New Report Details Conditions for Certified Juveniles in Texas County Jails

A new report provides a comprehensive picture of the conditions for certified juveniles awaiting trial in adult county jails, based on a survey of 41 jails across the state of Texas.
The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch (along with coauthors Anna Lipton Galbraith, a master of public affairs student at the LBJ School, and Jordan Pollock, a student at the UT School of Law) has released “Conditions for Certified Juveniles in Texas County Jails,” the second in her series on juveniles in the adult criminal justice system in Texas. The first report, “Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Texas” was published in 2011, and compared the significant differences in programming and services for the two populations of youthful offenders—those who get sent to adult prisons after conviction, and those who receive placements in the juvenile system.

In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1209, which allows juvenile boards to create the option for a judge to send a certified youth to a county-run juvenile detention center instead of the adult jail. In the juvenile detention centers, unlike the county jails, these youth could be housed with age-appropriate peers, participate in educational classes, and receive necessary services. This report aims to help inform juvenile boards as they consider whether to create such an option under SB 1209 and to assist policy makers, state and county agencies, and advocacy groups in future discussions about the most appropriate way to manage the confinement of certified juveniles.
Key survey findings include:

  • Jails are forced to choose between housing a juvenile in isolation or commingling him with adult offenders, which the authors contend can amount to a choice between putting either the youth's mental health or physical safety at risk.
  • Certified youth in adult county jails have extremely limited access to educational classes, services, or programs, which impairs their ability to reintegrate after they are released. This lack of educational classes for certified juveniles in county jails appears to be in violation of state and federal laws.
  • There are relatively few youth confined in these adult county jails, a total of 34 at the time of this study. Most counties have no more than one certified juvenile in the jail, and even the largest counties have no more than a handful, making it feasible in most cases for these youth to be held in the juvenile facilities instead of the jail.

Brooke Preston is an Acting Digital Account Executive at Prichard Communications, where she creates strategies and content for a number of clients including Reclaiming Futures. Brooke is a seasoned writer, editor and content consultant whose background is centered in journalism, nonprofit communications and brand development counsel. Brooke received a B.S.S. in Music and Media Studies from Ohio University.

Updated: February 08 2018