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Featured, on the floor of the House of Representatives in February 2015: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin.

Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Texas judges would have a new, proven tool for juveniles who are placed on community supervision or deferred disposition (commonly called probation) for illegal drug use under legislation passed out of the Texas House by Rep. Terry Canales D-Edinburg. Judges would be able to require these youth to attend state-approved substance education programs. Under his measure, House Bill 642 – which was approved by the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, April 30 – a presiding judge would have the authority to require a young offender, under age 18, to attend a class focused on the terrible consequences of unlawful drug abuse as a requirement for avoiding a harsher penalty or permanent criminal record. “Currently, minors who are convicted of drug offenses can be required to attend an alcohol awareness program. These programs are designed to help increase a minor’s awareness of the potential dangers and detriments of alcohol use,” Canales explained. “Unfortunately, this requirement does not extend to minors who are placed on deferred disposition or community supervision for drug-related offenses.” Deferred Disposition is a form of probation, which allows for dismissal of a charge if certain criteria(s) are met. Community supervision means the placement of a defendant by a court under a continuum of programs and sanctions, with conditions imposed by the court for a specified period. But, many young people who commit these offenses – often minor in nature – are entering pre-trial programs where they are not actually convicted of the crime, the House 40 state lawmaker continued. “A large percentage of juvenile crimes are misdemeanors involving kids with small amounts of drugs. These kids do not need to go to jail. They need an approach tailored to their issues,” Canales said. “Judges need more power to require local programs aimed to help our youth.” According to the bill analysis of Canales’ HB 642: The bill would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure and Family Code to permit a judge to require certain defendants, as a condition of community supervision, to attend and complete an alcohol awareness program, approved under Section 106.115, Alcoholic Beverage Code or drug education program, approved by the Department of State Health Services. The bill would require a judge to order the defendant to pay the cost of attending the program, unless the defendant is found to be indigent or unable to pay the cost. Under certain circumstances, the judge would be permitted to require the defendant’s parent or guardian to pay the cost of attending the program. Under the provisions of the bill, the Department of State Health Services would be responsible for the administration of the program, provide training to a person who provides the program, and would be required to adopt rules regarding the drug education program. Canales, an attorney, said one of the many reasons for his legislation is simple: “We can’t just keep pushing kids into prison and hoping that they’re going to get better.” Educational awareness can combat the prevalence of illegal drug usage, and drug-associated criminal activity, he contended. “Our youth need to be made more aware of the mental, behavioral, and physical dependencies caused by drug and alcohol abuse. According to the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease,” Canales said. “Juvenile offenders in general are more likely to struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. My bill will help these young Texans get on the right path.” Canales, a member of the crime-fighting House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, said he continues shaping legislation that will include battling violent thugs, locking up sexual predators, capturing drug dealers, and putting away robbers, burglars, and swindlers. But he also agrees, especially in the case of a young person who has not yet reached adulthood, that in Texas, everyone who deserves a second chance should get one. “We should not want to destroy the life of a such a young person for a simple mistake or a lack of judgment,” Canales said.

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Juvenile justice reform by Rep. Canales approved by House to help rehabilitate Texas youths charged with illegal drug use

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Texas judges would have a new, proven tool for juveniles who are placed on community supervision or deferred disposition (commonly called probation) for illegal drug use under legislation passed out of the Texas House by Rep. Terry Canales D-Edinburg.

Judges would be able to require these youth to attend state-approved substance education programs.

Under his measure, House Bill 642 – which was approved by the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, April 30 – a presiding judge would have the authority to require a young offender, under age 18, to attend a class focused on the terrible consequences of unlawful drug abuse as a requirement for avoiding a harsher penalty or permanent criminal record.

“Currently, minors who are convicted of drug offenses can be required to attend an alcohol awareness program. These programs are designed to help increase a minor’s awareness of the potential dangers and detriments of alcohol use,” Canales explained. “Unfortunately, this requirement does not extend to minors who are placed on deferred disposition or community supervision for drug-related offenses.”
Deferred Disposition is a form of probation, which allows for dismissal of a charge if certain criteria(s) are met.

Community supervision means the placement of a defendant by a court under a continuum of programs and sanctions, with conditions imposed by the court for a specified period.

But, many young people who commit these offenses – often minor in nature – are entering pre-trial programs where they are not actually convicted of the crime, the House 40 state lawmaker continued.

“A large percentage of juvenile crimes are misdemeanors involving kids with small amounts of drugs. These kids do not need to go to jail. They need an approach tailored to their issues,” Canales said. “Judges need more power to require local programs aimed to help our youth.”

HB 642 is part of the strategy by a bipartisan alliance of organizations in the state which “have united to pursue cost-effective reforms that enhance public safety, promote safe rehabilitation, and save taxpayer dollars,” according to the Texas Smart-on-Crime Coalition.

In 2014, the Texas Smart-on-Crime Coalition was founded by the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, specifically in response to Texas’ “ineffective and costly over-reliance on incarceration,” according to the organization.

