Friday, November 21, 2008

Would juvie probation be de-prioritized if merged with TYC?

While I remain agnostic about its core suggestion of merging the Texas Youth Commission and the Juvenile Probation Commission, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff report (pdf) provides a unique overview of the juvenile justice system across agencies and jurisdictions and supplies what will inevitably be the framework for debate over what happens at the Lege next spring.

Counties provide the backbone of the juvenile justice system, even if most of the debate publicly always seems to surround TYC (and now TJPC). Here's an excellent summation from the Sunset report of the system's broad outlines:
Texas counties supervise by far the most youth and outspend state and federal governments in Texas’ state-local juvenile justice system. Although driven largely by county initiatives, the State plays two key roles in the overall system.

The State, through the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC), disburses funds to county juvenile probation departments and monitors them for compliance with established standards. In fi scal year 2007, TJPC provided counties with state and federal funding totaling more than $143 million, an average of 31 percent of counties’ total probation expenditures. Counties contributed another $325 million to support local probation services, including the operation of 86 secure countyoperated or contracted facilities. Probation departments supervise most youth in the system, from misdemeanants to felons, with programs that range from basic supervision to 24-hour secure detention. Local courts sent about 51,623 youth to probation departments for supervision, including probation and deferred prosecution, in fi scal year 2007.

In its second role, the State operates the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). This agency is reserved for felons, which it houses in 12 secure facilities, nine halfway houses, and 12 contract care residential programs. In fiscal year 2007, TYC expended $258 million on its facilities and programs. At their option, local juvenile judges commit their hardest-to-serve youth to TYC, but typically take this course only as a last option after exhausting local probation alternatives. Of youth referred to the juvenile justice system in fiscal year 2007, local courts sent about 2,276 youth to TYC. (Ed note: see charts at bottom left on p. 6 - p. 13 of the pdf)
A chart on page 7 (p. 14 of the pdf) titled "Juvenile Referrals and Dispositions: FY 2007, gives a terrific big-picture overview of how the system processes cases. At the macro level, 136,188 youths were arrested in Texas in 2007, but 42% were diverted by police or a magistrate and were never referred to juvenile probation.

Overall, law enforcement referred most youth to probation - 79,618 times in 2007 - while another 24,174 cases came from other sources, mostly schools, for a total of 103,792 referrals that year. Here are categories of dispositions from 2007:
  • Consolidated or Transferred Cases: 7%
  • Dismissed, Not Guilty, No Probable Cause: 19%
  • Supervisory Caution: 22%
  • Deferred Prosecution: 22%
  • Probation: 27%
  • Texas Youth Commission: 2%
  • Certified to Adult Court: .2%
Of those who end up in TYC, 49 percent of new commitments are classified as "nonviolent 'general offenders,' whose crimes include nonviolent property, drug, or lesser offenses" (p. 9).

So we're talking about a relatively small number of cases actually referred to youth prisons, and even fewer who are violent offenders. Every kid who enters TYC has been processed by a county probation department regulated by TJPC, but the vast majority of youth cases (97.8% of referrals) aren't so serious.

Several people in the last week, both at the capitol recently and via private email, have told me they're worried that, on the adult side, merging the state's probation oversight functions with the prison system turned adult probation into essentially an unwanted stepchild at the state level, overrun in a culture dominated penal administrators who didn't know or care much about community supervision.

With juvie corrections so heavily weighted toward the probation side, as seen in these data (not to mention more focused on pre-adjudication outcomes), it's an understandable concern - certainly a risk - that a merger could leave juvie probation similarly de-priotized. After all, how much attention has the Lege paid in the last two years to TJPC compared to TYC?

Coming up: Sunset's analysis of TYC treatment failures.



Anonymous said...

you asked the question so I will answer ..... initially juvenile probation would not be de-prioritized but as time goes by there is little doubt that this will happen. As problems are presented and funding is needed.... the responsibilities of the current Texas Youth Commission will take over preference in funding and attention due to the fact that these tasks are fully state funded and the state carries all of the liability.

Anonymous said...


The concern about institutions crowding out local probation programs has some historical precedent.

When TYC was first constituted in 1949, it was divided into two directorates: "Institutions" and "Community Services." The latter was supposed to assist local jurisdictions in developing probation, prevention, recreation, and diversion programs.

At that time only about 24 of the state's 254 counties offered any semblance of juvenile probation. Between 1949 and 1955, TYC consultants visited 200 counties.

