Ill juveniles being set free
POSTED: Monday, December 21, 2009 - 7:06pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 4:05am
TYLER-The Associated Press has recently released some startling news. They are claiming they've discovered a loophole that is letting mentally ill Texas juveniles go free.
A 16-year-old John Tyler High School student and former juvenile detainee is accused of stabbing his teacher, Todd Henry, to death with a butcher knife at school. Another teen was convicted of killing a roofer during a 30-minutes robbery spree. The Texas Youth Commission, for whatever reason, let them go.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the Texas Youth Commission has released more than 200 offenders because of mental health issues in the last five years. Reports show more than 20 percent went on the commit new crimes, some violent.
In most states, youthful offenders aren't released because of mental illness unless they are committed to hospitals.
But thanks to a 1997 law meant to keep mentally ill juveniles from being held in detention centers where they can't get proper treatment, Texas youths serving indefinite sentences who have completed their minimum required time in custody are released to parents or guardians.
"When we are releasing a youth on a 15-50 or on a mental health discharge we try to make sure there is an adequate support system in place," Jim Hurley with the Texas Youth Commission said.
But do they really make sure these teens get the treatment they need after being released?
"The state of course is interested in saving dollars and if they see an opportunity to get a kid out of their system, they certainly will," licensed counselor with ETMC, David Wheeler, said.
This came to a head in Tyler back in September when a TYC felon allegedly stabbed a Tyler teacher to death. TYC discharged the boy accused of killing Todd Henry just two months before because the boy has been diagnosed with multiple mental health issues, including schizophrenia.
The commission says it makes sure those discharged because of mental illness receive referrals to their local mental health centers. But it’s not mandatory.
"What will happen probably is the way the state of Texas usually does things, there will have to be a lawsuit," Wheeler said.
Cherie Townsend, the commission's executive director, declined to comment on specific cases. But she did say it may be time to limit some of the discharges for public safety reasons.