Ana Yanez-Correa, executive director of the nonpartisan Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, says adult certification is no longer reserved for the "worst of the worst" - partly because the juvenile system can be more expensive.
"However, what's the real cost to us in terms of public safety to send a child to the adult system, where he or she will not get any rehabilitation? Without the treatment and the resources, we are creating a time bomb."
She says youth-offender programs benefit all of society, not only those who receive services. Her organization has been providing research to a House committee studying certification and other criminal-justice issues. She hopes members will recommend a certification reform measure to the next legislature.
Michelle Deitch is an expert on juvenile-justice policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. She recently published her research on adult certification. She says some rehab programs available only in the juvenile system have success rates as high as 95 percent, and she agrees that an over-reliance on certification has made Texas less safe.
"Research shows juveniles who spend a year in the adult system have a 100 percent greater risk of violent recidivism. The majority of these youths are getting out while they're still young."
More than half are released within 10 years - evidence that the process is not being reserved for only the worst offenders, she says. In fact, she adds, most certified youths don't even serve time, but receive adult probation after their trial. Almost 90 percent of Texas juveniles treated as adults are certified without first going through the youth system.
The Deitch report is available at www.utexas.edu.