Thursday, January 25, 2018

Raise-the-age opponents radically overstate 17-year olds' incarceration levels

The new head of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department opposes raise-the-age legislation - to increase the age at which youth can be prosecuted as adults from 17 to 18 - reported the Dallas Morning News, on pragmatic grounds. According to her, TJJD facilities are so dysfunctional that an influx of youth would "break" them. She estimated that the change would add 300-400 new youth inmates to understaffed Texas youth prisons.

This is such a brazen falsehood it's really hard to swallow! Looking at the most recent (2016) TDCJ Statistical Report, as of August 31, 2016, there were only 51 youths under age 18 housed in TDCJ (see p. 18 of the pdf; p. 8 of the document). Most of those were probably certified as adults, so the number of 17-year olds sentenced is even smaller.* Plus juvenile courts tend to use incarceration LESS than on the adult side, so that number would likely come down if 17-year olds are prosecuted in juvenile courts.

That influx could be easily handled by TJJD institutions with adequate budget support from the Lege - it's within the range of the year-to-year fluctuation on youth prison populations already. No big deal. Overall, offenses committed by 17-year olds tend to be similar to the caseloads of juvenile courts.

There would be some additional costs to the state budget, mostly for the added juvenile probation load. But for taxpayers, that would be offset because local county jails wouldn't have to be renovated to comply with juvenile detention standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act to avoid costly civil litigation. The fact that the extra expense accrues to the county budget and not the state doesn't reduce its significance to taxpayers footing the bills.

Bottom line: There will be some additional cost for youthful offenders in the next few years, no matter what. The Legislature has tried to do the job on the cheap for too long. Eventually something had to give, which is what you saw at the Gainesville State School.

Grits has seen some insensible and overstated stances taken by raise-the-age opponents, who are becoming a little frantic as state after state amends their laws, leaving Texas increasingly isolated on this front. But overestimating the number of incarcerated 17-year olds by 600-800 percent is a little much. Let's at least please base this debate on real facts.

RELATED: Shifting youth to adult prisons puts Texas on the wrong side of history.

*The observation about youth certified as adults belongs to Lauren McGaughy, the Dallas News reporter who wrote the story, and was added after this post was first published.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, to accomplish what you are suggesting concerning raise the age, TJJD would have to reopen shuttered facilities or build new ones. Prison Rape Elimination Act mandates TJJD to house fewer youth in their existing facilities.
Grits, you tend to jump to conclusions, criticize and accuse the TJJD Executive Director of falsehoods, accuse the Legislature of being on the “Wrong Side of History” without examining the total picture. When was the last time you had a sincere conversation with members of the Legislature and TJJD management regarding the reasoning behind their decisions?
You may want to make a request to TJJD Management to allow you to work a dorm with correctional officers for several shifts at one of the TJJD training schools, so you will receive firsthand knowledge of what is going. When was the last time you visited a TJJD facility ?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"would have to reopen shuttered facilities"

For less than 51 prisoners? BS.

It's been about 8 years since I've been in a TJJD facility, but that's neither here nor there. I'm asking for the same thing as the National Conference of State Legislators working group this week, the same model being pushed by conservatives like Scott Walker, and the same agenda as the "blue ribbon panel" the Lege created to advise it what to do.

One notices you complain but don't dispute any specific thing I've said, you just challenge my credentials because I don't work a JCO shift. Unfortunately for you, I've seen hundreds of anonymous staff commenting here over the years with all sorts of agendas, so I'm used to such attempted diversions. But they don't change the facts. And those, my friend, much like History, are not on your side.

Anonymous said...

