Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Houston, Dallas must change local juvie policies to "fix" TYC

The Texas Youth Commission this spring announced plans to reduce its youth inmate population, but decisions about who goes to TYC are made locally, and recently the number of youth committed to TYC has grown annually.

From data on the TYC website I compiled this spreadsheet listing the ten largest contributing counties to TYC:

As one might expect, Houston and Dallas led TYC's growth over the last five years, with the number of commitments from Harris County increasing 57% and the number in Dallas increasing 27%. By comparison, Bexar (San Antonio) and Tarrant (Fort Worth) Counties' number of commitments have remained flat, while Travis County (Austin) commitments increased 66%, though overall numbers were much lower than in the larger cities.

(Harris County also leads the state, by far, in the number of juveniles who are charged as adults for their crimes.)

TYC can use parole mechanisms to reduce the inmate population, and in the short-term that's probably what they'll do. But the idea has already drawn backlash, and Texas youth prisons will fill back up pretty quickly if recent growth in commitments doesn't subside. (The average length of stay per commitment is around two years, so over time there's an aggregating effect.)

Though I've been plenty critical of TYC on this site, what's often overlooked is that the juvenile justice system deals with most kids at the local level. When local jurisdictions begin sending more kids to TYC, that's a sign their local systems are failing at a greater rate. So whatever happens at TYC, Texas' juvenile corrections problems won't be solved until Texas' major cities begin to improve local outcomes.


Anonymous said...


Very important point. I would suggest that it isn't inevitable that the largest cities also be the ones with the most growth in commitments. Maybe the most raw numbers, yes, but not the most growth in percentage terms.

Harris County has been leading in state commitments virtually since TYC began. It also was a center for prior shifts to "get tough" policies that resulted in more juvies being sent to TYC and sentenced as adults, as early as the 1950s.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Theoretically, the State is distributing money to the local juvenile departments to divert additional kids to probation services as opposed to TYC. We'll see what TJPC's stick will be to keep commitments down. My experience is that funding is usually a good carrot/stick combo.

Anonymous said...

Scott, have you heard back in regards to your questions to TYC leadership?

I believe the deadline has come and gone and this would be something you might want to bring forth at the TYC public hearing in Austin Texas 8/29/07 headed up by representative Madden?

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't worry, TYC has a plan. We have been told that the youth would be getting out on their minimum length of stay (MLOS) unless they are assaultive. So now we've turned into a juvenile TDCJ. Do your time and get out. We seem to be giving up in trying to help these youth and just letting them do their time and go home. Many of them can be helped and could actually become productive members of society but when they are going to be allowed to do whatever they want short of assaulting someone (and they still could be let off if the little committee in Austin reviewing their case decides they have been good long enough)most, I'm afraid, will not learn much of a lesson about changing their lives. There will actually be no way to hold them accountable in other behaviors or therapy or education at all. How many of them do you think will go into a situation like that and just decide on their own, when surrounded with negativity, to become a great person with empathy for others. Everyone really needs to experience what's it's like to deal with these youth sometimes already much less if there are no consequences. It's going to be a tough ride for a while until someone with some authority sees that this approach simply won't work and the pendulum will have to swing the other way to try to help these kids. It's interesting that the staff are being held accountable for the numbers of 225's written and the number of security referrals and admissions and the educational growth of these youth while the youth have no real incentive to behave or study. This is going to get real interesting before it's over. I can begin to see a collapsing star right before our eyes.

Anonymous said...

Grits, thank you for compiling the spreadsheet on TYC committments. I find it interesting that Wichita County's TYC population has had the largest increase (by percentage) since 2002. Since Wichita County county is closest to the Victory Field facility, I wonder if the increases in TYC committments for Wichita county will decrease our probability for closure. What are your thoughts on this?

Anonymous said...

Come on "D", my friend. Do you really think that statistics mean anything to the people we have in charge? They are going to use whatever excuse they want to close whoever they want and since nobody seems to be policing them, it will be ok just as so many of the other calls they've made. We're going to have to quit meeting like this. I'm afraid people are going to start to talk.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya "P", but you know me, I am a hopeful dreamer...I was just a little shocked by that 186% increase-- That seems a little stout! I guess you're probably right though; you were always quick to "lapse into logic" while I stood there scratching my head.

Hey, keep in touch will ya?...Oh, and don't worry, nobody's talking about us anymore since you left me at VFCA and found yourself a "normal" job...whatever that is. I still love teaching the TYC kids, so I'm going to hang tough, ride the storm and hope for the best.
Good luck in your new job "P".


Anonymous said...

Be sure to check the latest update date on the page..lots of those TYC pages haven't even been updated this year at all.

P & D-you are not fooling anyone, we all know who you are.

Anonymous said...

Lets get back the question, "Scott" have you heard from TYC leadership in regards to your questions? If not the 29th would be a good time to ask them in front of Madden.

Anonymous said...

I guess TYC leadership needs to ask themselves, "Can we afford to close more facilities"? If juvenile crime stays where it is today or heaven forbid rises, where will they go?

The counties do not nor can they effectively deal with them or rehabilitate them. Money was allocated for this purpose but not enough.

So, by closing more TYC facilities you get more youth in already overcrowded facilities and the 12 to 1 jargon is nothing but lies. You get staff stressed out, no leave, youth being poorly supervised, and back to square one.

Leadership is still needed at TYC.

Anonymous said...

When trying to reason out why things are done one way or another at TYC, never rule out sheer stupity.

And, God help those poor kids when the remaped education starts in September.

Those folks get to the bottom of a hole and they don't have the sense to stop diggin.

Anonymous said...

The Lege and its incompetent leadership made no decisions of real value to TYC. Their plan was a problem.

It is interesting that the session began with an assault on TDCJ for not using more "effective means of punishment" for adults and ended with outrage at TYC for Ray Brookins and John Paul Hernandez. The real problem is the Lege itself. Having been elected to public office because they were unfit to do anything else and being incompetent at everything they ever tried, they simply prove their idiocy and continue to make ill informed and stupid decisions. We need to stand up to this nonsense and vote every incumbent out of office and start over.

Robin Williams is exactly right, "politicians and diapers need to be changed often and for the same reason."

Anonymous said...

6:46...I fell out when I read the Robin Williams' quote: "politicians and diapers need to be changed often and for the same reason."

I've never heard that one. It's a really good one, so thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

3:51, Please elaborate on your 8/22/2007 comment:

"My experience is that funding is usually a good carrot/stick combo."

I'd really like to know what that means.