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Texas Matters: Juvenile Justice Reform Pays Big Dividends

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In 2007 Texas had five thousand juveniles incarcerated in a dozen state run prison-like facilities. Today the number of incarcerated youths kept in five state lock-ups is below a thousand. Texas and the rest of the nation has seen a dramatic reduction in juvenile crime and improved outcomes for those who do end up in the system. There are fewer re-arrests and more opportunities to guide teenaged lawbreakers back of the path of being productive members of society.

The results of the reforms were released Thursday in a report “Closer to Home: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms.” Produced by the non-profit Council of State Governments, researchers from Texas A&M dug into the data to see how keeping kids out of big prison like facilities and providing community based options is working.

Mike Thompson is the director of the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center.  

To download the full report, click here.

To download the Executive Summary, click here.

The CSG study, which draws on an unprecedented dataset in Texas – 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, assembled from three state agencies – demonstrates highly effective investments by Texas policy-makers in community-based supervision and programming:

·         Youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21% more likely to be rearrested than youth who remain under supervision closer to home.

·         Youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than youth under community supervision.  Recidivism rates for youth under community supervision have remained consistent across community-based interventions.

·         Texas has seen a dramatic decrease in the state-secure population, with a 65% reduction between 2007 and 2012, cutting hundreds of millions in state spending and reinvesting a large portion of those savings into county-administered juvenile probation departments.

·         During the same time period, juvenile arrests declined by 33%, a 30-year low.

·         Texas has closed 9 juvenile correctional facilities, demonstrating it is possible to lock up fewer youth while achieving reductions in crime.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi