Understanding and Addressing Youth Violence in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department

Following numerous reports in 2012 of increased levels of youth violence in secure facilities operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), the Office of the Independent Ombudsman (OIO) requested assistance from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas to analyze the extent and nature of youth misbehavior within TJJD and to identify strategies to effectively address the violence. This report responds to that request and aims to support the OIO in its efforts to understand and address misbehavior in TJJD’s secure facilities so that youth and staff are safe and youth receive effective rehabilitative programming.

This report focuses on "major rule violations," the most serious offenses a youth can commit during his or her time at TJJD. These include a wide range of non-violent and violent infractions, as well as attempted escapes, riots, and other group disturbances. At the OIO’s request, TJJD provided information about all of the major rule violations that took place within its six long-term, secure facilities from January 2009 through December 2012. These data were thoroughly analyzed to identify trends in the occurrence of violence. The report also examines youths’ and staff members’ personal experiences with assaultive behavior based on the results of a survey the OIO administered to youth and staff in five of the secure facilities in August and September 2012. To understand how TJJD manages youth misbehavior, data was also analyzed in regards to current disciplinary practices, agency policies were reviewed, and relevant agency administrators were spoken with.