Whitmire said officials have identified 35 regional centers across Texas that could hold offenders under the new plan. More than 800 of the approximately 1,000 offenders currently in state lockups could be housed in those centers, meaning the state could sharply shrink its system.If this plan succeeds, Texas will have gone from incarcerating around 5,000 kids before 2007 to a few hundred, at most, ten years hence, all during a period when juvenile crime dropped like a stone. There are lessons from this experience that the state could and should apply to the adult system.
Under the bill, juvenile court judges would be encouraged to send youths to those regional centers rather than state facilities - with the idea that by 2017, only those serving sentences for the most serious crimes still would go to state lockups.
"Smaller facilities, tightly run, closer to home - that's what we're looking at," Whitmire said. "We want to get these students out of the large, 200-acre campuses in remote locations that the state operates now. That model doesn't work anymore. Most of our state facilities are understaffed, the youths are out of control much of the time, they can't get proper treatment and the recidivism rates are very high."
Whitmire said Senate budget writers have agreed to refocus the agency's two-year budget to fund more local rehabilitation and treatment programs and to hire more parole officers. Agency requests for more guards, remodeled or new secure facilities and other security upgrades at existing lockups would not be funded, he said.
In related news, last week the Justice Policy Institute, in conjunction with my employers at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, created a set of images aimed at social media like the one above to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of these sorts of reforms. Check them out below the jump and pass them on: