funding-needed-juvenile-mental-health/

“Half of the girls we surveyed at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex told us that their time in county juvenile facilities either did not help or actually did more harm than good for dealing with their past trauma,” wrote Ana Yáñez-Correa, director of the organization, in a letter accompanying the findings. Many girls in the juvenile justice system are victims of domestic abuse, she explained, and need counseling and other forms of programming to make sure they don’t wind up back in the correctional system.

Michael Griffiths, head of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said he was frustrated with the coalition's report.

He said that in his experiences at the Ron Jackson facility, girls housed there "spoke proudly" of the care they received. "I don't think it's been represented what good things are happening," he said.

Anonymous said...

8:20Pm this is my point, when issues are brought forth regarding the TJJD institutions, Griffiths smiles and goes along with what Whitmire has to state (yes sir we can close 2 facilities). But, if you speak truthfully as apparently the girls did in the Tribune article, the story is discredited and if you look at the facts, how many times has Griffiths actually spent at Ron Jackson. Lets see, maybe once in passing during his 39 days on the job. Who would you believe regarding this story.

Anonymous said...

County juvenile pre-ajudication facilities hold juvenile until they go to court. The average length of stay is 10-14 days. These are not treatment facilities so there should be no expectaion that time there would "help". As far as making things worse for them, unless they are abused during their stay,this is a classic victims stance. I work in the system and realize many females- and males for that matter-in our system have been abused. But Ana Yáñez-Correa should know the difference between Pre-Ajudication facilities and treatment facilities.

Anonymous said...

The "White" James Smith was on our campus today, he said his name was Tom something. He appeared to be kinda anal and agreeable like his predecessor . At some point Central Office has to get somebody, anybody, who actually understands what we the grunts have to put up with, not the glad handing and shaking your head with agreement to appease us. Alan Walters actually gets his hands dirty when he shows up and appears to be concerned and listens, this would be contributed to the fact he started his career as a JCO. Trying not to bitch and complain, but really this is he best you can do?

Anonymous said...

don't expect new leadership at the top to have a great handle on field leadership evaluation. I think they receive a brunt of thier information from a few anonymous venom spewers on this sight. whoever reaches them first and fills their heads with personal agenda material has the front seat. maybe over time...if we have any...? they will learn to get out an evaluate on their own.

Anonymous said...

We will not survive there is no way this agency will make it through this session. The new leadership is promoting those who have never spent any time at other facilities but comes across with a smile and an attitude that says I will do what you tell me to do. I have spent the past 5 years at Brownwood and it is nothing compared to Gainesville, Evins, or Giddings, based upon my conversations with peers. He is a good guy but does not have the experience necessary, to fully understand what is needed to move this agency forward. I am fortunate because I can retire this year but hoped to put in more time, my co-workers are not as lucky. Great job Mr. Griffiths

Anonymous said...

Just curious, would any of you make a real suggestion? Not the same old tired repeating you have been doing for the past 5 years! Make a few real program or policy suggestions on here!
It seems you guys let the place get out of control then blame someone in Austin! So make a real specific policy that will get control besides tasers and pepper spray.
Administrations have changed several times now ( newest is only a few weeks old) and its the same old problems. The common denominator in this equation from hell is you guys!
Probably a kid walking unsupervised right now while your posting how bad supervision is !

Anonymous said...

12:51 AM 1) You do not need 300+ hours of training to manage the floor. 2) Get to an 1:8 ratio on high acuity floors and 1:12 ratio on lower acuity floors. 3) JCO supervisors should be first on and last off in reporting the happenings on the floor. 4) Be prepared to "sit" for lengthy period of time to resolve petty respondent issues even to the detriment of school attendance. 5) Move in an organized fashion. 6) Balance education achievement with CSR (i.e. no school, you work. More school you do not work). 7) Look proud in your dress attire and expect the same from students. 8) The moment one cannot verbally de-escalate, all residents are on the floor while staff follows PRT procedures. 9) Whenever possible keep an appropriate schedule. The list continues.

Anonymous said...

Lastly, do not the misgivings of TDCJ ever get published? I am quite certain that inmates have vandalized many $1,000 dollars of State property. Are each of these "misgivings" reported to Maddox and Whitemire? Of course this is beyond an email of non-solicited cell phone call.

Anonymous said...

With these kind of juveniles, I think there should be two staff present at all times.Or at least in the immediate area. 1:8 or 1:12? Even at the local level we try to have more staff available. The pols who budget us have a hard time believing we need that many staff, but I guarantee these kids take advantage of low staffing levels. They know weakness when they see it. I have viewed many PRT situations, in person and on video, and in nearly all I could predict what was going to happen. Locals are going to get more of these juveniles. Bet on it and get ready with more staff.

Anonymous said...

The equation to all problems can be summed up with the following;
Hire competent leadership
Allow leadership to model appropriate behavior
Be visible and accountable
Show and understand empathy for those who actual do the work
All staff including those in CO should be held accountable and the same standard should always be used
Actually enjoy your job, if your not there for the kids, move on

Anonymous said...

Amen, 7:51! If your not there for the youth, then get on with your lazy ass! It's a bitch, but, handle yourself as a mentor! If not, then get the hell out! Plain and simple! I want youth that I care for on a daily basis to do well and complete treatment and the Judge realize this! I care for my kids, I want to see them succeed! I'm not a caseworker, I'm just a JCO that hopes one day, despite the odds, one of my kids can become successful! Just one! That's all I ask of my Dorm! Most will nit succeed and most will go the TDJC! But.... I'm not a quitter, and I will keep on letting them know, you will be the one I've busted my ass for! If you don't have that heart go work for Wal Mart! It's alot easier and you aren't playing with a kids future! Cannot stand sorry ass ghetto staff! Sorry....but that's real talk!!!!!! So, for all sorry ass TJJD Staff, go out on FMLA, or just quit! Cause I'm sick of bitches, that just come to work and milk the program! I refuse to work with em, and My supervisors know what's up! We need real people with a real cause! Not retarded fat lazy ass Staff; they play with peoples lives! You will have to answer one day, let it be known! Come to work and make a difference!