People often think of the juvenile justice system as a penal system similar to that of adults. While there are similarities, the adult system focuses on public safety and punishment for criminal conduct. While public safety and accountability are certainly considerations for youth, the juvenile correctional system emphasizes treatment and rehabilitation.

Even when it is necessary to incarcerate youth, the setting is designed to be protective, not punitive, and the goal is to educate youth about discipline, values, and work ethics, thus guiding them toward becoming productive citizens. In most cases, juvenile records are sealed so that youth are given a second chance at life without the stigma of having been in trouble with the law. Some exceptions include youth who have to register as sex offenders and youth who have committed serious offenses requiring them to complete their sentences in the adult system.

Important Definitions

In Texas, a JUVENILE is defined legally as a person who was at least 10 years old but not yet 17 at the time he or she committed an act defined as “delinquent conduct” or “conduct in need of supervision.” 

DELINQUENT CONDUCT is generally conduct that, if committed by an adult, could result in imprisonment or confinement in jail. 

CONDUCT IN NEED OF SUPERVISION is generally conduct that, if committed by an adult, could result in only a fine or would not even be considered a violation of the law. Examples of CINS violations include truancy or running away from home. 

ADJUDICATION is a finding that a youth has engaged in delinquent or CINS conduct. It is similar to a “conviction” in adult court

Common Terms & Acronyms

Definitions for Common TJJD Terms & Acronyms

Definitions for Common TJJD Terms & Acronyms 

Adjudicated – a term used in the juvenile system that’s equivalent to “convicted” in the adult committed the charged violation. 

Adjudication Hearing - a fact-finding hearing that determines whether or not a youth engaged in delinquent conduct or in conduct indicating a need for supervision. 

Administrative, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) - committee responsible for making the educational decisions for students in special education. Parents, teachers, and other facility staff are members of the ARD committee. An ARD is needed for initial placement or any time the school staff or parents believe a change is needed in a student’s special education program. 

Agency Performance Measures - an indicator of agency efforts and accomplishments. Measures indicate agency accomplishments already achieved, planned, or required by legislative directive. 

All Funds Budget - includes General Revenue Funds, General Revenue-Dedicated Funds, Federal Funds, and Other Funds. 

Alleged Mistreatment Investigation (AMI) - investigations conducted by the Office of the Inspector General when anyone (parents, youth, staff, volunteers) voices concern that there is reason to believe a youth is being abused, neglected, or exploited.

American Correctional Association (ACA) - conducts research and evaluation activities and provides training and technical assistance to members. ACA has programs for correctional institutions and implementation of an accreditation program to meet comprehensive national standards measures. 

Appropriations - refers to the dollars or associated full-time equivalent positions authorized for specific fiscal years, and to the provisions for spending authority. 

Average Daily Population - daily average of the number of youth within a facility. 

Biennium - a two-year period. In Texas, as used in fiscal terms, it is the two-year period beginning on September 1, and ending on August 31 of odd-numbered years, for which general state appropriations are made. A biennium is identified by the two fiscal years of which it consists, e.g., 2010 - 2011 biennium. 

Bill - a proposed new law, or amendment to existing law, that is introduced for legislative consideration. A bill which is enrolled by the legislature and approved by the governor becomes a law. 

Budgeted - refers to the planned level of expenditures, performance, or number of full-time equivalent positions for a particular fiscal year. 

Capital Budget - portion of an agency’s appropriation that is restricted to expenditures for designated capital construction projects and certain Information Resource acquisitions. 

Capital Offender - a youth committed to TJJD for an offense that could be punishable by death in the adult criminal justice system. 

Capital and Serious Violent Offender Program (CSVOP) - specialized treatment for youth who have committed a capital offense or a serious violent offense. This treatment is offered at the Giddings State School. 

Career and Technology Education (CATE) - previously called vocational classes, a CATE class teaches youth skills or trades and offers professional certifications. 

Caseworker - the primary contact between a youth’s parent or guardian and TJJD. A caseworker monitors a youth’s program and advises him/her. 

