Scores of youthful Texas offenders are being sent straight into the adult criminal justice system – 246 of them last year alone – for crimes they committed as juveniles, reports the Houston Chronicle. Juvenile justice advocates blame last year's 22 percent spike on a reform launched two years ago that was designed to protect younger offenders. They say young people who are easier to rehabilitate are being forced into a harsher adult setting that can't meet their needs. After the Texas Youth Commission sex abuse scandal in 2007, the agency no longer handled juveniles ages 19 to 21 – a move intended in part to protect younger children from older youths.
“It's pretty simple,” said Jill Mata, Bexar County's chief juvenile prosecutor. “If we didn't have enough time to work with these kids within the juvenile justice system (before they turned 19), then we were faced with no option but to certify them as adults.” Bexar County certified 28 juveniles as adults last year, a 75 percent jump from a year earlier. One youth, for example, awaits sentencing for molesting a relative when she was 12 and he was 16. He faces a maximum life sentence in an adult prison and automatic lifetime registration on the state's sex offender registry.