KCBD Investigates: State Senator Charles Perry says juvenile system not equipped for today’s violent offenders

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 4:08 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2022 at 6:30 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - State Senator Charles Perry says the juvenile justice system needs to be redesigned for today’s offenders.

”The kids are complex and more dangerous than ever before. It’s getting worse and it probably will continue,” Perry said.

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department has reported a decrease in overall population, but an increase in suicidal and aggressive offenders.

“These are 14-year-olds committing capital murder charges. We have not updated our system on so many levels, be it the juvenile justice system, be it the public-school discipline system,” Perry said.

Perry, a member of the Legislature’s Sunset Advisory Commission, made a recommendation to require the TJJD to adopt rules authorizing county facilities to separate youth as they await transfer to the state’s secure facilities.

“Right now, the post-adjudication kids, the kid that has been tried and convicted, is mixed back in with the pre-adjudication kids. It’s just the danger. If those kids have crossed over and killed somebody and been convicted of that, do you really want them to be with a kid that was a small felony-degree burglary? It gives them the option to separate those kids pre, post, and during adjudication,” Perry said.

Sunset staff reported some youth found guilty of violent crimes were released because county facilities ran out of beds waiting for TJJD to transfer them.

“Public safety is the number one issue when we have a juvenile justice system. It’s a hope we would have rehab. It’s a hope we would mitigate recidivism, it’s a hope we would short circuit the path that those kids are on. I think we have an obligation to try, but number one is public safety,” Perry said.

One way to do this, Perry said, is to adjust salaries to get competitive in the market.

“There are people who are called for this job, but they have to be safe and they have to make a living doing it, so we have to recognize that,” Perry said.

The Sunset Advisory Commission has approved these recommendations and more. Now, they will be presented to the Legislature in a bill and lawmakers will make the final decision.