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County Officials Appointed to New Juvenile Justice Board

By Laura Nicholes
TAC Legislative Staff

Governor Rick Perry appointed 13 members to the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) board Nov. 8.

The TJJD was created in the most recent legislative session through the passage of Senate Bill 653, in which the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission were abolished and their separate roles and responsibilities were combined into a new agency. The intent of the merger was to create a new probation-driven and community-focused agency.

Washington County Judge John Brieden, Ellis County Judge Carol Bush and Midland County Commissioner Jimmy Smith were selected by the governor to serve on the TJJD board. These appointments will provide Brieden, Bush and Smith the opportunity to bring the perspectives of their peers to the state agency table and represent a broad range of county interests.

The effect and impact of the juvenile system on local governments are far reaching and include the areas of administration/funding local juvenile probation departments; juvenile detention facilities; access, resources and ability to support community based initiatives.

Also appointed to the board were three county chief juvenile probation officers representing small, medium and large juvenile probation departments: Jane King of the Randall County Juvenile Probation Department; Michael Made of the Fort Bend County Juvenile Probation Department; and Melissa Weiss of the Austin County Juvenile Probation Department.

The addition of juvenile chiefs to the agency board will allow practical input from the perspective of people involved in the daily operational, implementation and programmatic issues within juvenile departments.

Additional noteworthy county appointments include Joseph Brown, criminal district attorney of Grayson County, and Laura Parker, judge of the 386th Juvenile District Court in Bexar County.

Next Step: Selection of Executive Director
The TJJD transition team has been working on the business continuity plan for merging the two agencies. The TJJD board will meet on Dec. 1 to begin the process of selecting an executive director.

The job description and application process are being vetted and the position will be posted on the current websites of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission when approved by the board.

Among the responsibilities of the transition team is the establishment of a transition plan for combining the agency budgets and maintaining necessary support, programs and services in both agencies, as well as defining a funding mechanism for the new intervention and prevention initiative. This initiative was zero funded by the Legislature.

Currently, counties and property taxpayers contribute a statewide average of about 75 percent of funding toward the support and implementation of programs in local juvenile probation departments and detention facilities operated by juvenile probation departments. Secure state-run facilities for housing the most dangerous juvenile offenders (TYC facilities) require adequate funding to operate and provide the intensive treatment and educational services mandated by law. These facilities and services are wholly funded by the state.

Among the concerns relayed to legislative committees by advocate groups and county representatives during the legislative process on SB 653 was that in times of state budget reductions, probation funding might be cut and deemed a “cost savings” to the state since the institutional side is dependent on state funds.

The TJJD transition team will accept stakeholder input, including input from county officials and juvenile probation departments, regarding general aspects of the transition plan at a Dec. 7 meeting in Austin. For further information, contact Laura Nicholes at (800) 456-5974 or .