Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 30, 2012

TCJC study revealing

State’s goal is to keep juvenile offenders closer to their home

Rich Flowers
Athens Daily Review

Athens — A Texas Criminal Justice Coalition study released in December shows the state of juvenile justice in Henderson County and other counties in the state.

The report was to gauge the results of recent legislation that made the Texas Juvenile Justice Department responsible for partnering with local county governments, the courts and communities for the benefit of youths in the judicial system.

Legislators were guided by research showing that rehabilitation is more successful when delinquent youth receive treatment in their home communities.

Henderson County Juvenile Probation Director Bonnie Turnage said the state’s goal is to keep the youth offenders closer to home.

“Last year, the Texas Juvenile Probation Agency became the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, which is now our state agency,” Turnage said. “They have allocated funds for community-based services to try to keep the youth in the county to meet their needs.”

Henderson County closed its juvenile detention center several years ago, and sends its juvenile offenders to the Anderson County facility, until the cases are adjudicated. Once the adjudication is done, the goal is the meet their long-range needs in Henderson County.

According to the Coalition study, The old juvenile-justice system,  which sent thousands of kids to large remote state facilities each year, fostered dangerous conditions for incarcerated youth.

Turnage said the needs of the youth are addressed in various ways as needed.

“There are many different types of programs,” Turnage said. “We have kids that are on probation who live in their homes. We also have them that we may have taken out of their homes, that are in a residential treatment center.”

The study states that Henderson County has a total of 7,473 youth, ages 10 through 16. Of those, 108 were referred to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department during the past year.

After adjudication, 25 of the youth were placed on probation. Less than five were adjudicated to some sort of secure placement, and only one was committed to a state-secure facility. None of the youth committed an offense of the nature that resulted in certification as an adult.

The Coalition study concludes that, “Reducing the number of youth adjudicated to residential facilities can only be achieved, if stakeholders strongly invest in “a consistent, county-based continuum of effective interventions, supports, and services.”

The study shows that Henderson County received a total of $12,788 in grant funding for juvenile programs.