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A Merger in Texas Juvenile Justice?

| February 7, 2011

Last month, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission voted unanimously to consolidate the Texas Youth Commission and the Juvenile Probation Commission.  The new plan would create a single agency called the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.  It would also close three relatively remote TYC facilities: Victory Field (in Vernon, TX), West Texas (in Pyote, TX), and the Ron Jackson Unit II (in Brownwood, TX), which have been difficult to staff with the necessary teachers and mental health professionals.  The Austin American Statesman reported on the vote here.  It was also covered by prominent Texas publications including The Houston Chronicle,  Texas Budget Source, and Grits for Breakfast.

The consolidation could save Texas taxpayers around $28 million.  According to prominent Texas conservatives who were quoted in the Statesman, the plan could also provide significant gains to public safety.  Marc Levin, of the the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right On Crime said, “Our hope is that consolidation can be a vehicle to continue downsizing state youth lockups and sending more…youths (not sentenced for violent crimes) back to the counties with state funding following the youth.”

State Representative Jerry Madden is also quite optimistic.  “We will need lockups to house the most troubled youths and mental health facilities — just how many we don’t know right now,” said Madden.  “What I do know is that community-based programs that are less expensive and more successful will be expanded. We’ve seen that they work.”

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VIBRANT P. REDDY is Senior Fellow for criminal justice issues at the Charles Koch Institute. Previously, Reddy was the Senior Policy Analyst for both Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice. He has authored several reports on criminal justice policy and is a frequent speaker and media commentator on the topic. Reddy has worked as a research assistant at The Cato Institute, as a law clerk to the Honorable Gina M. Benavides of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals of Texas, and as an attorney in private practice, focusing on trial and appellate litigation. Reddy graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Plan II Honors, Economics, and History, and he earned his law degree at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and of the State Bar’s Appellate Section and Criminal Justice Section.

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