Camille Cain has worked for several Texas governors and one president. She has helped manage billions of dollars in grant funding for statewide and national criminal justice programs. One thing the new head of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department hasn’t done is work directly with incarcerated kids, reports the Texas Tribune. That gap in her resume made her an unconventional hire by the department’s board, which voted 12 to 1 to name her the agency’s executive director last month. The two people who held the job before Cain both ran county juvenile probation departments prior to their appointments.
State leaders hope her bureaucratic experience will enable her to do something those officials could not: save an agency that has long struggled under multiple violence and sexual abuse scandals and staffing shortages. “I’m very optimistic,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee. “I think she’s going out there with a commitment to make a difference.” Cain, 50, said she plans to use her background to work closely with experts, including lawmakers, juvenile probation department chiefs and advocates to immediately make youth lockups safer and, in the long term, place more minors into local facilities instead of state-run ones. “I strongly believe in the power of bringing together the ideas of diverse groups of experts and weaving those ideas together into solid strategies with a clear, well understood vision,” she said. Turning the agency around won’t be easy. Last November, after a department report obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed that guards at the Gainesville State School were allegedly sexually abusing committed youth, reform advocates called for the closure of the five state-run lockups that house violent juveniles.