Thursday, February 08, 2007

Juvie probation investment could save $100 million in TYC incarceration costs

The Texas House Appropriations Criminal Justice Subcommittee took up it initial hearings again this morning. Here's a link to the video, and a few highlights:

Legislative Budget Board staff, testifying on the Juvenile Probation Commission, said that 2,600 students are currently in local Alternative Education Programs in Texas becaue they have been expelled (so the state must pay for them), and 4,100 are there at the option of the local school district. Apparently the agency thinks they're not getting nearly enough resources to manage these problem students: JPC is asking that funding increase of $59 to $90 per student per day in Alternative Education Programs (the total average cost per student is $125 per student per day - counties pick up the rest), but except for Chairman Turner the subcommittee didn't seem too excited about increasing the reimbursement to counties.

The JPC's executive director Vicki Spriggs testified that failures at employee retention had been costing her 62-person agency many experienced staff. She oversees a decentralized system that requires interactions with 5,000 local JPOs, county probation departments, county commissioners courts, local judical councils, etc.. She called on enhancing community supervision for more serious juvenile offenders to divert them from winding up in TYC.

Two weeks ago, JPC sat down with chief juvenile probation officers statewide to ask why are kids being sent to TYC, and they said a lack of services locally is the primary reason. JPC estimated that an $8.3 million investment per year would keep 1,028 kids from going to TYC, resulting in a savings in $100 million in TYC incarceration costs over the next two biennium. The governor's budget only recommended $5.3 million per year for that line item, but Spriggs said that would simply mean more kids wind up in more expensive TYC lockup units.

Spriggs also mentioned their office is flooded with open records requests and abuse complaints from families and needs staff designated to handle those functions. She asked for designated investigators for abuse cases and also for staff with some mental health backgrounds - right now, she said, no one on her staff has that expertise.


Anonymous said...

My client is a 17 year old male on TYC parole for a robbery committed when he was 13. his parole extends until his 21st birthday. When he was arrested in Austin last week his TYC PO came to the jail to tell him that if he was sentenced to 180 days or more for the county charge (Fail to ID, class A), he would be discharged by TYC. When I arrived to discuss the case with him, he begged for a sentence of 180 days. I told him he was going to get an offer of 45 days or less, but that I would try to get what he wanted.

Next day, the state offered him 20 days, under pressure to free up beds at Del Valle. I asked for 180. I explained the TYC situation. I told the state that without the 180 day offer, I would be compelled to set the case for jury trial, and then accept a time-served offer before jury selection. The state responded they would then dismiss the charge on the day of trial to prevent the client "getting what he wants." Net for the client would be a long wait for trial in jail, and then release to TYC for revocation proceedings. No bueno.

So we plead open to the judge and explain the situation, asking for 180 days. The judge was interested in the weirdness of it all, and reset the case for today to consider things. Today, she placed the defendant on adult probation after I informed her this would have the same effect with TYC: discharge from parole. The kid is out of jail, on adult community supervision, and off TYC parole now.

I told that story to tell this: TYC is a parody of a public safety agency. In our conversation, the TYC PO earnestly wanted to reduce her caseload, and was eager to shift her burden onto our county. This form of discharge is dictated by written TYC policy ( I have it), and can only be understood as a way to reduce the rolls. This policy actually gives TYC parolees a major incentive to commit crimes once they reach the age of 17. Even an illiterate 17 year old could see that getting locked up for a few months now was far better than being on TYC parole for 4 more years. My client told me that if the judge did not give him a sentence that would discharge him from TYC, then he would immediately commit a more serious offense (Assault/Family Violence) so the he could get the 6 month sentence he needed.

I have never sat stupid in a courtroom as I did today after the sentencing, stunned by the monumental irony of this policy. TYC wants their parolees to commit crimes worthy of 6-month sentences. They provide an incentive to the parolees. I humbly ask to be corrected if I am mistaken. What public policy consideration can justify this provision? We the public must simply rejoice that TYC has found a way to save money.

Anonymous said...

Rural areas are in dire need of alternatives. When the home life stinks, and there are no placements available, even with federal money, we have kids asking their attorney how much MORE they have to do to get a committment - and how can they make it last more than nine months?