A trend in Texas juvenile justice is the introduction of specialty courts. Specialty courts have existed for adults for years, such as drug courts. In some Texas counties, there are now several different juvenile courts for young people struggling with specific issues like drug addiction, gang membership, mental health, and human trafficking. The hope is that specialized attention will help these minors have better outcomes in the long run.
Availability of specialty juvenile courts
These specialty courts are available across the state. Any county, large or small, is eligible for these juvenile law programs, and funding is available from both public and non-profit sources. One reason that people are so willing to invest in these courts is that they get results. The recidivism rate for minors in specialty courts ranges from just 14% to 25%. This is low compared to traditional juvenile courts.
Who is involved in these specialty courts?
Specialty juvenile courts typically utilize a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and stakeholders. This can include not just judges and lawyers but also probation officers, Department of Family and Protective Services professionals, educators, and more. It all depends on what the needs of the particular child are.
What about sentencing?
The goal of these courts is really to treat juveniles, not punish them. Treatment options can include structured residential schools or therapy for a whole family. For juveniles in drug court, the treatment can include cognitive behavioral therapy.
In Texas, prosecutors are involved in the juvenile specialty court process from the beginning to the end. What they do will vary depending on what the focus of the court is. Prosecutors report that although this is an area that requires a great deal of work, it’s also highly rewarding for those involved.