Five years of juvenile justice reform in Texas have been built on one point that everyone can agree on: kids do better when they're close to home, says the Texas Observer. Texas has moved three-quarters of its state lockup population into community probation over the last few years, so kids can get treatment near their families and support networks. Eileen Garcia, director of the advocacy group Texans Care for Children, says that local control has created a statewide market for county treatment space, and some kids are still sent hundreds of miles from home. Even if they're assigned to “community” probation, it turns out there's no guarantee they'll serve it in their community.
Last week, treatment space for three kids was auctioned off at the Juvenile Justice Association of Texas fall conference in Corpus Christi—a fundraiser the juvenile justice trade group has been holding for years. Last week's highest bidders scored three-to-six-month placements at three facilities. Garcia has heard about kids being transferred from their home county's probation departments to facilities far across the state. Sometimes it's because a faraway county offers specialized treatment that isn't available close to the child's home. “What runs counter to legislated reform and what isn’t good for kids is if counties are moving kids further away from home merely to cut costs,” she says. “We want to ensure that counties that are able to treat kids in their community are treating them in the community.”