Grits, here you go again jumping to conclusions without facts. You know nothing about my employment status just like you don’t know what led the Executive Director to conclude that raising the age could add 300 to 400 new youth to the population of training schools. She hasn’t been on the job a full month before you start accusing her of falsehoods. I suggest that you contact the Director, request a meeting with her, find out where she got those numbers, and express your concerns directly to her. Again, I suggest that you make a request to be on the dorms with the correctional officers for several shifts. This could give you firsthand knowledge about what is going on. Please let us know what you find out.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't care what led the ED to issue a false statement about how many 17 year olds would come into the system, nor do I care how long she's been on the job. I only care that the statement is baseless and false. And it is. If she'd been on the job a decade she'd still be in error.

Anonymous said...



The Illinois 2016 state fiscal year juvenile admission numbers to their youth centers were as follows.
age number percentage
13 10 .9%
14 52 4.5%
15 135 11.7
16 241 20.9%
17 361 31.3%
18 248 21.5%

*Note that 17 year olds are the largest age group.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If we were in Illinois, 9:38, that might be relevant information. In Texas, only 51 17-year olds, en toto, including youth certified as adults, were incarcerated in 2016.

Anonymous said...

10:45, you have to understand that Grits for Breakfast is not a news service; it’s a blog. As a blog, it doesn’t have to investigate anything; it just makes observations and reflects opinions. Scott is not a journalist; he’s an advocate with an opinion. As such, he’s no different from the white cop who sees a black kid running from the scene of a crime, so he makes a bunch of assumptions based on what he sees, and he shoots the kid (even though the kid was not the perpetrator but was actually running from the perpetrator). Similarly, whenever Scott sees the head of a criminal justice agency make a statement, he doesn’t have to investigate reasons why the statement is made. Based on his assumptions, he just reacts to what he sees, then he pulls out his pen and shoots out his opinion. Sometimes, he does an excellent job of pointing out what is wrong. Sometimes, though, his blog is based on half the facts or it even becomes a fact free zone. And Lord have mercy on you if you disagree with him.

Anonymous said...

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) does not mandate TJJD to house fewer youth in their existing facilities; it mandates that TJJD comply with 1:8/1:16 mandatory staffing ratios.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@11:37/10:45, et. al., nobody on this thread has yet identified a single thing I got wrong. I gave sources for the facts underlying my position from the TDCJ annual statistical report, and links so you can verify them. The numbers the ED gave are simply false.

BTW, the new ED at TJJD has exactly as much time on the front line supervising kids as I do, see here.

Anonymous said...

With the implementation of PREA, many of the housing units at TJJD facilities are no longer able to house as many youths as before. They’ve gone from open bay dormitories to single bed rooms on each side of the dormitories. Before, they could house 18 to 22 kids on each side of a dormitory. Now, they can only house 12 to 16 kids on each side. One kid to a room.

Anonymous said...

Grits, why do you continue your personal attacks against the new TJJD ED ? Are you experiencing self esteem issues ?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Personal attacks? She gave out false data with no sourcing. I corrected it with documented fact. Nothing personal about it.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I challenge you to prove her data is false. Request the data from her and provide it to your readers. For nearly 10 years you have been pushing for the closure of the remaining large TJJD facilities in remote areas. Now, you see the need to increase the population in those facilities

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I did prove her data is false. We know EXACTLY how many 17 year olds are sentenced to incarceration, empirically, in the real world, sentenced by real Texas judges. There is no need to speculate, and zero reason to think juvenile judges would be MORE punitive when, in fact, juvenile courts use incarceration LESS frequently than on the adult side.

See the link in the post to the TDCJ Statistical Report for the data on incarcerated 17 year olds.

Richard said...

I thought the state was going to keep the youth in local facilities? I knew and said then that they couldn't meet the level of professional care that TYC could but everyone that didn't work there knew better.

Anonymous said...

Where does the TJJD board stand regarding the incarceration of these 17 year olds?
TJJD board's stance may help explain the new ED's position on this matter.
It would be interesting for you to provide information from TJJD board on the matter instead of using the new ED as a "whipping boy."

Anonymous said...