But before much could be accomplished, this directorate was essentially defunded by the lege and de-emphasized by TYC. By 1957, when TYC was re-authorized as an independent state agency, its community services component was completely erased, and it began expanding its secure facilities instead.

Parole remained entirely incumbent on counties, in terms of funding and guidance, until the creation of TJPC in 1981. It was widely viewed as a problem by the end of the 1960s.

Related: TYC was supposed to develop juvenile parole programs in the 1960s. It was criticized by the end of the decade for having failed to use all of the funds allocated for this purpose while operating scarcely any halfway houses for parolees, and not having enough trained parole officers on staff (which resulted in very high caseloads).

In short, the concern is legitimate and must be addressed if the two agencies are combined.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Based on the experience of the adult system, which was consolidated in 1989 with the creation of TDCJ, it is only natural that TYC would recieve the lion's share of legislative attention, and juvenile probation placed at the bottom of the food chain. I believe the idea of consolidating the agencies is not in the best interest of the youth of Texas, however, I was optimistic to see that the board of the new TJJD was comprised of some probation practitioners and not strictly political appointments, much like TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

I think we are comparing apples and oranges. TYC is no where near the monster TDCJ. In fact, alot of departments are not using TYC except for the serious / violent offenders.

No more misdemeanors and out the door at 19 pretty much ensures that this will never be a significant problem.

The emphasis seems to be community supervision and programs and that is where the money will go.

Anonymous said...

Every staff knows that most problematic youth at every institution is the so-called General Offenders (non-violent).

If any of you would take the time and look at youth aggression, assaults, etc, you would come to understand that TYC would like nothing better than deal with the violent youth.

The counties do not want these so-called General Offenders based entirely on this fact. But who really cares about information like this, it's easier to make the unknowing believe these youth are a non-issue and would never assault (non-violent) someone!!!

Anonymous said...

sounds like the sunset commission wants the counties and not the state to deal with the deliquents.A merger would only benefit if the state will fund the local juvenile probation/secure detention facilities with treatment programs. TYC will only deal with the harden antisocial youth that need to be locked up for a long time.
A merger will only give the agencies a fresh start in providing much needed programs for the mental health,substance abuse, and other treatment programs that are currently severely under funded. The bigger picture here is the funding that is need to do what is in the best interest of the youth of Texas that have not been aforded any support from thier families or community. Local county commissoners in the medium to small counties will not provide local tax money to assist the local juvenile probation departments. Historically these counties rely on TJPC to fund them for staff and programs. If the lege wants to reduce the states liablity on warehousing youth, and give it to the counties, then make sure they dont forget to put the money where thier mouth's are. Talk is cheap, lets see some promises kept and results from what they are trying to accomplish with a merger.

Anonymous said...

wow. I've been away focused on work and not what's been said here, and I've missed out.

I wanna kindly point out a few things:

Juvenile probation and their contracts for out-of-home placements need to develop a higher tolerance for misconduct in those programs and work with these kids locally if the state wants to keep it "community based."

The state needs to understand that dealing with this population represents an extremely high risk and a very low reward, and reverse it's thinking by funding it accordingly. Kids will do much better when they have a constant-object relationship, and that equates to being closer to home. Parents need not rely on tax payers to educate and rehabilitate their children, so funding for prevention needs to be increased. Parents are not a problem, they are a solution, and rehabilitating the family as a unit, regardless of the expense, should be seriously weighed in this mix.

Anonymous said...

Just look at the past and current TYC budget allocations for institutional, secure facilities as compared to prevention, halfway houses, independent living programs and parole in general. From that you'll be able to predict what will happen to prevention and probation spending if there is a merger.

Anonymous said...

The bet here is that treating the whole problem as opposed to the sum of it's parts will save tax paying dollars. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess it's time to change our way of thinking? Funding programs (or not) has it's way of influencing the outcome. Does it not?

Anonymous said...

Our new national AG once said this:

"Together, we have built more beds to house our prisoners and hired more police to patrol our streets, but everyone involved in law enforcement agrees that we are never going to be able to arrest and jail our way out of the juvenile crime problem."

If he holds true to that, there might be increased funding to support prevention efforts.

There is hope.

Anonymous said...

