Mental Illness Rates Rise In Texas Youth Facilities

AUSTIN (February 14, 2013)--Rates of mental illness exceed gang affiliation among juveniles in Texas jails, a criminal justice expert told state lawmakers Thursday.

The 2013 figures presented Thursday show that 56 percent of young offenders have a diagnosed mental illness, compared to 39 percent in 2007.

Michael Griffiths, the director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said those rates now surpass the 54 percent rate of confirmed gang membership.

The numbers reflect a shifting challenge for the agency, which admitted 1,073 youths into six secure facilities in 2012.

Lawmakers are reviewing the rise of mental illness in a juvenile justice system that has been overhauled to shift the burden of early intervention onto local officials.

Juvenile offenders in local lockups rose from 20 percent in 2007 to 37 percent last year.