The Facts

  • The population of youth incarcerated at the state level continues to shrink, from more than 5,000 youth in 2006 to just one-third of that today. While some improvements in conditions and programs at these lockups have been made, costs still exceed $300 per day, per juvenile, and exiting youths’ re-incarceration rate is still approximately 35%-a dramatic difference from the more efficient and effective community-based programs.
  • Senate Bill 653, from the 82nd Texas Legislature, merged two state agencies into one. However, additional steps are needed to fully implement the cost savings and administrative reductions possible through this merger.
  • Recent research and oversight of the juvenile justice system have revealed inefficiencies, including an inefficient and ineffective parole system and an overreliance on pretrial detention of nonviolent youths in some counties.



  • Mentally ill juvenile delinquents are a key population to focus on given their unique treatment needs, as well as the potential for inefficient system handling of their mental illness. By providing more avenues for diversion from the juvenile justice system, coupled with strong, outcome-oriented performance measures and assessments to better match youths and programs, Texas can ensure adequate mental health treatment while protecting public safety and preventing unnecessary expenditures at the state level.
  • The budget for juvenile parole in Texas has stayed constant even while the population of juveniles on parole has dropped by half. This suggests there are significant inefficiencies in the system, compounded by the poor indicators of program effectiveness and outcomes. A more effective parole system, coupled with very short reductions in lengths of stay, could produce significant cost savings and decreased rates of re-offending in Texas.
  • Pre-trial secure detention is expensive and often unnecessary in Texas. Harris and Dallas County have achieved success with innovative methods of pre-trial supervision in lieu of detention for appropriate juveniles, resulting in lower rates of re-offending and fewer juveniles missing court dates, all while crime decreased by larger margins than the rest of Texas. Utilizing such alternatives in other counties could result in more effective juvenile case management, safer communities, and streamlined detention budgets.