If TYC is a mess, which it is....and the juvenile probation people have issues in "heavy caseloads" and they can't get it merge two large mess pools will only get you a large seis pool. This is a bad thing. Some judges do not hold the law to the hand. Houston, Collin County - those judges need to be investigated along with probation department. Some items that the youth have to do non-drug offenders taking drug and alcohol testing and evaluations if they are on probation...a waste of money and a mess and since the ousted false you really think this is going to go well? Um, here I will help - NO. TYC and the leg offered no firm change. It still is what it is - a mess and getting worse. They make the laws and nothing gets done. They need to ask an inmate - talk to the parents of those on probation and those in TYC - It takes one to know want change - real change? Talk to those that walk the walk and KNOW the talk. The one's it effects and those infected. But they won't...because on the surface the mouth and the pen are signing bills and saying "we want change" but they really really don't.

Anonymous said...


Are you suggesting that we do not use drug screens on youth that are not on probation for drug related charges? You must be kidding!!

Anonymous said...

My Two Cents:

You can take all the money in the world, give it all that the state of Texas has got to give and more and still not fix this mess if you don't have the right people in place to run it.
You are going to need the right people in administration down to the cleaning people to make this mess successful.
That is Never going to happen in TYC or County. Funds will be squander on crap that is not for the "children". Rules and programs that look good on paper will be implemented that have no value to the kids themselves but the big guns can boast about how wonderful it is.
You can bring in the top education personal and make the schools top of the line and you want get any more success than you have now. If the state of Texas could work miracles in a jail, they would be doing it for the public sector and we would not have kids dropping out of school.
Now you can hand pick the kids to go to jail and make a difference, cause if you just send the ones that really want to change their lives and looking for help, then you will show success.
This conNextion program is really working in TYC! The kids are out of control, know they can get away with doing what ever and there is no punishment for their actions. The one I work at was a good TYC until about 3 months ago and now it is out of control. People are jumping ship as soon as they can find jobs. They are not just JCO staff that are leaving. All departments are loosing people.Five employee's had their last day Friday.
I really wish we would stop looking for a fix in the Ideal World an start looking in the real world.

Anonymous said...

TYC is moving in the right direction. TYC was good before but when the top thugs and their cult members took control of TYC, both programs, youth and employees went to hell. If handled correctly, the merger can work. Someone above the top thug level must also be involved to keep things on track.

Anonymous said...

Marion fire case gets teen treatment

By Ron Maloney
The Gazette-Enterprise

Published November 23, 2008

SEGUIN — One of two 14-year-old boys police say have admitted to starting the first of a string of fires that have destroyed several Marion landmarks will go to a year-long residential treatment program under a plea agreement reached in juvenile court Friday.

Under an outcome agreed to by County Attorney Elizabeth Murray-Kolb and defense attorney Elizabeth Jandt, the youth will serve one year in the locked facility that offers intensive counseling and rehabilitation as an alternative to imprisonment for youthful offenders.

He will perform 100 hours of community service and, with his family, find a way to pay $5,500 in restitution to the owner of the former Don’s Auto Repair, which was destroyed in the Sept. 18 blaze.

County Court-at-Law Judge Linda Z. Jones said he would make the effort to succeed in the counseling program or still face the prospect of a jail term in the institutional division of the Texas Youth Commission.

A second boy who has acknowledged responsibility for the fire that destroyed the former auto repair shop and one-time Ford dealership is awaiting disposition.

He lives in Bexar County with his grandparents under a court order that he not return to Marion and only comes into Guadalupe County to visit with probation or court authorities.

After long conferences between the attorneys, the boy and his family, Jones called the youthful defendant to the bench to adjudicate the case.

“The allegation is, you did, then and there with intent to damage or destroy, set a fire that destroyed this property,” Jones told the boy.

The judge explained that the boy, were he an adult, would have been convicted on a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 — plus restitution for the total damage he’d caused to the historic building.

“Do you understand that?” the judge asked the youth.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.

“This is an offense that could give you a record that follows you for the rest of your life,” the judge said. “Do you understand that?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the boy replied.

Jones stressed to the youth and to his family that, while the criminal record might possibly be expunged later if he was successful at treatment, there were no guarantees at this point in the process that that could happen.

The boy, his mom and his great uncle, who has attended all court proceedings, all acknowledged they understood.

Jones pointed out that, by agreeing to the plea bargain presented Friday by Jandt and Assistant County Attorney Nan Udell, the boy and his family would give up any right to appeal the outcome.

“Do you understand that?” Jones asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” the boy answered.

“To the allegation of arson, is it true or not true?” Jones asked the boy.

