Determining How Long Youth Stay in TJJD

The Texas juvenile justice system is designed to enhance public safety while providing rehabiliation for youth in the community and in residential settings. If a court commits a youth to TJJD, the length of time the youth must remain in a residential placement is, in part, determined by the type of commitment ordered by the court. There are two types of commitments to TJJD – indeterminate and determinate - as explained below.

Determinate Commitments

Some courts send youth to TJJD with specific sentences, which can be for up to 40 years. State law requires a minimum period of confinement in a residential placement. The minimum period of confinement is based upon the severity of the offense committed by the youth. A youth with a determinate commitment is given a chance to participate in treatment in TJJD, but if the youth fails to progress in treatment, he or she may be transferred to adult prison on or before his or her 19th birthday. If a determinate commitment youth is successful in TJJD treatment and has completed his or her minimum period of confinement, he or she may be allowed to transfer from TJJD to adult parole rather than to prison.

Indeterminate Commitments

A youth with an indeterminate commitment may remain in TJJD custody until his or her 19th birthday unless the youth qualifies for early release or discharge. When the youth arrives at TJJD, he or she is given a minimum length of stay - which is a minimum period of time the youth must remain in a residential placement. The youth is eligible for release to parole supervision once he or she has completed the assigned minimum length of stay and has made sufficient progress in treatment. Just completing a minimum length of stay is not a guarantee of release. If the youth does not complete their treatment program and qualify for release to parole supervision by the end of the assigned minimum length of stay, a TJJD Review Panel will examine the youth's progress in treatment to determine if the youth should remain in a residential setting for further rehabilitation.

Calculating Minimum Length of Stay for Indeterminate Commitment Youth

Minimum lengths of stay are determined by the severity of the offense for which the youth was committed to TJJD and the risk the youth poses to the community, as shown by his past behavior.

The "offense severity" is determined by the felony level of the offense and whether certain characteristics were present during the offense.

If the youth used a weapon, committed a felony sex offense, or committed a felony against a person, the rating is:

  • High for: all capital offenses, all 1st degree felonies, and 2nd degree murder, manslaughter, or sexual assault
  • Moderate for: all other 2nd degree felonies, all 3rd degree felonies, and all state jail felonies

If the youth did not use a weapon, commit a felony sex offense, or commit a felony against a person, the rating is:

  • Moderate for: 1st degree felonies
  • Low for: 2nd degree felonies, 3rd degree felonies, and state jail felonies

The second part of calculating the minimum length of stay is determining the risk the youth poses to the community based on his prior history in the juvenile justice system. This will result in an assessment rating of high, medium, or low.

The youth's minimum length of stay is determined by where his offense severity rating and assessment rating intersect on the following chart:

  Severity Rating
Assessment Rating High Medium Low
High 24 months 15 months 12 months
Medium 18 months 12 months 9 months
Low 15 months 12 months 9 months

View the form used to calculate a youth’s minimum length of stay: Minimum Length of Stay Assignment Sample Form (PDF*)

Calculating Minimum Period of Confinement for Determinate Commitment Youth

The minimum period of confinement is the time a youth must spend in a secure facility before being eligible for parole. It is set by state law as follows: 10 years for capital murder; three years for an aggravated controlled substance felony or a first degree felony; two years for a second degree felony; and one year for a third degree felony. If a youth is unable to meet his or her minimum period of confinement before he or she reaches age 19, a judge must decide whether to waive the minimum period of confinement to allow a youth to go to adult parole rather than prison.

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