Legislative Session: 80(R)

Senate Bill 103

Senate Author:  Hinojosa et al.

Effective:  6-8-07

House Sponsor:  Madden et al.

            Senate Bill 103 amends provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Government Code, Human Resources Code, Health and Safety Code, Family Code, and Penal Code relating to the juvenile justice system, including the Texas Youth Commission (TYC).  The bill restricts a juvenile court from committing a youth to TYC for a misdemeanor crime or for violation of misdemeanor probation and requires a youth committed to TYC before June 8, 2007, based on a misdemeanor offense, to be discharged from TYC by the youth's 19th birthday.  The bill requires a juvenile board in certain populous counties to implement by January 1, 2008, a community-based program in which a youth with multiple offenses may be required to participate by the juvenile court.  The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission must establish guidelines and provide grants for the community-based programs and must report to the governor and legislature on the implementation, effectiveness, and cost of the programs.

            Senate Bill 103 prohibits TYC from housing, except for short-term assessment and orientation, a youth younger than 15 years of age in the same dormitory as a person who is 17 years of age or older unless TYC determines the placement is necessary for the safety of the youth.  TYC is required to consider the proximity of the residence of a youth's family in determining in which TYC facility to place the youth.  The bill requires TYC to establish a minimum length of stay for each youth who is committed without a determinate sentence. TYC is required to perform certain medical, treatment history, psychological, and psychiatric examinations on youths as soon as possible after commitment and to perform certain reexaminations to determine if the rehabilitation plan should be modified or continued.   Senate Bill 103 also sets out a parent's bill of rights and requires TYC to assign a caseworker to each committed youth to perform enumerated duties relating to the offender and the offender's family. 

            Senate Bill 103 requires TYC to develop a reentry and reintegration plan for each youth in custody to ensure continuity of care from entry to final discharge.  The bill also requires TYC to establish a panel to determine whether a youth who has served the minimum length of stay should be discharged, released under supervision, or have the stay in TYC custody extended, and sets out provisions relating to panel membership, procedures, and certain statistical reports.  The bill requires TYC to establish a process by which certain persons may request reconsideration of an extension of stay order issued by the panel. Senate Bill 103 lowers the age at which a youth must be either released or transferred for confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from 21 years of age to 19 years of age.  The bill requires TYC to evaluate a youth serving a determinate sentence who has not been transferred to TDCJ before the youth's 18th birthday to determine if the youth is in need of additional services that could be completed within a six-month period after the youth's 18th birthday to prepare the youth for release or transfer.  The bill stipulates that a determinate sentenced offender must receive credit for time served in detention before commitment to TYC and credit for time served in TYC before transfer to TDCJ. 

            Senate Bill 103 modifies the management structure of TYC to replace the governing board with an executive commissioner, who is appointed by the governor subject to senate confirmation and advised by a newly formed nine-member advisory board, whose members are appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house.  This structure is in effect until September 1, 2009, after which time TYC will be governed by a seven-member board, whose members are appointed by the governor subject to senate confirmation.  Rights, duties, and qualifications of the temporary executive commissioner and advisory board, as well as the governing board, are set out in the bill. 

            Senate Bill 103 establishes the office of inspector general in TYC to investigate crimes committed by TYC employees, including parole officers employed by or under contract with TYC, and crimes committed in TYC facilities, including contract facilities.  The bill authorizes the executive commissioner to select a chief inspector general, who may only be discharged for cause, and sets out the duties of the chief inspector general.  Senate Bill 103 expands the audit authority of the state auditor to include the entire commission, rather than only the financial transactions, and authorizes the state auditor to provide assistance to and work with the office of the inspector general as appropriate.  Additionally, TYC is required to regularly conduct internal audits of its correctional facilities and the provision of medical services and to make certain reports to the Joint Select Committee on the Operation and Management of TYC.  A permanent toll-free number must be established by TYC for the purpose of receiving any information concerning the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of children in custody and a chaplain must be employed or formally designated for certain facilities. 

            Senate Bill 103 institutes an independent special prosecution unit that cooperates with and supports prosecuting attorneys in prosecuting offenses committed on TYC or TDCJ property or by or against a person in custody of TYC or TDCJ while the person is performing a duty away from the agency's property.  The bill provides that the county be reimbursed by the state for certain prosecutorial expenses in such cases and authorizes the office of the attorney general to offer assistance in the prosecution of criminal offenses concerning TYC. The bill sets out provisions designating cooperation between a local prosecutor, a grand jury, the special prosecution unit, the office of the inspector general, and the executive commissioner relating to certain allegations, including the alleged physical or sexual abuse of a youth in TYC custody or an investigation related to the alleged abuse. The executive commissioner is required to immediately file a complaint with the appropriate law enforcement agency if the commissioner has reasonable cause to believe that a youth in custody is the victim of a crime committed at a TYC facility. 

            Senate Bill 103 sets out training and assignment standards for juvenile correctional officers and requires TYC to maintain a ratio of not less than one officer performing direct supervisory duties for every 12 youths.  The bill also requires the executive commissioner to do criminal background checks on each TYC volunteer, employee, or direct delivery service provider, and on any person who has access to TYC records.  The bill provides that TYC employees are at-will employees and requires the commission to establish certain employee grievance and disciplinary action procedures.  TYC is required to adopt a zero-tolerance policy concerning the detection, prevention, and punishment of sexual abuse, including consensual sexual contact, of juveniles in TYC custody and to establish a procedure for a youth in custody and a TYC employee to report such incidents.  Senate Bill 103 also enhances the punishment for the offense of improper sexual activity with a person in custody to a second degree felony if the offense is committed against a juvenile offender.  The bill also requires TYC to allow certain advocacy and support groups to provide on-site services to youths committed to TYC. 

            Senate Bill 103 sets out provisions relating to the operation, inspection, and registration of pre-adjudication and post-adjudication secure detention facilities.

            Senate Bill 103 creates the Office of Independent Ombudsman of TYC as a state agency to investigate, evaluate, and secure the rights of youths committed to TYC, including youths released under supervision before final discharge, and provides that the independent ombudsman is appointed by the governor subject to senate approval.