Certification – this occurs when a court “certifies” a youth for trial as an adult, based on circumstances around a crime, thereby waiving the juvenile court jurisdiction and transferring the youth to the appropriate criminal court. 

Chemical Dependency (CD) - a compulsive use of alcohol or other drugs to the point that stopping is difficult and causes physical and mental reactions. 

Chemical Dependency (CD) Treatment - specialized treatment program for youth who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.> 

Chronic Serious Offender - a youth whose TJJD classifying offense is a felony and who has been found to have committed at least one felony in each of at least three separate and distinct due process hearings. 

Classification - process for determining the needs and requirements of youth who have been ordered to confinement in a juvenile justice facility and for assigning them to housing units and programs according to their needs and existing resources. 

Classifying Offense - the offense for which a youth is classified at TJJD, and is the most serious offense of the relevant offenses documented in the youth’s record. 

Clinical Services - health care services administered to offenders in a clinic setting by persons qualified to practice in one of the health care disciplines. 

Committing Offense - the most serious of the offenses found “true” at the youth’s most recent judicial proceeding. 

Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS) Probation - defined by the Texas Family Code; covers certain non-criminal or status offenses and less serious law violations, including (1) three or more fineable misdemeanor offenses or ordinance violations, (2) truancy, (3) runaway, (4) the first or second DWI, and (5) violation of any city ordinance or state law prohibiting inhalant abuse. 

Contingency Appropriations - appropriations contingent upon passage of legislation or upon certain conditions being met. 

Contract Care - facilities operated by private nonprofit or for-profit corporations or organizations in which the employees working daily in the facilities and directly with the residents are employees of the private corporation or organization. 

Controlled Substances Dealer - a youth whose classifying offense is any felony grade offense defined as a manufacture or delivery offense under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code. 

Correctional Care Form (CCF) - CCF are the forms TJJD uses to document a variety of youth-related events and services. 

Correctional Care System (CCS) - a mainframe database application used to store information on all youth committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Everything that happens to a youth in TJJD custody is reflected in the system, beginning at intake and continuing until discharge after completion of parole, or transfer to Texas Department of Criminal Justice. This information can only be accessed by authorized TJJD employees. 

Correctional Facility - houses incarcerated youth accused of or convicted of criminal activity

Delinquent Conduct - defined by the Juvenile Justice Code as conduct, other than a traffic offense, which violates a penal law of the state of Texas and is punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in jail; or a violation of a reasonable and lawful order which was entered by a juvenile court. In general, juvenile delinquency under Texas law results from either violation of the Texas Penal Code or violation of conditions of probation. 

Determinate Sentenced Offender (DSO) - a youth committed to TJJD with a determinate sentence of up to 40 years for offenses specified in section 54.04(d)(3) or 54.05(f) of the Family Code. The sentence may be completed in the adult prison system depending on the youth's behavior while at TJJD. 

Determinate Sentencing - a blended sentencing system for the most serious offenses that provides for a youth to start in the juvenile system and receive a juvenile court transfer, as early as age 16, into the adult system to complete his or her sentence. 

Director of Security (DOS) - TJJD administrator who oversees the security unit where youth are placed for aggressive behavior, serious rule violations, or when they need one-to-one supervision. 

Director of Clinical Services (DOCS) - TJJD administrator who oversees medical and psychological treatment provided to TJJD youth. 

Expended - refers to the actual dollars or positions used by an agency or institution during a completed fiscal year. 

Faith-based Initiatives - programs offered by congregations and faith-based organizations that address the issues of crime and violence, drug use, poor education and access to meaningful employment.

Firearms Offender - a youth whose TJJD classifying offense involved a finding by the juvenile court or a TJJD hearings examiner that the youth possessed a firearm during the offense; classifying offenses for this classification is not limited to offenses specified in Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code.

