2 Juvenile Sentencing Options in Texas Juvenile Indeterminate Sentencingsentenced by juvenile judgeavailable for all offensescan stay in TYC up until age 19 and then must be releasedDeterminate (Blended) Sentencingavailable only for the most serious and violent offensessentences up to 40 yearsstart sentence in TYC, then possible transfer to adult prison at age 19 if not rehabilitatedAdult Certificationtransferred by juvenile judge to adult criminal courtavailable for any felony offense, including state jail felonies and non-violent crimessentences up to 99 yearsstart sentence in adult prison as early as age 14
3 Adult Certifications in Texas vs Adult Certifications in Texas vs. Determinate Sentences with TYC Placement FY 2005 – 10Currently, there are about 229 juveniles between the ages of 14 – 17 who were certified as adults last year. A figure that has had some variation, especially in 2008 following the problems in TYC, but is generally fairly stable.The chart shows that juvenile judges have been certifying more juveniles than they place in TYC on DS. Lately, it is almost 100 % more.Source: Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Data, 2010
4 Comparing Certified Juveniles and Determinate Sentence Juveniles Demographic FactorsSimilar in age (mostly 16 year-olds in each population)Similar in gender breakdown (overwhelmingly male)Similar in ethnicity (disproportionately African-American in both populations (40%))Main difference is county of conviction
5 Number of Certifications and Determinate Sentences with TYC Placement by County, FY 2006 - 09 Chart looks at the 10 counties responsible for the most certifications in the stateHarris County has certified more than twice as many cases over a 4-year period than any other county, and more than the next 6 counties combinedNote that Travis County (the 5th largest county) and El Paso (the 7th largest county) do not appear in the chart, telling us that the decision to transfer kids to adult court is a policy decision at the county or judicial level and not inevitable based on the size of the county.Also note the extremely large discrepancy between use of DS and certification in 6 counties (Harris, Jefferson, Hidalgo, Nueces, Lubbock, and Potter), suggesting possible disproportionate efforts to try juveniles as adults in these counties.Source: Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Data, 2010
6 DETERMINATE SENTENCES WITH TYC PLACEMENT Offense Comparing Certified Juvenile and Determinate Sentence Populations by Top 5 Offenses, FYCERTIFICATIONSDETERMINATE SENTENCES WITH TYC PLACEMENTOffense% of Total Certifications% of Total Determinate SentencesAggravated Robbery35.2%40.7%Sexual Assault19.0%16.5%Homicide*17.0%Aggravated Assault10.3%Violation of Probation for Sexual Assault6.3%Burglary5.6%4.8%Other13.0%15.2%TOTAL100%Next, we compared the two groupsSource: Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Data, 2010* “Homicide” includes Capital Murder, Murder, Felony Murder, Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, and Criminally Negligent Homicide.
7 Comparing Criminal Offenses Agg. Robbery cases dominate both populations, and together with sexual assault, accounts for more than 55% of cases in each categoryHomicide only accounts for 17% of certification cases (contrary to popular perception)Determinate Sentence cases include almost exclusively violent crimes, including homicideNon-violent offenses, including state jail felonies, account for 10-15% of certification casesCertified juveniles and Determinate Sentence juveniles are relatively comparable when it comes to criminal offenses. Certified youth are not demonstrably more violent than youth retained in juvenile court.
9 Comparing Criminal History Certified youth and Determinate Sentence youth have similar numbers of prior referrals to juvenile courtReferrals can be for any offense, including truancy and curfew violationsRoughly a quarter of each population have never been in trouble beforeAlmost 45% have had either no prior referrals or only oneDispels myth that certified youth are chronic, repeat offenders
10 Prior Violent Referral for Certified Juveniles, FY 2005 -09 for Determinate Sentence JuvenilesFYPrior Violent Referral for Certified Juveniles, FYNo Prior Violent Referral65%Source: Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Data, 2010
11 Prior Violent Criminal History? Overwhelming majority of both Certified juveniles and Determinate Sentence juveniles do NOT have a prior history of violenceOnly 28% of the certified juveniles and 35% of the DS juveniles had a prior referral for a violent offense“Violent” includes felony-level offenses such as homicide, attempted homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, robbery, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, weapons offenses, arson with injury or death, and terroristic threat.
