Juvenile Justice Department suspends admissions due to staffing shortages
TJJD officials have cited security concerns amid ongoing staff shortages.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) began suspending admissions to committed youth last week due to staffing shortages.
TJJD Acting Executive Director Shandra Carter sent a letter to Texas juvenile probation chiefs on Wednesday, June 29, outlining the issue. She cites safety issues that coincide with these shortages.
“TJJD must maintain certain staffing levels to ensure safe supervision of youth in the agency’s care,” a spokesperson told KVUE on Thursday, July 7. “The agency is working to resolve the underlying issues and resume admissions as soon as possible.”
Since Thursday, there are now 140 young people on the waiting list to be accommodated by the department. They are currently awaiting transport to detention centers in various locations across the state.
“TJJD remains in close contact with juvenile probation services to keep them informed of the situation,” the spokesperson said. “The agency regrets having had to take this action and recognizes that many county facilities are also struggling with staffing shortages reflecting the national staffing crisis.”
Carter’s letter can be read below:
“I am incredibly disappointed to have to inform you that we will be temporarily halting the admission of young people engaged in the TJJD. All five secure institutions in the state are implementing variations of their emergency operations planning. The current risk is that the ongoing staffing problem in secure facilities will result in an inability to provide even basic supervision to young people locked in their rooms, which could significantly impair their ability to respond to the increase in suicidal behaviors already observed in young people struggling with the isolation effect of confinement in the operating room.
“Two weeks ago, I contacted you about my three options for admitting committed young people awaiting a bed from TJJD, but the situation has deteriorated further. get darker, we have no other option.
“While the following steps cannot stop our bleeding of staff, the agency is implementing them with the goal of resuming admission as soon as it is safe to do so:
- Relocation of the Women’s Behavior Stabilization Unit from our Ron Jackson Unit to the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility
- Discontinue Intensive Intervention Programs (IIP) for violent youth at McLennan County Juvenile Correctional Facility and Evins Regional Juvenile Center, where we treat our most violent youth. IIP is a programmatic intervention that aims to manage lower-level aggression and violence.
- Reduce female population by 16 at Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex to accommodate currently available staff and move them to McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility, which currently holds 242 males
- Screen youth about to age out of TJJD jurisdiction for possible safe release into the community
- Determine if a determinate youth may be eligible for early release for parole TJJD or TDCJ.
“These are the least worst measures, but we are trying to make safe space for the 130 young people engaged in the TJJD currently in the establishments of your county. Please know that I am painfully aware of the tension this brings to the crisis detention beds. I fully recognize that our greatest risk here is that a young person who should be detained is in the community and commits a horrible violent crime.
“I’m happy to answer any questions or concerns.”
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