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Public Policy Updates – Reform of the Texas Youth Commission

December 18th, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Public Policy UpdatesIn November the Sunset Advisory Commission released its report and recommendations regarding the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. The thorough and well researched report called for many changes. Most dramatically, the Sunset Commission recommended abolishing both agencies and creating the Texas Juvenile Justice Department which would take over the functions of both. In its reasoning the Sunset Commission cited the fact that both agencies serve essentially the same population and that “To work effectively, the State’s juvenile justice programs need to fit together seamlessly with county probation services, but they do not.” Click here to read a copy of this report (pdf) and see all the information given to Sunset Commission members to prepare them for a hearing on the recommendation held on Monday, December 15th.

This top to bottom review of TYC occurred during a time of great upheaval in the agency as it was responding to the calls for reform from senate bill 103 from last legislative session. The brand new Executive Commissioner of TYC, Cheryln Townsend, responded to the report by saying “that TYC and the Texas youth it serves will be better served if we delay the consideration of extensive agency restructuring for four years when the impact of SB 103 reforms can be evaluated and our efforts can be more fully realized.” Read the entire response…

The Executive Commissioner has also released a report on the progress and impact of SB 103. The report outlines what reforms have been implemented, substantially implemented and those which are priorities for 2009.

During the hearing on Monday, several members of the Sunset Commission seemed reluctant to recommend that the Legislature should follow the recommendation to abolish and combine the two agencies into one. While agreeing with many of the suggestions in the Sunset report, Representative Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio said that such a drastic step would be an “overcorrection.”  Read a Dallas Morning News article on the hearing here. (pdf)

Many in the juvenile justice advocacy community, while praising the work of the Sunset Commission and agreeing with many of its conclusions, are hesitant to call for the abolition of both agencies and the combining of their functions into one large agency and believe that some unintended consequences could result.

The Christian Life Commission has joined the Texas Juvenile Justice Roundtable which is a large, newly formed group of stakeholder organizations that support the reform of TYC. The Roundtable has a list of legislative priorities for the upcoming session some of which include:

  • Moving toward small, regionalized county and state juvenile justice facilities
  • Improving juvenile justice interventions at the county and state level by using wrap-around services and community based treatments
  • Decreasing public school practices that funnel students into the juvenile justice system
  • Increasing funding significantly for research-based practices geared towards delinquency prevention
  • Improve funding for quality mental health services and services for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the juvenile justice system

Read the complete list of priorities… (pdf)

The Christian Life Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of reforms and work with the Texas Juvenile Justice Roundtable to advance needed legislation this legislative session.

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