13 Beyond the Help of the Juvenile Justice System? 9 out of 10 certified juveniles have not exhausted the most serious options offered by the juvenile systemCertified youth miss out on successful rehabilitative programs in TYC, such as the Capital and Serious Violent Offenders Program (95% success rate)Majority have relatively minor and non-violent criminal histories, and many are first-time offenders
14 Length of sentences for Determinate Sentence youth in TYC FY 2010Length of sentences for current youth age 19 and under at TDCJ who were received prior to age 17 FY 2010Sentence length#Youthful Offenders% Youthful OffendersLess than 4 years66.4%4-10 yrs4952.1%11-30 yrs2526.6%31-40 yrs55.3%41 - Life99.6%TOTAL94100%Sentence length# Juveniles% JuvenilesLess than 4 years11515.4%4-10 yrs46161.8%11-30 yrs15620.9%31-40 yrs141.9%TOTAL746100%Source: Texas Youth Commission Data, 2010Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice Data, 2010
15 Most Certified juveniles will get out of prison while still young 58% of certified juveniles in prison received sentences of less than 10 yearsOnly 9 juveniles in recent years received sentences longer than the 40 years available under determinate sentencingSimilar sentence lengths for certified juveniles and determinate sentence juvenilesBut certified juveniles do not have access to the rehabilitative programs they need for re-entry
16 Juveniles in Adult Jails and Prisons In Texas, Certified juveniles ages are required to be confined in:Adult county jails, while awaiting trial, usually in isolation for a year or moreAdult prisons, after convictionIn adult prisons and jails, juveniles face vastly higher risks of:suicidesexual assaultphysical assaultmental illnessLimited access to effective therapeutic interventions, education, specialized staff, and age-appropriate services
17 Public Safety Concerns Center for Disease Control: “transferring juveniles to the adult system is counter-productive as a strategy for preventing or reducing violence”one study found that transferred juveniles who served at least a year in adult prison had a 100% greater risk of violent recidivism
19 TDCJ Youthful Offender Program (YOP) Designed to keep juveniles separate from adultsProvides some limited therapeutic programmingMinimal opportunities for femalesInadequate educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities for youthOnly 68% of the 14 – 17 year olds are in the YOP32% of 14 – 17 year olds in TDCJ are in:--state jails--transfer facilities--administrative segregation--medical and mental health facilitieswhere they receive NO specialized programming and can be co-mingled with adult offenders
20 Compare to Programs at TYC Determinate Sentence youth can participate inCapital and Serious Violent Offenders Program (95% success rate)Sex Offender Treatment Program (94% success rate)Educational classes (96% participation rate, compared to 38% in YOP)Special educationBasic treatment services for all youthOther advantages of juvenile facilitiesSpecialized staff and age-appropriate servicesNo co-mingling with adult offendersNo long-term isolation
21 ConclusionsData breaks down the common myths about which juveniles get transferred to the adult systemNot the “worst of the worst”—many are first-time offenders, are charged with non-violent offenses, and have no prior violent criminal historyCertified youth are almost identical to those retained in the juvenile system in terms of criminalityVast majority of certified juveniles have never been through the toughest options in the juvenile systemNot a case of “nothing works”; rather “nothing has been tried”Certified youth miss out on effective rehabilitative programs and school in juvenile systemDeterminate sentencing option is flexible—holds youth accountable while protecting public safety with potentially long sentencesAdult jails and prisons are a poor fit for juvenilesIncreases violent recidivismPuts youth at extreme risk
22 Policy Recommendations Limit certification to the most serious and violent offenses, so that it is truly for the “worst of the worst”Confine certified juveniles in juvenile detention facilities instead of adult jails while they await trialConfine certified juveniles in TYC instead of adult prison until age 19, then transfer to prison to complete sentenceProtect public safety by allowing a juvenile judge to order a 19-year old to complete rehabilitative programming in TYC prior to releaseSeek ways to keep more youth in the juvenile system
23 Relevant Legislation HB 3351 (Turner) and HB 3698 (Gallego) Limits certification to serious and violent offensesHB 3350 (Turner)Allows a juvenile judge to order a 19 y/o determinate sentence youth to complete rehabilitative programming in TYC prior to releaseSB 1209 (Whitmire) andCSHB 3303 (Marquez)At county option, certified juveniles can be held in juvenile detention center rather than adult jail while awaiting trialSB 1208 (Whitmire)Extends term for determinate sentence probation to age 19 to keep lower-risk youth in juvenile system
24 For More Information: Michele Deitch, J.D., M.Sc. Senior Lecturer, LBJ School of Public Affairs****To download full report, visit: