Juvenile justice systems are often the target of much controversy and criticism. This has particularly been the case in Texas, where turmoil and scandal have plagued the state’s juvenile defense and corrections system. Recently, a new set of goals were handed down to the agency in order to support young offenders in rehabilitation, in hopes of refocusing the Texas Juvenile Justice Department as a whole.
The new goals will clarify the department’s mandate of “correcting” rather than simply punishing young offenders. The move comes after reporting from the Dallas Morning News revealed that several guards in the system had been arrested for abuse. Immediate changes were made as a result of these revelations, such as changes in top-level staff and a thorough investigation.
In addition, the agency is reviewing its background check policy for guards. It also plans to provide body cameras to correctional officers who interact with juveniles in its facilities by the end of the year. Representatives hope these changes will increase safety and decrease turnover in the system. An additional change people are hoping to bring to the system is the ability to accommodate young offenders closer to home as currently 40 percent of underage people who are incarcerated are over 120 miles from their homes.
According to recent figures, less young people are currently being kept in juvenile facilities than at any time since 2007. Currently, there are approximately 900 underage offenders in one of five Texas state correctional facilities. Those who are facing charges as a minor in the state should speak to an attorney about juvenile defense options.