Texas has made huge strides in reforming its once hellish juvenile justice system. Young offenders in state facilities were once subjected to brutality, neglect and sexual abuse. But after revelations of those conditions led to a public outcry in 2007, elected officials moved quickly to make sure that troubled young people were more likely to find the services they needed — and to keep as many young people as possible from entering state facilities in the first place. As important, the state now has the data to prove that it has made progress and to point to where it might make more.
After the scandals, the Texas Legislature barred localities from sending children convicted of misdemeanors to state facilities and gave hundreds of millions of dollars to local juvenile probation departments for guidance and rehabilitation services closer to home, often in residential facilities. As state juvenile prisons fell empty, the state began shutting them down.
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