Local Texas juvenile probation departments are doing a better job and spending less money than state lockups when it comes to treating and rehabilitating troubled youths, says a new study from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition reported by the Texas Tribune. The report's authors say counties need more money and more oversight from the state to ensure the progress continues. “These county programs are doing a lot of really innovative things,” said the coalition’s Benet Magnuson. “They are doing it on shoestring budgets, and they are really finding ways to connect kids to community resources.”
In 2007, after reports of physical and sexual abuse at some of the state's secure youth facilities, lawmakers began overhauling the juvenile justice system. Legislators have continued the reforms with the goal of keeping more youths in community programs close to their homes instead of sending them to far-flung state facilities. The population at state facilities has dropped precipitously, from about 5,000 in 2006 to fewer than 1,200 now. The state shuttered facilities, and now only six of the original 15 institutions remain open.