The Juvenile Detention Center in Houston, Texas has 210 beds, with a normal occupancy between 160 to 192 children. At the time of visit last month, they were temporarily over capacity and had to resort to MOUs– multiple occupancy units. This translates to kids sleeping in the day room (see the first image). According to staff, the center was backed up because the kids had STAR testing and couldn’t be moved to other facilities. Staff also inform that the drug of choice used to be crack, but has now shifted towards prescription drugs such as Xanax. Law enforcement doesn’t ask kids about citizenship. The center only gets the Mexican consulate involved when there are problems of undocumented children without parents.
The Harris County Psychiatric Center is not exclusively for juveniles, but the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department pays for 16 beds at a cost of $2.1 Million dollars per year. According to the Juvenile Probation Department Executive Director Tom Brooks, it’s money well spent– on sub-acute, severe mental health needs and treatment. Some of these kids are the offspring and result of a severe 90s crack epidemic. The point of the program is to treat these kids without criminalizing them and prevent them from becoming part of the juvenile justice system. According to Baylor University Faculty Dr. Dawnelle Schatte, the facility gets about 150 children out of the 20,000 juvenile arrests in the county per year.