Juvenile Justice System

Juvenile Justice System: 2005 – Present

  • Pre-2005 – Punitive Approach to Youth: Juvenile justice is back-burner issue in Texas.
  • 2005 Legislative Session – Preliminary Youth Justice Efforts: 2 juvenile justice bills are filed (addressing youth length-of-stay requirements, lack of cultural competence in treatment programs and among field staff, and lack of independent investigation of abuse and neglect in Texas Youth Commission [TYC]). Bills die in committee.
  • 2006-2007 – Public Outcry for Reform: Intense media and governmental scrutiny expose abuse and violence taking place in TYC.
  • Spring 2007 – Swift Legislative Response: State leaders effect immediate change in TYC leadership and launch joint investigative committee.
  • May 2007 – Sweeping Policy Reform: Policy-makers pass omnibus reform legislation (S.B. 103) with unanimous bipartisan support. Legislation contains more than 150 specific reforms for TYC to accomplish.
  • 2008 – Continued Scrutiny and Resource Reallocation: Texas’ juvenile justice agencies undergo Sunset Advisory Commission review. These include TYC, Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC), and Office of the Independent Ombudsman (OIO). Resulting Sunset legislation redirects significant amount of funding toward rehabilitation programs operated by county juvenile probation departments, and continues TYC and TJPC as stand-alone agencies subject to two-year probationary period.
  • 2011 Legislative Session – Agency Merger through Sunset Process: Senate and House budgets reduce TYC’s institutional capacity, calling for closure of up to three facilities. New Sunset legislation will merge TYC and TJPC into new Texas Juvenile Justice Department and redirect currently incarcerated youth to juvenile probation system or to remaining lock-ups.
  • June 2011 – Facility Closures: Three TYC facilities close and two are consolidated, resulting in transfer of approximately 400 youth; most relocate to one of six remaining state facilities, with few released into community.
  • December 2011 – New Youth System: Texas’ Juvenile Justice Department begins operations, with oversight over probation and corrections system.
  • 2012 – Ongoing Monitoring of New System: Advocates continue to monitor implementation of 2011 Sunset legislation at both state and county levels.
  • 2007-2013 – Smart-on-Crime Policy Passage & Implementation: 42 new strategies positively change course of juvenile justice, resulting in more humane treatment of Texas’ system-involved youth.
  • August 2013 - Facility Closure Vote: State officials approve upcoming closure of secure facility for mentally ill youth; advocates monitor youth transfers.

Click here to download a PDF copy of Adult and Juvenile System Reforms in Texas.

And click here to learn more about TCJC’s Solutions for Youth Justice project.  Also, click here to review TCJC’s previous legislative wrap-ups.