History of LWV-TX Action on Juvenile Justice

1995: During the 1995 legislative session, juvenile violence and the juvenile justice system was a priority issue for LWV-TX. An Advocacy Paper, Juvenile Crime: Strategies to Stem the Rising Tide, was published and circulated to all legislators and other elected and appointed officials, as well as to interested members. The League's interest in juvenile crime proved most timely. Legislators and the governor, as well as many other citizens statewide, shared the conviction that this pervasive problem must be addressed with fresh initiatives.

League-supported portions of the enacted bill include: first offender program to allow non-felony juvenile offenders to be processed outside the juvenile court; early intervention services for juveniles as young as seven; a progressive sanctions model (though not fully funded) that ensures juveniles face uniformly consistent consequences that correspond to the seriousness of their offenses; funds for additional probation officers and for construction of post-adjudication intermediate sanction facilities. The League also lobbied successfully for a new law that limits children's access to readily dischargeable firearms. Although a League-supported measure geared to prevention programs in early childhood failed passage, several prevention programs were successfully attached to other bills.

2007: SB103, a comprehensive reform bill for the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) was signed by the governor and became law. Major points of the bill are:

  • Only children committing felonies may be sentenced to a TYC facility
  • Establishes a feasibility study of a regional structure for TYC with smaller, local facilities conforming to needs of an area
  • Establishes the office of Executive Commissioner and Advisory Board for TYC
  • Establishes authority of a state auditor to review financial transactions of Commission an internal audit procedure, reporting to legislative committees
  • Provides for criminal background checks for potential TYC employees
  • Allows advocacy and support groups to provide on-site services at TYC facilities
  • Establishes the office of inspector General to investigate fraud
  • Establishes the office of Ombudsman to evaluate services to youth and review complaints
  • Restrict placement of minors under 15 years to dorms for youths 16 years and younger
  • Develops and distributes a Parents Bill of Rights
  • Assigns a case worker to each child committed to a TYC facility
  • Establishment of a zero-tolerance policy regarding of sexual abuse of inmates
  • Allows equal access to TYC facilities for female officers
  • Will offer rehabilitation programs recommended by the adjudicating judge