Texas Juvenile Justice Department
Texas Interstate Compact for Juveniles

How did the new Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ) come about?

History. 

The Interstate Compact for Juveniles replaces the Interstate Compact on Juveniles, which was created in 1955 and signed into law in Texas in 1965. At that time, only a few hundred juveniles were being apprehended or supervised in states other than where they were residents or where their cases were adjudicated. Today, that number exceeds 20,000 juveniles annually nationwide.

The rewrite effort began in 1999 with a survey conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), and published in June 2000. The survey determined that the language of the compact was antiquated, its rules and procedures not widely followed or understood, and its administrative structure inadequate. In December 2000, OJJDP asked The Council of State Governments (CSG), the organization responsible for the drafting and adoption of the original compact, to recommend a detailed course of action regarding the juvenile compact. CSG convened an advisory group consisting of twenty-four policy experts representing a broad and diverse group of stakeholder organizations with an interest in juvenile supervision issues. From the two advisory group meetings, it was determined that the outdated Interstate Compact on Juveniles should be rewritten. A drafting committee was formed of fifteen other policy experts who drafted a proposed new compact that largely tracked the language of the new adult interstate compact, Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS), which was ratified in 2002. The new compact language was subject to critique and comment from a mailing to 200 individuals, agencies and associations. The new ICJ significantly updates the 50 year-old mechanism for tracking and supervising juveniles that move across state borders. Providing enhanced accountability, enforcement, visibility and communication, the new compact updates a crucial, yet outdated tool for ensuring public safety and preserving child welfare.

The primary changes to the 1955 Interstate Compact on Juveniles include:

  1. Requiring that all state legislation adopting the ICJ contain substantially the same language in their compact legislation. No amendment shall become effective and binding upon the Interstate Commission and the compacting states unless and until it is enacted into law by unanimous consent of the compacting states. (1)
  2. Establishing an independent compact operating authority to administer ongoing compact activity, including a provision for staff support.
  3. Providing for gubernatorial appointments of representatives for all member states on a national governing commission. The commission meets annually to elect the compact operating authority members and to attend to general business and rulemaking procedures.
  4. Rulemaking authority and provisions for sanctions to support essential compact operations.
  5. Mandatory funding mechanisms sufficient to support essential compact operations (e.g., staffing, data collection, training and education).
  6. Compelling the collection of standardized information.

The Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ) became active on August 26, 2008, when Illinois became the 35th state to ratify the compact. In Texas, the compact legislation, House Bill 706, was passed by the 79th Legislature and signed by the Governor on June 18, 2005. Article IX of the Texas statute provides that the initial effective date of the compact will be the later of July 1, 2004, or upon enactment into law by the 35th jurisdiction. Since the first Commission meeting in December of 2008, every state and two territories have joined the new Compact.

The Texas legislation amended the CSG ICJ model language. The Bill Analysis for this legislation advises Article I titled Purpose was amended from the model language with the “purpose of restoring certain procedural protections that are present in the current compact and better delineating the rule-making authority that is delegated to the Interstate Commission for Juveniles.”  However, Article I is further amended by the omission of the mandate to establish procedures to resolve pending charges (detainers) against juvenile offenders prior to transfer or release to the community which is Article I (I) in the model language.

The model language consists of 13 articles. The Texas legislation and Section 60.010 contains 12 articles. The missing article from the model language is Article IX titled The State Council. In addition, all references to the State Council in other articles are deleted in the Texas version of the ICJ. The State Council article requires each state to establish a state-level council to advise the state’s participation in compact activities (one representative from the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government, a victim’s group representative, the compact administrator and deputy administrator.) The Bill Analysis for this legislation advises that this requirement was deleted in the interest of cutting costs for non-essential activities.
The myriad of problems associated with amending the model language of a compact are best described in the following excerpt from “The Evolving Use and the Changing Role of Interstate Compacts: A Practitioner’s Guide”:

Interstate compacts are initiated by the adoption of enabling statutes by the legislatures of the member states. As formal agreements between states, they have the characteristics of both statutory law and contractual agreements. As both statutes and contracts, the substantive law of contracts is applicable to them. (2) Using the contract law analysis, the proposed compact statute adopted by the first state to enact, and which invites other states to become a party to the agreement, constitutes the offer. As with any other contract, the inception of a compact must be in a form of an offer to make a binding agreement. Since a compact is an instrument that is also a statute, and always has the force and effect of any other statutory law, the offer must be made in a manner that produces such law in the jurisdiction in which the offer is made. The compact provisions typically identify the jurisdictions to which the enacting jurisdiction (offeror) offers to bind itself.  The acceptance of the offer occurs when any subsequent state legislature (offeree) enacts the compact statute in substantially identical form to that contained in the offering state’s enactment. It is a fundamental requirement in the substantive law of contracts that no act constitutes an acceptance unless it is an acceptance of the offer that has been made. Consequently, the same problems raised by the variance in the terms of the offer and acceptance in the common law of contracts also can create similar problems in the negotiation of interstate compacts. Because compacts are statutes, it is impossible to enter into them orally or by an exchange of other communication that would otherwise lead to many of the troublesome controversies of other contractual agreements. However, care should be taken to enact the identical texts in the statutory law of all compacting jurisdictions.(3)  Where the statutory texts of a compact putatively entered into by eligible states have not been identical, the problem raised has been the customary one in contract law: Are the variations in the relevant statutory enactments sufficiently similar to permit a reasonable person to conclude that an agreement has been reached? (4)  The enabling legislation does not have to be uniform in each compact statute and can be utilized “to fit variations into the compactual pattern.”  Provisions in the enabling legislation can be used to condition the impact of a compact in a state. Last-minute developments that inevitably arise during the legislative process can be handled through provisions in the enabling legislation in order to avoid the need for amendment of the compact statute. The only limitation on this approach is that a state is prohibited from making reservations in the enabling legislation that “materially change” a compact in the absence of specific consent by the other member states. There is no reason why a state cannot participate in a compact arrangement for certain of its purposes but not for others if the other member states subscribe to such limited participation. The state enabling legislation is another tool for adjustment of the compactual pattern.(5) Extrinsic evidence may be considered by courts, when appropriate, to determine the intent of the parties to an interstate compact and to effectuate the desired purpose of the compact. As the Court stated in Oklahoma v. New Mexico, “The use of extrinsic evidence to interpret and enforce a compact arises from the dual nature of such agreements as both statutory and contractual in nature. ”(6)


(1) Texas Family Code, Chapter 60.010, Article IX Compacting States, Effective Date, and Amendment.

(2) Caroline N. Broun, Michael L. Buenger, Michael H. McCabe, Richard L. Masters, The Evolving Use and the Changing Role of Interstate Compacts, A Practitioner’s Guide, 128 (2006).

(3) Id. at 128-129.

(4) Id. at 129.

(5) Id. at 129-130.

(6) Id. at 132.


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