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According to the LBB SB 1630 will have a negative impact of $1,054,500 to the state through the biennium ending August 31, 2017. This will also have a negative impact on local units of government. Jefferson County Juvenile Probation Department reported a total cost of $884,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2016 and 2017. Tom Green County Juvenile Probation Department reported a cost of $675,640 for FY 2016 and $365,640 in FY 2017. Coke County Juvenile Probation Department reported a total cost of $63,800 per year. Nueces County Juvenile Probation Department reported an average cost of $595,996 per year.
A House amendment added the "raise the age" provision to this legislation to prevent 17 year old children from being tried as adults. We support this provision.
Original Analysis Below:
SB 1630 would create a provision that the juvenile court may commit a child without a determinate sentence if the court makes a special commitment finding that the child has behavioral health or other special needs that can not be met by the resources available within the community. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (“department”) and the Texas Juvenile Justice Board (“board”) would be responsible for developing a plan to keep children closer to home when they serve their sentences. Regions would be able to be eligible for funding to support intensive in-home services. SB 1630 would also make the department and board’s priority to establish performance-based goals to reduce recidivism and improve any other “well-being outcome measures” that will ensure children’s safety and development.
The department would also set aside a portion of discretionary state aid to reimburse counties for placing children in regional specialized programs at an overall rate of savings to placing the child in a department facility. This discretionary state aid funding protocols would be based on “documented, data-driven, and research-based practices.
Due to the inclusion of an amendment that would raise the age when defendants may be tried as adults in most cases from 17 years old to 18 years old, this is now a stronger, better bill than when we originally reported on it. For most legal purposes a person is not considered to be an adult until the age of 18. However, under current law a person may be tried as an adult at age 17. This amendment would require children to be tried as children and not tried as adults until they actually reach the age of adulthood. We continue to support final passage of SB 1630.
Original Vote Recommendation:
SB 1630 would increase the individual liberty of children within a juvenile corrections facility. This bill would help keep children within the community they were raised allowing the bonds they have built within their own communities to stay intact.
However, current statutes that allow juveniles to remain in correctional facilities without a determinate sentence should be viewed as controversial and possibly inherently flawed. Expanding the policy of indeterminate sentences to apply to juveniles for whom the state is unable to provide resources should not be taken lightly.
Some critics of indeterminate sentencing claim that this puts too much power into the hands of the parole board, which could lead to arbitrary results at best and discriminatory results at worst. We recommend that the legislature review the practices of indeterminate sentences for juvenile offenders and ask them to reconsider this practice. According to legal scholar Albert Alschuler, “It has become increasingly apparent that the very indeterminacy of indeterminate sentences is a form of psychological torture.”
We support this bill for promoting the individual liberty of children in the TJJD system. We also encourage the legislature to consider alternatives to indeterminate sentences.