The State is Moving to Shut Down a Corsicana Facility for Mentally Ill Juvenile Offenders

This year the Texas legislature approved a measure that requires the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to cut $23 million from its budget and continue paying for five of its six secure facilities by the first day of 2014, meaning that one of those six facilities has to go. To meet those budget goals the TJJD staff is also considering closing two halfway houses and the 124-year-old Corsicana Residential Treatment Center, which houses mentally ill juvenile offenders.

The agency has released an evaluation backing up their recommendation to shutter the Corsicana unit. Under the pro side, the evaluation points out that Corsicana houses males with acute mental illness, and it's currently the central hub for training new TJJD employees thanks to dormitories and training facilities available through a partnership with Navarro College.

That's it for the positives. Now to the list of reasons why closure makes sense, which is much, much longer. For starters, the unit has severely limited space. There are 90 single-occupancy cells and little room for expansion. Also, the buildings are in poor shape and are poorly designed for housing juvenile offenders, much less mentally ill ones.

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More troubling, perhaps, is that the evaluation also finds that the facility grounds are strewn with "hazardous debris and glass [that] are continually unearthed after rain or strong winds. These items are often used by youth to harm themselves and persist despite repeated efforts to clear the campus grounds."

All told the closures would displace 117 juvenile offenders. Where they would end up isn't clear yet. The TJJD board will vote Friday on the closure of the two halfway houses: Beto House in McAllen and Turman House in Austin. Beto House in particular was recommended for closing because two other facilities in the area can keep providing the same services, a TJJD spokesman told the Texas Tribune. The board has asked agency staff to present recommendations on the Corsicana facility in August.