Fiscal Notes on Pending Legislation - accompanies a bill and provides a synopsis of the estimated financial effect of enacting the bill -- including cost, revenue, and staffing impacts. Required for every bill by senate rules; required for select bills in the house when the chair of the committee hearing the bill determines it will have fiscal effects. 

Fiscal Size-up - a biennial document prepared by Legislative Budget Board (LBB) staff that describes state agency operation and summarizes the appropriations made during the preceding legislative session. 

Fiscal Year - the funding year for the State of Texas runs from September 1 through August 31 of the following year; for example, Fiscal Year 2009 runs from September 2008 through August 2009. 

Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) - units of measure that represent the monthly average number of state personnel working 40 hours a week. 

General Administrative Policies (GAP) - administrative policies that detail expectations related to TJJD staff and facilities. 

General Appropriations Act - law that appropriates biennial funding to state agencies for specific fiscal years and sets provisions for spending authority. 

General Educational Development (GED) – refers to a set of tests that a student takes to earn the equivalent of a high school degree. The student must meet all of the requirements as outlined by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). It is an alternative way of completing high school instead of earning a diploma.

General Offender - a nonviolent offender. 

Halfway House (HWH) - a residential center or home where drug users, sex offenders, the mentally ill, or convicted felons are placed immediately after their release from a primary institution such as a prison, hospital or rehabilitation facility. The purpose of a halfway house is to allow these individuals to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support; this is generally believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a release directly into society. 

Indeterminate Sentencing - commits a youth to TJJD for an indefinite period of time, not to exceed his/her 19th birthday. 

Individual Case Plan (ICP) - youth’s individualized plan for treatment and education, based on his or her specific strengths and risks. 

Infirmary -TJJD facility on-campus medical clinic. 

Institution - facilities used for the lawful custody and/or treatment of youth. 

Juvenile Correctional Officer (JCO) - TJJD staff who receive special training and work in all areas of a campus to help TJJD youth make positive changes in his or her behavior. (To learn more about a career as a JCO, visit our Careers page.)

Juvenile Probation - a mechanism used by juvenile justice agencies that serves as a sanction for juveniles adjudicated in court, and in many cases as a way of diverting status offenders or first-time juvenile offenders from the court system. Some communities may even use probation to informally monitor at-risk youth and prevent their progression into more serious problem behavior. 

Key Performance Measure - a measure that indicates the extent to which an agency is achieving its goals or objectives and that is identified in the General Appropriations Act along with targeted performance objectives for each year of the biennium. These can be outcome, output, efficiency, or input/explanatory measures. 

Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) - a formal request for funding made by each state agency and institution. This request is in accordance with instructions developed by the Legislative Budget Board and Governor’s Office of Budget, Policy, and Planning. 

Legislative Budget Board (LBB) - a legislative agency consisting of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, and eight members of the legislature who initiate state budget policy and who have specific charges to direct the expenditure and appropriation of state funds. Also refers to the staff members of the Legislative Budget Board.

Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC) - person licensed in Texas to provide specialized chemical dependency treatment.

Licensed Sex Offender Treatment Provider (LSOTP) - person licensed in Texas to provide specialized sexual behavior treatment to youth who have committed sex offenses. 

Line-Item - an element of spending authority granted to an agency or institution in an appropriations bill. Literally, a line in the General Appropriations Act specifying an agency’s appropriations for a specific designated use. The governor may veto a line-item. 

Markup - the period of time during which the Senate Finance Committee or the House Appropriations Committee makes changes to the general appropriations bill. 

Method of Finance - a descriptor for the sources and amounts authorized for financing certain expenditures or appropriations made in the General Appropriations Act. A source is either a “fund” or “account” established by the comptroller, or a category of revenues or receipts. 

Minimum Length of Stay (MLOS) - minimum period of time an indeterminate sentenced youth must stay in TJJD. This is set by TJJD policy and based on the youth’s treatment needs and other factors. 

Minimum Period of Confinement (MPC) - minimum period of time a determinate sentenced youth must be held in a TJJD facility before being eligible for parole. This is set in state law. 

Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) - consists of staff members at TJJD facilities who meet monthly to discuss the progress a child has made. Parents are valuable team members and are encouraged to participate in MDT meetings. 

Object of Expense - an expense category used in an agency’s Legislative Appropriation Request (LAR) covering payments for a time or class of items. For example, “personnel” covers salaries and benefits for the services of agency employees. 

Office of Inspector General (OIG) - an independent law enforcement division within TJJD created in June 2007 to investigate criminal allegations involving the agency, its staff or youth and to file criminal charges when appropriate.

Office of Independent Ombudsman (OIO) - a state agency established for the purpose of investigating, evaluating, and securing the rights of the children committed to TJJD, including youth on TJJD parole supervision. 

Outcome Measures - one of four types of performance measures used in strategic planning to assess the effectiveness of the agency. An outcome measure indicates the actual effect upon a stated condition or problem. The other three categories of measurements are “efficiency” which gauges outcomes against effort of agency services; “output” factors, which typically measure the number of people receiving a service and “explanatory/input” measures, which counts services and accomplishments of an agency. 

Performance-based Standards (PbS) – a program for youth correctional and detention facilities <s a system for agencies and facilities> to identify, monitor and improve conditions and treatment services provided to incarcerated youths by using national standards and outcome measures. 

Parole - period of TJJD supervision beginning after release from a residential program and ending with discharge. 

Parole Officer (PO) - officer assigned to a youth while he or she is on parole. 

Primary Service Worker (PSW) - TJJD staff members who work closely with TJJD youth - usually his or her caseworker or parole officer. 

Probation - one of the dispositional options available to a juvenile court judge after a youth is adjudicated as delinquent; this community-based corrections approach presents the youth with a set of rules and addresses the needs of the youth and the family. 

Progressive Sanctions - a model to be used by the juvenile court to ensure that delinquent youth receive the punishment and treatment most appropriate to their crime; youth progress from less restrictive to more restrictive dispositions depending on offense history, type of offense, and previous sanction level. 

Psychotropic Medication - prescription medications that affect the psychic function, behavior, or experience of the person for whom they are prescribed.

Quarterly/Annual Report on Performance (Performance Measures Report) - reports submitted by state agencies showing planned and actual performance in terms of outcome and explanatory measures (reported annually) and output and efficiency measures (reported quarterly). 

Reentry – refers to the efforts at helping offenders transition back to the community after release from secure facilities; involves a variety of programs, such as work release, substance abuse therapy, vocational and education training, to help offenders acquire the skills they need to succeed as law-abiding citizens 

Release Review Panel - group of TJJD staff who determine whether release to the community is appropriate based on a youth’s recent behavior, academic achievement, response to treatment and individual risk and protective factors. 

Revocation Hearing - a hearing before the parole authority at which it is determined whether revocation of parole should be made final. 

Rider - a legislative directive or appropriation inserted in the General Appropriations Act following appropriation line-items for an agency or in the special or general provisions of an act. A rider provides direction, expansion, restriction, legislative intent, or an appropriation. The term also applies to special provisions at the end of each article and general provisions in the General Appropriations Act. 

Secure Facility - facility designed and operated to ensure that all entrances and exits are under the exclusive control of the facility's staff and do not allow a youth to leave unsupervised or without permission. 

Senate Bill 103 (SB 103) - enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2007 to define and guide major reforms for improving TJJD. 

Sentenced Offender - a youth committed to TJJD with a determinate sentence of up to 40 years for offenses specified in section 54.04(d)(3) or 54.05(f) of the Family Code. The sentence may be completed in the adult prison system depending on the youth's behavior while at TJJD. 

Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) - specialized treatment for youth who have committed sex offenses and who are in need of intensive services. 

Special Prosecution Unit (SPU) - created by SB 103, to assist district attorney’s office.

Referral to Juvenile Court & Possible Dispositions

A juvenile who engages in delinquent conduct or commits a CINS violation can be referred to juvenile court, where several things can happen. The juvenile can be dealt with informally and returned home.

