AUSTIN, Texas—A blue-ribbon task force on juvenile justice, chaired by a University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work professor, recommends community-based programs and specialized treatment for juvenile offenders and families.
Dr. David Springer chaired the task force charged with defining a new juvenile correctional rehabilitation system in Texas. The completed task force report, "Transforming Juvenile Justice in Texas: A Framework for Action," was co-authored by a group of national and regional juvenile justice experts.
The task force was formed in response to reports of sexual abuse of youth at Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facilities. The TYC was created to care for, treat and educate the state’s most serious and chronic juvenile offenders. In March, the Texas governor placed the TYC under conservatorship to guide reform of the agency’s correctional and rehabilitative systems following the reports of sexual abuse.
"While what happened at TYC is extremely unfortunate and tragic, the new executive leadership of TYC should be applauded for being forward looking in requesting the formation of this task force," said Springer. "It was an honor for me to work with such an esteemed group, and I am grateful to the members of the task force for their hard work. Our vision and hope for this report is that, along with Texas Senate Bill 103, it serves as a compass to guide the short-term and long-term transformation of the juvenile justice system in Texas."
The task force examined two overarching questions: If it could re-design health care, treatment and case management at TYC correctional facilities, what would it look like? If it could re-design the juvenile justice system in Texas, what would it look like?
"It is impossible to discuss TYC facilities as if they exist in silos," said Springer, "so my charge to the task force was to operate as if they had a blank slate to create the ideal system from the ground up."
In the report, the task force explored several juvenile justice programs that serve as alternatives to incarceration, which would decrease recidivism rates and save money for taxpayers. The cost effectiveness of these programs illustrates there are programs for juvenile offenders that produce long-term economic benefits, said Springer.
Springer, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Social Work and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor, specializes in adolescent health, juvenile justice and mental health treatment for juvenile delinquents.
A full copy of the report is available online [PDF].