Pursuant to Senate Bill 653 passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature and signed by the Governor, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) was created on December 1, 2011 and the existing Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) and Texas Youth Commission (TYC) were abolished. On December 1, 2011, operations of both TJPC and TYC were transferred to the new TJJD and all references to TJPC and TYC were changed to the new name. On behalf of TJJD, welcome to our website.
Transforming young lives and creating safer communities.
We do the right thing, in all things, with all people.
We commit to a culture that protects youth, employees, and the public.
We build trust through transparency and ethical behavior.
We achieve best results through collaboration with counties, stakeholders, youth and their families.
We proactively create opportunities to improve the juvenile justice system.
Overview of the Juvenile Justice System in Texas
Often, people think of the juvenile system as a penal system similar to that of adults, but for children. While there are similarities between the two, there are also differences. The adult system focuses on public safety and punishment for criminal conduct. While public safety and holding juveniles accountable for their actions are certainly considerations, the juvenile correctional system places an emphasis on rehabilitation. Even when it is necessary to incarcerate youth, the setting is not punitive but rather is protective and designed to educate youth about discipline, values, and work ethics thus guiding them toward becoming productive citizens.
In most cases, juvenile records are sealed so that youth are given a second chance at life without the stigma of having been in trouble with the law. Some exceptions include youth who have to register as sex offenders and youth who have committed serious enough offenses that require them to complete their sentences in the adult system.
Referral to Juvenile Court and Possible Dispositions
A juvenile who engages in delinquent conduct or commits a CINS violation can be referred to juvenile court, where several things can happen. The juvenile can be dealt with informally and returned home.
If the county decides to charge the juvenile with delinquent conduct, the juvenile is afforded the same legal rights as an adult charged with a crime. In certain circumstances, the county can request to have a youth certified as an adult. If such is granted, the person is considered an adult for criminal purposes and will no longer be in the juvenile justice system. The rest of this overview does not apply to persons certified as adults.
If the juvenile is “adjudicated” for delinquent conduct, there are several possible disposition options, or outcomes, as follows:
- The juvenile may be placed on probation; or
- The juvenile may be sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department with an indeterminate sentence (only felony offenses); or
- The juvenile may be sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department with a determinate sentence (only certain offenses).
A juvenile who is placed on probation (and not sent to TJJD) must be discharged from the probation by the time he or she turns 18.
A juvenile sent to TJJD with an indeterminate sentence must be discharged by the time he or she turns 19.
A juvenile sent to TJJD with a determinate sentence may be transferred to adult prison depending on his or her behavior and progress in TJJD programs.
The Progressive Sanctions and Interventions Model
Each youth, depending on his or her offense and history, plus a number of other factors, has a unique journey through the juvenile justice system. However, in general, the progressive sanctions and interventions model is designed to start with the least amount of intervention or sanctions possible, progressively getting more serious and intensive as necessary to help juveniles learn to become productive, law-abiding citizens. The ultimate goal is to keep juveniles from entering the adult prison system.
On the spectrum of services, law enforcement and county juvenile probation departments, under the guidance and direction of TJJD, serve vital front-line roles. TJJD serves as a critical last attempt to reach the most serious cases. About 95 percent of youth committed to TJJD have already failed at a county-level intervention. The remainder of TJJD’s youth committed serious offenses such as capital murder, armed robbery, or aggravated sexual assault and were sent directly to the agency’s care.