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A Merger in Texas Juvenile Justice?

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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