Canales, an attorney, said one of the many reasons for his legislation is simple: “We can’t just keep pushing kids into prison and hoping that they’re going to get better.”

Educational awareness can combat the prevalence of illegal drug usage, and drug-associated criminal activity, he contended.

“Our youth need to be made more aware of the mental, behavioral, and physical dependencies caused by drug and alcohol abuse. According to the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease,” Canales said. “Juvenile offenders in general are more likely to struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. My bill will help these young Texans get on the right path.”

Canales, a member of the crime-fighting House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, said he continues working to shape legislation focused on protecting society from sexual predators, violent criminals, and all those who threaten the well-being of all Texans.

But he also agrees, especially in the case of a young person who has not yet reached adulthood, that in Texas, everyone who deserves a second chance should get one.

“We should not want to destroy the life of a such a young person for a simple mistake or a lack of judgment,” Canales said.

According to the bill analysis of Canales’ HB 642:

The bill would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure and Family Code to permit a judge to require certain defendants, as a condition of community supervision, to attend and complete an alcohol awareness program, approved under Section 106.115, Alcoholic Beverage Code or drug education program, approved by the Department of State Health Services.

The bill would require a judge to order the defendant to pay the cost of attending the program, unless the defendant is found to be indigent or unable to pay the cost. Under certain circumstances, the judge would be permitted to require the defendant’s parent or guardian to pay the cost of attending the program.

Under the provisions of the bill, the Department of State Health Services would be responsible for the administration of the program, provide training to a person who provides the program, and would be required to adopt rules regarding the drug education program.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

Interested parties note that alcoholic awareness courses are designed, in part, to help a child who engages in conduct constituting an alcohol-related offense better understand the dangers of alcohol use. The parties contend that such a requirement to attend these and related courses should apply to a child who engages in conduct constituting a drug-related offense to combat drug use and drug-associated criminal activity in addition to combatting alcohol use. HB 642 seeks to increase awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol use.

ANALYSIS

Section 531.0055, Government Code, as amended by Chapter 198 (H.B. 2292), Acts of the 78th Legislature, Regular Session, 2003, expressly grants to the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission all rulemaking authority for the operation of and provision of services by the health and human services agencies.

Similarly, Sections 1.16-1.29, Chapter 198 (HB 2292), Acts of the 78th Legislature, Regular Session, 2003, provide for the transfer of a power, duty, function, program, or activity from a health and human services agency abolished by that act to the corresponding legacy agency. To the extent practical, this bill analysis is written to reflect any transfer of rulemaking authority and to update references as necessary to an agency’s authority with respect to a particular health and human services program.

HB 642 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize a judge who grants community supervision to a defendant younger than 18 years of age convicted of certain alcohol-related offenses or certain offenses involving the possession of a controlled substance or marihuana under the Texas Controlled Substances Act or who suspends the sentence and defers the final disposition of a defendant to require the defendant as a condition of community supervision or during the deferral period to attend an alcohol awareness program approved by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) or a drug education program that is designed to educate persons on the dangers of drug abuse and is approved by DSHS.

The bill requires a judge who issues such an order to require the defendant to pay the cost of attending the program unless the judge determines that the defendant is indigent and unable to pay the cost. The bill authorizes the judge to allow the defendant to pay the cost of attending the program in installments during the term of community supervision or the deferral period.

HB 642 amends the Family Code to authorize deferred prosecution for a child alleged to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision that constitutes certain offenses involving the possession of a controlled substance under the Texas Controlled Substances Act or certain alcohol-related offenses to include a condition that the child attend a drug education program that is designed to educate persons on the dangers of drug abuse and is approved by DSHS or an alcohol awareness program approved by DSHS, respectively.

HB 642 authorizes a court, if the court or jury finds at an adjudication hearing for a child that the child engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision that constitutes certain offenses involving possession of a controlled substance under the Texas Controlled Substances Act or certain alcohol-related offenses, to order that the child attend a drug education program that is designed to educate persons on the dangers of drug abuse and is approved by DSHS or an alcohol awareness program approved by DSHS, respectively.

The bill establishes that such an order is subject to a court finding that the child needs rehabilitation or that the protection of the public or the child requires that disposition be made and authorizes the issuance of such an order in addition to any other order authorized by the juvenile justice code. The bill requires a court that issues such an order to require the child’s parent or guardian to pay the cost of attending the program unless the court determines that the parent or guardian is indigent and unable to pay the cost. The bill requires a court to allow the child’s parent or guardian to pay the cost of attending the program in installments.

HB 642 makes DSHS responsible for the administration of the certification of drug education programs, authorizes DSHS to charge a nonrefundable application fee for initial certification of approval or renewal of the certification, and requires DSHS to monitor and provide training to a person who provides a drug education program.

