The Texas Youth Commission has become the statewide dumping ground for mentally ill youth. The state needs to adequately fund community-based mental-health services up front and avoid sending these youth to a less appropriate and more expensive long-term lockdown environment. The diversion of that population would allow the TYC to better focus its current limited resources on the remaining youth. In turn, this would decrease the likelihood those youth will return to the TYC or wind up in the adult system, becoming a perpetual drain on state resources, not to mention a risk to public safety.
Harrell is the chief ombudsman of the Texas Youth Commission. He lives in Austin.