“It’s true,” the boy responded, as he had to Marion police and Guadalupe County Sheriff’s investigators who picked him up the afternoon of Sept. 19 — the same day a second suspicious fire destroyed Blue Moon Hall Antiques and Penshorn’s Meat Market.

No arrest has been made in that fire. While admitting to the first fire, both boys have adamantly denied involvement in the second.

And both were in custody when a subsequent fire Oct. 10 destroyed a vacant home. The youth ordered into treatment Friday was in custody on Oct. 24 when a suspicious fire destroyed Marion’s former railroad station, and the second boy was in his grandparents’ custody in Bexar County.

Another fire on Nov. 14 damaged the El Vaquero Saloon, but was stopped short of destroying the local nightspot.

No suspects have been announced in any of the subsequent blazes, which are being investigated by local and state authorities.

In a juvenile proceeding, a finding that an allegation is true is an outcome similar to a guilty verdict in the trial of an adult.

Udell read the terms of the agreement, which includes three months of intensive supervision probation upon the boy’s release from treatment followed by another six months of juvenile probation supervision — a total of 21 months. Included was the $5,500 in restitution to the owner of the building, which reflects one-half of his loss after his insurance settlement. The other half, authorities say, is expected to come from the family of the other accused youth upon a finding of “true” in his case.

After a brief conference to discuss the terms of the restitution, Jones called the family back to the bench and admonished the youth that he must participate in his therapy or face imprisonment.

“After placement, you need to make reasonable effort at treatment,” Jones said, turning to the boy’s family.

“As long as he makes reasonable effort, he’s not going to be in violation (of this agreement),” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that there could be opportunities as part of the treatment for the youth to perform his community service and perhaps, even, to earn some money to help his family with the restitution, and recommended that he take advantage of any opportunities that arise.

There was one more thing the judge wanted.

“I want you to write an apology letter to the owner of the property,” the judge said. “I want that done before you leave for treatment, and I don’t want it to be a one-liner. I want a nice apology letter. Do you understand that?” she asked the boy.

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered.

“You have to be successful in placement,” the judge told the youth again. “If you’re not, you will come back here and you will be sent to the Texas Youth Commission. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered.

The boy will leave for the facility in coming days, as soon as supervised transportation is arranged.

Jandt said after the proceeding she was glad to have been able to arrange an outcome with prosecutors that would emphasize treating the youth for his emotional issues — and not simply punishing him.

“It’s a very good placement,” Jandt said. “It’s a treatment program, and I have another child who is doing extremely well there, so I’m encouraged. (This boy) has got a good attitude to go there and succeed.”

“It’s a very good placement.”

As opposed to TDCJ? Hell yeah.

In other news, Texas Tech's title hopes were diminished when Oklahoma dressed down the Red Raiders in an embarassing....THUD

Hook 'em baby!

Anonymous said...

Cunty departments are managed by Chief's who are hired and overseen by local juvenile boards (district judges/county judges, etc.) Boards set policy and approve/monitor budgets. Counties are now providing on average 69% of the funding for their individual departments

Sunset does not address what the function of juvenile boards will be if the agencies are merged. Out in the cold? Also, if they want to run counties from Austin, will they pick up 100% of the funding? Will they make county employees state employees and eligible for state medical insurance and other benefits?

If not, counties will be providing the bulk of funding locally while being "administered" by Austin bureaucrats and politically appointed board members.

Sounds great to me!

Anonymous said...

hmmmm.......Juvenile justice biggest problems are providing specialized programs like mental health, substance abuse, and sexual conduct problems.......Seems like i remember someone mentioning some state run programs like tcada, mhmr, and cps, oh yeah they were all consolidated into HHSC. So in the end the state fails these kids twice, and the solution is to consolidate again, I guess if Texas becomes one megauniagency, then they can blame all of us, pathetic

Anonymous said...

2% are you kidding me, were talking about 2%, if two percent of adult probationers went to prison, our prisons would hold a whopping 10k people, not the over 150,000 that we have now, yes by all means lets model our juvenile system after the adult one, great job sunset

Anonymous said...

Treatment is costly, and money is tight. Spend the money to fund treatment in TYC and we can't spend money on important projects. If the kids in TYC make up 2-3% of the juvenile delinquent population, even if everyone in their families voted, and all of the TYC employees voted, it would not have much impact on elections. So, screw TYC and screw the kids in TYC, my voters know that these kids are criminals and deserve punishment, not coddling. And they know that state employees are just riding the taxpayer dole.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Someone actually knows what is going on in TYC. Tell it straight.