Last week, CJJR Senior Research Fellow Michael Umpierre and leaders from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) presented at the American Correctional Association’s “146th Congress of Correction” conference in Boston, Massachusetts. The team, which included TJJD officials Rebecca Walters, Deidra Reece, and Cris Burton, highlighted an innovative program developed after TJJD staff participated in CJJR’s Youth in Custody Certificate Program.
The initiative, titled the “Capstone Program,” focuses on enhancing programming and services for youth in TJJD’s facilities who have obtained a high school diploma or GED, including off-campus employment opportunities. In the program, youth have the opportunity to participate in student councils, learn practical life skills such as cooking, painting, and using power tools, and receive job readiness training (e.g., interview and resume-writing lessons). While the project is in its nascent implementation phase, it appears to be producing promising outcomes. Preliminary TJJD data showed that youth’s participation in the Capstone Program at one facility is associated with an average of 53 percent decrease in behavioral incidents. Staff also reported an increase in youth engagement.
TJJD is one of four organizations currently participating in the Youth in Custody Practice Model Initiative (YICPM), a joint program of CJJR and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators. While early in the process, the agency has already introduced various reforms inspired by the YICPM, and CJJR and CJCA look forward to continue working together with TJJD staff and partners on the effort.