The bill requires the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules regarding the drug education programs approved for purposes of deferred prosecution for a child alleged to have engaged in delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision that constitutes certain offenses involving the possession of a controlled substance under the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

TEXAS A&M STUDY SUPPORTS VALUE OF LOCAL REHABILITATION FOR JUVENILES

His legislation also comes as a major national study, with a conservative Texas point of view, shed more light on the need to provide juvenile offenders with local rehabilitation efforts in or near their home regions.

That first-of-its-kind investigation comparing Texas youth with nearly identical characteristics shows that juveniles treated by court-approved programs closer to home “are far less likely to reoffend than those incarcerated in state correctional facilities,” the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with Texas A&M University, announced on Thursday, January 29.

When they do reoffend, youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than youth under community supervision, according to the research document, entitled CLOSER TO HOME: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms.

The findings, which draws on an unprecedented dataset of 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, show youth (under age 17) incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21 percent more likely to be rearrested than those that remain under supervision closer to home, Closer to Home reported.

Also according to the announcement jointly delivered by the Council of State Governments Justice Center:
“The extraordinary data compiled for this study demonstrates convincingly how much better youth, who prior to the reforms would have been incarcerated, fare instead under community supervision,” said Tony Fabelo, director of Research for the CSG Justice Center. “It also finds that, for those youth placed under community supervision, there is still considerable room for improvement.”

Since 2000, when the number of juveniles incarcerated was at a record high, the number of detained or incarcerated youth has decreased by more than 40 percent nationwide, according to 2013 figures, with some state populations declining by as much as 80 percent. Texas has helped contribute to that national drop.

After a number of abuses involving youth incarcerated in state facilities were uncovered, Texas state leaders enacted a series of reforms between 2007 and 2013. Texas leaders argued that many youth were incarcerated unnecessarily, and that supervising and providing treatment to kids close to home, instead of shipping them to far-off correctional facilities, would produce better individual outcomes and save taxpayer money without compromising public safety.

The result has been a dramatic decrease in the state-secure population, with a 65-percent reduction between 2007 and 2012, according to the study, cutting hundreds of millions in state spending and reinvesting a large portion of those savings into county-administered juvenile probation departments.

During the same time period, juvenile arrests also declined by 33 percent, a significant drop compared to the 2-percent decline over the four years prior to 2007 reforms.

“Texas has demonstrated it is possible to achieve reductions in crime while reducing the number of youth incarcerated,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, also serves on the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.

“Prior to the reforms, youth were placed in facilities and essentially put on a path to the adult prison system. They were exposed to violence, disconnected from their families, and offered few rehabilitation options,” Whitmire said. “Now, we need to take additional steps to make sure we are doing everything we can to support youth under community supervision to help them become successful adults. This report points to a number of areas in which the state can better partner with local governments to achieve that goal.”

The combination of additional funding from the state and fewer youth under community supervision means counties are spending more than ever on each youth under community supervision. Nevertheless, recidivism rates for youth under community supervision have not improved measurably over the past several years, according to the study, which reviewed not only statewide data, but also analyzed outcomes among youth under community supervision in 30 individual Texas counties.

IMPROVED LOCAL SUPERVISION ALSO KEY TO HELPING YOUNG OFFENDERS

The report found substantial evidence that all counties could lower recidivism rates further by doing a better job applying the latest research, such as assigning youth to the right programs and appropriate levels of supervision.

“Neither poor matching of high risk youth with inappropriate programs, nor over-programming youth with minimal needs does much to reduce the likelihood of a young person reoffending, and could actually have the unintended consequence of increasing the likelihood of rearrest,” said Dr. Mark Lipsey, a national expert who directs the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University and advised the team on the study’s methodology, along with Dr. Edward P. Mulvey, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

In a closer examination of eight large Texas counties, the report found 298 of the 300 programs mix youth of different risk levels. Between 34 percent and 90 percent of youth considered to have a low risk of reoffending were placed in one or more programs, despite only a small fraction of these youth having a high need for such programs.

“The findings in this study and the extensive dialogue we’ve had with the CSG Justice Center will provide support and guidance as we look to further improve operations and outcomes for juvenile justice youth served in the community,” said Randy Turner, Director of Juvenile Services in Tarrant County.
David Reilly, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said this report sets the stage for the state and Texas’s juvenile probation departments to partner together to continue make progress in juvenile justice.

“We’ve come a long way already,” he said. “Now, we need to continue to reduce the number of youth in state facilities and further refine our partnerships with local probation departments to achieve better outcomes for youth while continuing to maintain public safety.”

CLOSER TO HOME

An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms was developed in partnership with Texas A&M University and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project, added: “States across the nation are adopting better public policy by looking at the data, Texas is making communities safer and also saving money by keeping more youth under supervision closer to their local communities. Housing juveniles in a state facility is often the most expensive correctional option and generally fails to produce better outcomes.”

The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities.

For more information about the Justice Center, visit http://www.csgjusticecenter.org.

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Bilanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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