If the county decides to charge the juvenile with delinquent conduct, the juvenile is afforded the same legal rights as an adult charged with a crime. In certain circumstances, the county can request to have a youth certified as an adult. If such is granted, the person is considered an adult for criminal purposes and will no longer be in the juvenile justice system. The rest of this overview does not apply to persons certified as adults.

If the juvenile is “adjudicated” for delinquent conduct, there are several possible disposition options, or outcomes, as follows:

  1. The juvenile may be placed on probation; or
  2. The juvenile may be sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department with an indeterminate sentence (only felony offenses); or
  3. The juvenile may be sent to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department with a determinate sentence (only certain offenses).

A juvenile who is placed on probation (and not sent to TJJD) must be discharged from the probation by the time he or she turns 18.

A juvenile sent to TJJD with an indeterminate sentence must be discharged by the time he or she turns 19.

A juvenile sent to TJJD with a determinate sentence may be transferred starting at age 16 to adult prison depending on his or her behavior and progress in TJJD programs.

The Juvenile Justice System's Backbone: County Probation Departments & Courts

In Texas, individual counties provide services to all youth referred to the juvenile courts, and prosecute juvenile cases, either through their district or county attorney’s office. County juvenile probation departments handle most of the sanctions and therapeutic interventions the courts may impose.

State law requires each county to have a juvenile board that oversees the operation of the juvenile probation system in that county. Some of these boards govern multiple counties. The board’s duties include designating juvenile judges, appointing the chief juvenile probation officer and setting the policy and budget for the juvenile probation department.

State Agencies Involved in the Juvenile Justice System

TJJD works in partnership with local juvenile boards and juvenile probation departments to support and enhance juvenile probation services throughout the state by providing funding, technical assistance, and training; establishing and enforcing standards; collecting, analyzing and disseminating information; and facilitating communications between state and local entities. TJJD also provides oversight of county-operated detention facilities.

TJJD manages state-operated secure facilities and halfway houses to provide treatment services to those youth who have chronic delinquency problems and who have exhausted their options in the county. Additionally, youth who have committed the most serious offenses requiring specialized treatment services that counties are not equipped to provide are also likely to be committed to TJJD.

The Progressive Sanctions & Interventions Model

Each youth, depending on his or her offense and history, plus a number of other factors, has a unique journey through the juvenile justice system. However, in general, the progressive sanctions and interventions model is designed to start with the least amount of intervention or sanctions possible, progressively getting more serious and intensive as necessary to help juveniles learn to become productive, law-abiding citizens. The ultimate goal is to keep juveniles from entering the adult prison system.

On the spectrum of services, law enforcement and county juvenile probation departments, under the guidance and direction of TJJD, serve vital frontline roles. TJJD facilities provide a critical last attempt to reach the most serious cases. Youth at TJJD secure facilities have committed felonies, with the most frequent committing offenses being aggravated robbery, burglary or aggravated assault.

The Numbers

TJJD compiles detailed annual statistical reports regarding juvenile crime throughout the state. In a given year, more than 50,000 juveniles are arrested in Texas or referred to the juvenile probation system. Local county juvenile justice systems provide services for these youth, many of whom are diverted from further involvement with the juvenile justice system. The most serious offenders are committed to TJJD. Reform measures enacted in 2007, greatly reduced commitments to TJJD by limiting them to youth with felony-level offenses only.

You can view detailed information about TJJD statistics in the Legislative Reporting & Statistics section of the TJJD website.


Sentenced Offenders and Determinate Sentencing

The Texas Legislature approved "determinate sentencing" for juvenile offenders in 1987 as an alternative approach to lowering the age at which a juvenile may be certified to stand trial as an adult. 

The original law provided that juveniles adjudicated for certain serious, violent offenses may receive a determinate sentence of up to 30 years. The Legislature cautiously selected only those Penal Code offenses against persons that would constitute capital or first-degree felony offenses. 

