By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department’s interpretation of the 2014-15 state budget is that the agency has to downsize its facilities from six to five by January 1 of next year, according to a report issued in June.
The “Evaluation of State-Operated High Restriction Facilities” concludes that the only facility that could be closed is the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center, with 90 inmates.
The official recommendation for closure will be made July 26, but employees of the center were notified of its impending closure last week.
Based on nothing but numbers, the math adds up.
The Corsicana facility has 114 beds, but only uses 90 of those, so they can have only private cells. The plant opened in 1889 as an orphanage, but became a state home in 1957.
“The physical plant is in poor condition and the building structures are not optimum for the mental health or corrections population,” the report states.
According to a consultant hired to evaluate the various facilities, Corsicana’s needs $1.2 million in “immediate repairs” in the next two years. And to bring it up to standard, it would cost $31 million, according to a 2007 evaluation by the same company. To replace the facility would cost $55 million, it was estimated in 2007.
It states that hazardous debris and glass shards are unearthed after a rain or strong winds, which the inmates use to harm themselves. The CRTC is the center where the agency’s most damaged young men go, those who need more than just a cell and an education, it’s for those who also need alcohol and drug treatment, sex offender treatment, and/or violent offender treatment.
This year, a report prepared by Dr. Michael Deitch of the Lyndon Johnson School of Public Affairs recommended another solution to housing kids with serious mental issues instead of using the Corsicana facility.
As if there weren’t enough issues, the report states that there’s not a lot of room to expand inside the CRTC perimeter fence, and limited capacity to expand outside the perimeter fence.
The other use for Corsicana is as a training facility for TJJD employees, who come to Corsicana for two week sessions. That won’t be necessary in the future because the TJJD is starting to do its own training at individual facilities to save travel and overtime costs by having everyone come to Corsicana.
The report goes on to outline the state’s other facilities:
Comparatively, Evins Regional Juvenile Center, located in Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley, has 120 beds but could take 176 kids. They can offer treatment programs, and there’s room to expand. Downsides? Evins sits in the path of potential hurricanes and needs $773,533 in immediate repairs.
Giddings State School can house up to 245 kids, and has provided capital and violent offender treatment services in the past. The facility is only 42 years old, and has room to expand. It’s located in an unincorporated part of Lee County, just about an hour outside of Austin. It needs only $128,000 in repairs.
Built in 1913, Gainesville State School can house 348 inmates, although it’s budgeted capacity is currently 252 beds. Located north of Denton, it has vocational facilities, and offers various treatment programs for drugs, alcohol, violent behavior and moderate sexual behavior. The facility has limitations in that it can’t be enlarged much inside or outside the fence. Considered in fair condition, Gainesville needs only $125,000 in repairs.
McClennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility has a budgeted capacity for 310 youth, but could accommodate 560 kids. It offers a wide variety of behavior modification programs, such as alcohol and drug treatment, moderate-level violence treatment, and a special program for aggressive youth. Built in 2000, it’s the largest, newest facility and needs only about $320,000 in repairs. Located in Mart just outside of Waco, it does have room to expand the number of beds, and has more room outside the fence for expansion there, too.
Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Facility has a budgeted capacity of 105 cells, but has 248 cells available. Ron Jackson is for the girls in the system, and offers drug and alcohol treatment, violence treatment, sexual behavior treatment and a stabilization unit for the mentally disturbed inmates. Built in 1970, Ron Jackson is considered in good shape but still needs $645,000 in repairs. It’s located outside of Brownwood in the middle of nowhere and has plenty of room for expansion.
Based on the report, the TJJD staff is recommending close Corsicana. The decision still has to go the full board, and then before the Legislative Budget Board, which has the final say.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com