Saturday, September 01, 2012

Juvenile justice agency outlines critical needs, plans for 10% budget cut

How would the Texas Juvenile Justice Department comply with the 10% budget reduction next biennium requested by the Governor? TJJD's legislative appropriations request (LAR; large pdf) suggests three options:
First, closing two to three secure institutions and one halfway house would preserve funding for establishing smaller, more effective county treatment programs for most youth offenders. This approach would result in consolidating 400 to 600 youth into the remaining state facilities, and thereby increase safety and security risks in those facilities as well as the challenges for effective treatment and educational programs. Small-milieu treatment environments would likely be sacrificed due to the consolidation of population in remaining facilities. Two other options identified in the required detailed schedule would also have detrimental impacts: eliminating all funding for prevention and early intervention programming and contracting out all parole
If those are truly the only three options (or the only ones the Lege will consider on advice from the agency), Grits would probably prefer the first one, though it'd be penny wise and pound foolish if "Small-milieu treatment environments would likely be sacrificed due to the consolidation of population in remaining facilities."

Bottom line: The risk to consolidating juvenile probation with youth prisons was always that, when push came to shove with the budget, "secure facilities" would be prioritized over community based programming, which has by all accounts worked well. (Everyone, myself included, was pleasantly surprised when juvenile crime continued to fall after the Lege cut youth prison populations by an astonishing 2/3, and that result is mainly attributable to the efforts of juvenile probation departments.) At least the first option wouldn't fall into that trap, though obviously it wouldn't be ideal. Since the agency reforms first began five years ago, virtually every expert consulted by the state has recommended smaller facilities, not larger ones.

TJJD also requested ten "exceptional items," or funding for projects not in their current biennial budget. The first four relate to safety and security - boosting staffing at facilities, spending on deferred repairs to everything from fencing and lighting to complying with fire and safety codes, revamping staffing approaches to overtime, and completing their Juvenile Case Management System.

The next three exceptional items relate to plugging critical programming gaps in ways that IMO would improve public safety:
The fifth and sixth items also target critical needs for juvenile probation departments. The fifth item, for $15.2 million, would address a significant gap in mental health services to juveniles under their jurisdiction, with special focus on 12,000 mentally ill juveniles held in pre- and post-adjudication correctional facilities annually. Of the total biennial cost, $4 million per year would support hiring licensed mental health providers for each of the 47 departments operating such facilities; $3.8 million each year would fund contracted mental health services for departments without secure facilities. The sixth item, for prevention and intervention services for youth at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, would provide needed funding for a new agency responsibility from the 82nd Legislature. For each year, $6 million would support grants for community programs and services that have demonstrated success. Proposed costs would also cover an independent program evaluation and one FTE for grants tracking, reporting, and maintenance. The new funding and position would be added to $3 million each year and one position allocated in the base budget.

The seventh priority request, for $1.3 million and 8 FTEs, would enhance the preparation of youth for re-entry into their communities by expanding certain programs that have demonstrated success, including Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for the education program, Aggression Replacement Training (ART®), and services for gang-involved youth modeled on the GitRedy grant in Harris County, which expires in September 2013. Expansion of each of these programs, beginning in state operated secure placements and provided through parole status, would increase the chances for success of the TJJD’s most challenging youth.
Item eight would spend $6.3 million to relocate TJJD headquarters: "The agency did not request relocation," according to the LAR, but was notified by the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) that their analysis of the best and most efficient use of state building space might result in the need for relocating TJJD central offices."

Other exceptional items requested include $400,000 for "consolidated data center payments for costs related to the creation of the new agency," and $300,000 "to replace grant funding with general revenue to continue statewide visits to TJJD facilities. The new funding would support salaries and travel costs for two positions." It should be noted that without travel funds to visit facilities, the Ombudsman's office probably could not continue to function in any meaningful fashion.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no post about the selection of the new ED of TJJD, Mike Griffiths

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What do you want me to say about it? You obviously didn't need me to get the news.

Anonymous said...

Facility closures are the fastest and easiest ways to capture savings. As you pointed out, that comes at a cost to small programs. If the closed facilities are in remote locations, i.e. Brownwood, you loose expereinced staff and you have to decide what to do with the incarcerated female youths. It seems that more and more money will need to be shifted to community probation programs, including secure probation facilities, with the hope of rehabilitating a greater percentage of youths before they are placed into the State secure facilities. An improved risk-screening process for the counties and the State facilities would help as well. With the new ED coming from the Juvenile Probation side of the TJJD, he may well have some experience and suggestions that the board will heed in making the most effective short term and long term cuts.

Anonymous said...

I guess I expected your opinion on Griffiths as new've given your opinion on others. that is all. the previous post wasn't meant as a sarcastic post. sorry if you took it as such

Anonymous said...

I just read on page 235 of the Legislative Appropriations Request document that a "realistic option must include the closure of 2 to 3 secure facilities and one halfway house on 9-1-2013." That is exactly one year from today.
Apparently, the elimination of 694 TJJD jobs is immanent for a savings of 50 million dollars to the state budget.

IMO, the people who work at these facilities probably know who they are and may want to secure their futures elsewhere...sooner instead of later.

I also read that the facility closures will lead to an infiltration of 400-600 youth at the remaining facilities, creating increased safety and security risks.

This information should be a red-hot flag for all TJJD direct care staff. The thought of squeezing six facilities into three is nothing short of horrifying.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:13, there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, plus many past E.D.'s I knew more about.

I've met Griffiths once but don't know him well. And these juvie strings got so nasty over the years, if I don't have anything specific to say, I prefer not to provide a forum for anonymous trolls to trash the guy six ways from Sunday before he even locates the bathrooms at his new gig. To a large extent, I refrained for his benefit.

Also, I've had to cut way back on juvie coverage because of time constraints. When all the TYC stuff broke in 2007, several close friends were involved as advocates and journalists and it was easier for me to keep track. Now almost all those folks are gone and for info I trust I must dig myself and I don't always have time for that.

10:40, it was equally horrifying to folks when they closed prior facilities and reduced the inmate population by 2/3. The main issues to me are staffing and whether they invest in the remaining facilities' infrastructure to accommodate them as opposed to doubling up. It's by no mean ideal, but if it's a choice between that and gutting community supervision, IMO it's preferable. Adult prisons last time avoided cuts entirely, but apparently the juvie side doesn't have similar legislative champions to protect its budget.


Surprised that you haven't commented upon the "Retirement" of Melinda Bozarth, the TDCJ General counsel for the last half decade. Time, preference, or Coleman?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Semperfine, I've been on vacation recently and in truth hadn't heard about it - I'm still catching up and have deadlines on my paid work.

Plus as with Griffiths, I don't have anything in particular to say about it. My philosophy is that I write about stuff on Grits when I have insight or research that can add value to what's already known or opinions not voiced in MSM coverage. I don't see much use in documenting the comings and goings this or that state worker unless there are particular policy implications.