The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition published a report this month, Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble, detailing improvements in their state’s juvenile justice system. Texas has made many changes over the past several years, most notably shifting youth rehabilitation from large state-run facilities–often far from teens’ homes–to smaller community programs. Via the report (emphasis mine):
Texas is building a more effective juvenile justice system. The old system – which sent thousands of kids to large remote state facilities each year – fostered dangerous conditions for incarcerated youth, likely increased recidivism, and wasted millions of tax dollars. As we learn from those mistakes, our new system is making a wiser investment in county programs that connect kids and their families to community resources. Research and Texas’ experience confirm that these community programs are better at getting our kids on the right path and keeping them on the right path, at a fraction of the cost of state secure facilities.
The in-depth report combines conversations with teens on probation in various county programs with raw data from the facilities. Included below are some key charts detailing the Texas findings comparing county facilities with state secure facilities (from the accompanying PowerPoint presentation).
Teens were in fewer fights in county facilities versus state facilities.
Teens felt safer in county facilities than in state facilities.
Overall, Texas has found that when teens are closer to home, able to stay connected to family and are less worried about their own safety while in detention, they are more likely to focus on rehabilitation and less likely to end up back in the juvenile justice system.
David Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to ReclaimingFutures.org. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.