Texas Criminal Justice Coalition: Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble
Date:  11-03-2012

Prioritizing available resources is the key for producing the most effective results
Although Texas has had a reputation of being “tough-on-crime-and-to-hell-with-the-consequences,” the state has been actively rethinking its policies and has been recognized as being at the forefront of the movement for calling criminal justice reform.

One of the most well-known and respected organizations in the state is offering its suggestions on how to overhaul the state’s ineffective and costly juvenile justice system. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition TCJC, whose objective, according to its website, is to “to identify and promote smart justice policies that safely reduce Texas’ costly over-reliance on incarceration – creating stronger families, less taxpayer waste, and safer communities,” is known for dissecting problems within the criminal justice system and coming up with pragmatic solutions to fix them. click here to go to website

In a new report, Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble TCJC relates that funding for 75 percent of county juvenile programs is not adequate to support effective programs. TCJC calls on the state to provide more funding and suggests areas where the money could be better spent. Statistics from the report highlight the need for reform:

  • A third of youth under the supervision of county probation departments in Texas have a confirmed mental illness, and many of these youth face very serious mental health problems. Bipolar disorder accounts for 11 percent of the known diagnoses of youth on probation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) accounts for two percent.

  • 283 Texas youth spent more than 100 days in a secure detention facility in 2011 for non-felony offenses before their case was adjudicated. 3,406 youth spent more than 30 days for non-felony offenses. 11,083 youth spent more than 10 days for non-felony offenses.

    The need for including a juvenile’s family in his or her treatment and rehabilitation is stressed by TCJC, although many times that option is not likely to occur. Still the report suggests (1) helping families more successfully navigate the juvenile justice system; (2) encouraging family participation in juvenile treatment plans; and (3) increasing participation in community- or facility-based family programming and services.

    Recommendations from the report, which can be read by clicking on the link below, include:

  • Providing more services for juveniles in the criminal justice system who have been diagnosed with mental health and/or trauma issues. Identifying those coming into the system, and those that are already in it, who have mental health problems

  • Finding alternatives to holding juveniles in a secure facility when they do not pose a threat to society

  • Ending unnecessary seclusion and restraints for juveniles in county facilities

  • Better assessment of risk factors, and providing prevention and intervention programs

  • Using the practice of certifying juveniles as adults more judiciously

  • Implementing best practices when considering discharge planning and reentry services for juvenile reentrants
  • Click here to read more.