Why Dallas County Needs to Understand Its Juvenile Justice System

The Dallas County Juvenile Justice System is continuing data analysis that could go a long way toward improving outcomes. We support it.

Managing aspects of the Texas criminal justice system is one of the county government’s primary duties. Although much of the public’s focus is on what happens at the county courthouse and jail, the juvenile justice system is also a county responsibility and requires attention and investment.

In Dallas County, approximately 7,000 young people enter the juvenile system each year. It is the responsibility of the Dallas County Juvenile Department, County Juvenile Board, juvenile courts, prosecutors and others to keep young people on track to have their cases heard and to access treatment and recovery services. rehabilitation.

But county officials need to better understand the young population tangling up in the criminal justice system. We think it was wise for the Dallas County Commissioners Court to approve a contract this month to perform an in-depth analysis that will shed light on whether the county government is serving young offenders well.

This is important not only for young people whose future will be determined by the results of their cases, but also for the rest of us. Putting at-risk teens on a path that improves their lives and keeps them out of trouble is a win for their families, for public safety and for taxpayers. Unless there are appropriate interventions in place, juvenile offenders can grow up to continue breaking the law into adulthood, jamming our courts and county jails. Already, the Dallas County Jail is overcrowded due to a variety of factors that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The analysis is part of an ongoing review of the county’s criminal justice facilities so officials can plan for future needs. There is also a desire among county officials to understand why Dallas County is lagging behind other large urban counties in dealing with juvenile cases.

For example, when county officials looked at 2020 juvenile court disposition data, they found that Tarrant County settled 58% of its cases in 90 days. For Travis and Harris counties, this rate was also over 50%, and it was 43% for Bexar County. But for Dallas County, it was 27%.

A search of 2021 juvenile court decision data shows Dallas County has continued to trail its peers.

The firm contracted by the county to conduct the population analysis will review data for the past 13 years, including characteristics of the juvenile offender profile, law enforcement practices, juvenile court caseload , alternatives to juvenile lockups, and comparable data from other major counties in Texas.

The goal is to ensure that the county actually gets better results for the services it provides.

“We try to continue to provide skills to our young people in the best possible environment, so that when they leave us, they don’t come back,” said Darryl Beatty, director of the county’s juvenile department.

Data analysis will help the county improve its roadmap for this purpose.

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