Juvenile Detention Centers Work to Rehabilitate Youth Despite Being Sufficiently Funded
CAMERON COUNTY — Chiefs from juvenile justice departments all over Texas are saying that under funding is a major issue.
A survey by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition released the report.
On average about 40 juveniles are always housed at the Darrell Hester Juvenile Detention Center in
Cameron County. Getting kids out of there back into the community to be productive citizens is the goal. Through state funded programs and services this, in the past, had been made more easily possible.
But last year, the state of Texas did away with the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and created the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. It's all tied to saving money.
"One of the biggest impacts was they reduced the bed space by a tremendous amount," says Chief of DHJDC.
In certain cases, officials from the Darrell Hester Detention Center would send kids to the now TJJD.
"The statement they sent out to us was, "These kids belong to you, they're from your community, you all need to figure out how you're going to handle, supervise them, and fix them," says Chief Ramirez.
Another reason was to keep as many youth as possible in their home counties. Research shows rehabilitation is more successful when youth receive treatment in their communities.
Ramirez says the idea is good, but now the financial burden of helping these kids as effectively as possible is on the local juvenile justice departments across Texas.
"When they don't defer enough money as a result of that to us in order to establish some really sound community based programs and other possibilities where we can keep these kids in check," says Chief Ramirez.
Previously one of the biggest most successful programs were those which worked to reduce childhood recidivism, meaning programs that rehabilitated kids so they wouldn't repeat offend.
“That just means you've sent a lot more kids who need these services into the communities with lack of resources to serve them and hopefully deter them and rehabilitate them," says the chief.
Ramirez adds with funding for programs like that gone many kids will eventually be back.
In comparison to other juvenile justice departments across Texas, Ramirez says we do in fact have more juvenile delinquents come through our system.
"Here in the valley particularly, we face a larger dilemma. We're close to the border. The drug cartels have an effect on everything across the border, on the other side of the border. A lot of our young people are being lured into some of this drug trafficking, human trafficking, much more so than other communities north of us," says Chief Ramirez.
On a positive note though, the chief says the department always manages to pull through.
"We've gone out into the community and we've created partnerships with school districts and the local community and have stepped up to work together to blend resources in order to really make an impact in schools and help with school behavior, school attendance," says the chief.
In the meantime, county juvenile justice department chiefs regularly meet and discuss ways to better utilize resources so they can better service incarcerated juveniles despite being sufficiently underfunded.