FACT:“In fiscal year 2015, there were 22,503 arrests of individuals who would be eligible to receive services in the juvenile justice system if the age of criminal responsibility were raised from age 17 to age 18. This represents a 44.2 percent increase in arrests that would potentially be processed in the juvenile justice system. A total of 15,476 persons accounted for those 22,503 arrests in fiscal year 2015, which represents a 44.3 percent increase in the number of individuals who would potentially be processed in the juvenile justice system. .(LBB staff report 2/1/2017)
FACT: LBB Staff Report 2/1/2017 states: The juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems have different costs and operate differently. Raising the age of criminal responsibility from age 17 to age 18 would add cases to juvenile court dockets, shift caseloads from adult to juvenile probation officers, add offenders to populations in state and local juvenile facilities, and require programming adjustments to meet older juveniles’ needs. Juvenile probation departments would likely experience the greatest effects of changing the age from 17 to 18. Adult probation departments have indicated, generally, this change would not significantly decrease the need for resources in a way that would make it feasible to shift funding from adult probation to juvenile probation. Raising the age of criminal responsibility would cost the state approximately $63.8 million during the first two fiscal years of implementation and would have ongoing costs in subsequent fiscal years. The cost to local governments would vary by jurisdiction and is expected to be significant.
FACT: 2016 there were 381 admissions to TDCJ prisons and state jails of individuals who were 17 at the time of offense.
FACT: At a March 2014 hearing of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee,
the Office of Court Administration reported the estimated number of 17-year-olds in local jails on a typical day was 2,868 to 3,119. Most were in jail for misdemeanors.
FACT: In Texas there are 49 pre-adjudication facilities that have a total of 3,155 beds available. Most of the currently available beds are occupied by current young offenders ages 10-16.
FACT:The fiscal note for HB 122 reported the state’s cost per day for an inmate in a TDCJ facility is $61.63, much lower than the $441.92 cost per day for a youth in a TJJD facility. The state’s cost per day for community supervision (probation) for someone in the adult system is $1.63, lower than the $5.40 per day for juvenile probation supervision.
CONCLUSION: The New Executive Director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department knows these FACTS and can theorize the impact not only to state facilities but to local departments.
It's time to stop sugarcoating the subject. Either do it and FUND it or get out of the way.
GH

Anonymous said...

Good tinkle match. Does your comment about the incarceration rate imposed by juvenile courts describe all juveniles? If so is there a specific bases for concluding this same rate would apply to 17 year olds. That seems to be the one variable in the math.

Seems the ED is using a different variable.

Anonymous said...

Grits, what is your response to the information provided by 12:56: PM ?

Anonymous said...

12:56 makes perfect arguments why the past sessions bills failed. The bill authors did not have a adequate plan in place to fund this shift.
Comparisons to other states always bother me so I am happy to see the facts were specific to Texas.
Now, I understand from many across Texas that the concept is a sound one but the funding and programming capacities are not currently adequate to meet the needs of an additional 22-23 thousand more young offenders into the current juvenile system. Create a sound plan with the input from the local departments first and only then file legislation to enact it.

Anonymous said...

12:56 has provided irrefutable evidence and may we assume the absence of a response is a validation of the "facts" laid out?

Anonymous said...

11:49 it also appears that the facts come with validated sources. I looked them up.

Anonymous said...

The point about Illinois reflects the fact that they have raised the age and now 17 year olds are the largest age group their juvenile system deals with. Grits is very passionate and committed to raising the age and is all too willing to overlook other facts. What makes Grits think that Texas will magically see 17 year old referrals practically disappear if Texas were to unwisely raise the age? You cannot do a one for one comparison of the adult and juvenile system. It is more complicated than that and you are completely ignoring County issues. The cost to raising the age in Texas for the State and Counties will be well over one hundred million a year. Ask the LBB they have already done the study.

Anonymous said...

SOOOOO All comments about this post stopped after the FACTS were reported????

Anonymous said...

Somebody got served a cup of shut-the-....-up!
Gotta love it when that happens.

Anonymous said...

typical grits pro crime stance