The Facts

* There were 141,734 juvenile arrests in Texas in 2005. In 2012, there were only 92,164 juvenile arrests. Arrests of juveniles for murder and manslaughter with a culpable mental state greater than negligence fell from 54 to 27.

* Largely due to a two-thirds drop in the number of youths in TJJD lockups, the TJJD facilities budget for 2014-15 is $319 million, less than the $427 million appropriated to TYC in 2006-07.

* In a recent study, youth who had their records sealed were nearly twice as likely to be employed after two years as those who had not. These youth were also less likely to abuse substances.


* Raise the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to cover 17 year-old misdemeanants. This will increase public safety due to the lower recidivism rates in the juvenile system and save taxpayer dollars. These savings will compound over time as fewer youth return to the criminal justice system in their adult years. 

* Empower adult criminal court judges with the authority to transfer 17 year-old nonviolent felons to the juvenile court. This will allow courts to examine each case in light of factors such as the maturity of the 17 year-old, prior record (if any), and assessed risk level, all of which will help the court determine whether the more intensive rehabilitative programming and smaller caseloads in the juvenile system would benefit that offender.

* Pass statutory provisions that automatically seal the records of nonviolent youth offenders under established criteria. Doing so will lower the burden that formal proceedings place on the court, establish a uniform standard for the sealing of records, and prevent minor youthful indiscretions from hampering future prospects of employment.

* Expand use of specialized caseloads with specially trained supervision officers for medium to high-risk mentally ill youths on juvenile probation and parole, in light of evidence that such programs as the Front End Diversionary Initiative (FEDI) substantially reduce recidivism and revocations.