Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

July 11, 2013

Speaker sends message to TJJD

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — In a letter to Mike Griffiths, the head of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, expresses concern with the internal report that recommends closing the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center.

Straus doesn’t say he opposes closing the center, but it does express “concern” that the report recommending closure was released before the local community got a chance to express their opinions. The public hearing is on Monday in Austin.

The letter is signed by the speaker, as well as the heads of the corrections committee and the appropriations committee.

The report isn’t widely distributed but was outlined in an article this past weekend in the Corsicana Daily Sun.

The July 9 letter states:

Dear Mr. Griffiths:

We are writing to express our concern with the recent release of your report recommending the closure of the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center (CRTC). As you note in your report, the 2014-15 General Appropriations Act contains language requiring TJJD to reduce the number of secure facilities from six to five and submit a plan for review and final approval by the Legislative Budget Board by Sept. 1. It is clear that the TJJD board will need to make a difficult decision on recommending the closure of a facility, based on objective criteria.

Our concern rests with the release of your report recommending the closure of the CRTC prior to any public involvement in this process. As you noted with the release of the report, TJJD will hold a public hearing on July 15 in Austin to discuss the report’s recommendations. We hope that you, and members of the TJJD board, will continue this process with an open mind and take public comments into account in deciding which state facility should be closed. No matter which facility the TJJD board recommends for closure, the communities impacted by the decision should have the opportunity to voice their concerns.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you and the members of the TJJD board to address this issue in a fair and open manner.

Sincerely, Joe Straus, Speaker; Jim Pitts, Chair, House Committee on Appropriations; Tan Parker, Chair, House Committee on Corrections.

It is copied to Byron Cook, Texas representative for District 8, which includes Corsicana.

Cook said he’s pleased that the leadership expressed their concerns and that they’re watching the proceedings.

“This is a long way from decided,” Cook said Wednesday. “I hope the employees realize this needs to go through the proper course. They don’t need to draw a conclusion until it gets through it all, and we haven’t done this.”

The process requires a public hearing, then a recommendation to the Legislative Budget Board, which will make the final decision on which facility will be closed.

A contingent of Navarro County and Corsicana residents are going to Austin Monday to stand up for the CRTC. In the past, one of the factors for keeping the facility open was the community support shown by local residents and volunteers with the facility.

Calls left with the TJJD seeking comment on the letter were not returned by press time Thursday.

A bus will leave the Chamber of Commerce at 6:30 a.m. The bus ride is free, but reservations must be made in advance. The number to call is (903) 874-4731.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com