The Texas Youth Commission (TYC) is no longer under a conservator and has moved out of the headlines. However, there is still reason to be concerned with the structure of the Commission. Youths are still housed in remotely located training schools with nonviolent drug offenders in the same dormitory as murderers. The Commission has not been able to demonstrate any success in reducing recidivism, with more than half of youths re-offending.

TYC is also very costly to operate. TYC’s stated cost per day in the third quarter of 2008 was $136.04 per youth, which equates to an annual cost of $49,665. However, if the 2,200 youths in TYC’s institutions are divided by its total budget minus direct parole and contracted capacity costs ($247 million – $40.5 million = $206.5 million), the resulting cost is $257 per youth per day, equating to an annual cost of $93,864 per youth.

The best way to fix TYC is to create competition. Under the pilot program endorsed by the Sunset Commission, counties would be offered the option of keeping some of the youths they send to the state. Dallas County has provided a proposal under which it could handle the youths it sends to TYC for $98.50 a day in local facilities. This would save the state money and keep more youths closer to their families. That should be an attractive proposal to the new Legislature.

– Marc Levin