Houston Chronicle – October 6, 2015
by Mike Ward
Counties across Texas increasingly are sending teenage lawbreakers to out-of-state rehabilitation programs instead of state-run lockups that have been plagued by reports of violence, a trend officials say is proving less costly and more successful.
While out-of-state programs have been used with success for several years, officials confirm that the practice appears to be increasing because state funding has been increased to pay for the referrals and because specialty treatment programs in other states are not available in Texas.
Even so, the author of reforms that led to the additional state funding said Monday that the trend is not what he intended, and he wants answers about how the youths can be rehabilitated closer to home.
"My goal has been to get kids out of state lockups in the remote areas of Texas and get them into programs closer to their homes, not to send them to remote locations in other states," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston. "That's why I am totally shocked by these numbers that show so many Texas kids going out of state."
Echoing the sentiments of other reform supporters, Lauren Rose, juvenile justice policy associate at Texans Care for Children, a leading advocacy organization on juvenile justice issues, said the question is how to get the specialized treatment programs offered in Texas, so youth offenders can be kept closer to home near their families.