As the law originally was written, the first portion of the sentence was to be served in a secure facility managed by what was then the Texas Youth Commission (TJJD was formed in 2011, replacing TYC and merging with Texas Juvenile Probation Commission). Prior to the youth's 18th birthday, a hearing would be held before the committing court to determine what would happen next.There were three options:

  • Release the youth on parole and continue under TYC’s custody until age 21. 

  • Discharge the youth from TYC’s jurisdiction. 

  • Transfer the youth to the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for the balance of the sentence.

Subsequent Revisions

In 1995, the legislature added 11 offenses or categories of offenses eligible for a determinate sentence. Other amendments also specified that sentences could now range from a maximum of 10 years for third-degree felonies to a maximum of 40 years (for capital and first-degree felonies). Court hearings were eliminated for determinate sentenced offenders unless TYC authorities asked for:

  • Transfer of a youth to prison (between age 16 and 21); or
  • Release on parole before completion of the minimum length of confinement (which is ten years for a capital felony, three years for a first-degree felony, two years for a second-degree felony, and one year for a third-degree felony).

In 2001, two other offenses were added to those eligible for a determinate sentence. The list of offenses currently includes:

  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Capital murder
  • Attempted capital murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Intoxication manslaughter
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Attempted aggravated kidnapping
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Attempted sexual assault
  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Attempted aggravated robbery
  • Felony injury to a child, elderly, or disabled person
  • Felony deadly conduct
  • Aggravated or first-degree controlled substance felony
  • Criminal solicitation of a capital or first-degree felony
  • Second-degree felony indecency with a child
  • Criminal solicitation of a minor
  • First degree felony arson
  • Habitual felony conduct (three consecutive felony adjudications)

In 2007, the law was changed again, requiring that sentenced offenders must be discharged from TYC supervision by their 19th birthday. If they have not completed their sentence prior to their 19th birthday or have not been transferred to TDCJ by their 19th birthday, they are transferred to adult parole supervision for the remainder of their sentence.


The increase in the number of offenses for which youth can receive a determinate sentence resulted in an increase in the number of sentenced offenders that are committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. 

To ensure that these cases receive the oversight and attention required, TYC established the Department of Sentenced Offender Disposition in July 1999. The Department continues to represent the agency at transfer hearings, approves release proceedings, and coordinates youth movement between the juvenile system and the TDCJ.

Determining Stay

Introduction to Determining Length of Stay

The Texas juvenile justice system is designed to enhance public safety while providing rehabilitation 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

Juvenile courts can 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, which is set in Texas law, is based upon the severity of the offense. A youth with a determinate commitment is given an opportunity to participate in treatment in TJJD, but if the youth fails to progress in treatment or continues his or her delinquent behavior while in custody, he or she may be returned to court and ordered transferred to adult prison. This can happen any time after a youth turns 16, but 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 to TJJD parole or adult parole, depending on the youth’s age at the time of 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 (MLOS) - which is a minimum period of time the youth must remain in residence. 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 and other programs. Just completing a minimum length of stay does not guarantee release. If the youth does not complete his or her 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 of 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 aggravating or compounding 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 youth’s offense severity 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:

Assessment Rating Severity Rating

Severity Rating

Severity Rating


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. 

Moving Through the System

Moving Through The Juvenile Justice System Infographic



A TJJD secure facility is the most serious place a juvenile offender can go in Texas within the juvenile system. (The courts send some young offenders directly to the adult system, after certifying a youth for trial as an adult because of the severity of his or her offense(s).) At TJJD, youth are in the care and custody of the state and are assigned to either high security facilities, which are surrounded by fences with controlled, secure entrances monitored by law enforcement officers or medium or low security facilities, which are not fenced. Each youth has a different journey through TJJD, because treatment programs are customized to meet the needs and abilities of each youth. This webpage explains a typical way a youth might move through TJJD.

Juvenile Court

500x500 JS01 JuvenileCourt V3

Juvenile court judges send most youth to TJJD on indeterminate sentences, which do not have a set number of years. TJJD reviewers look at the severity of the youth’s sentence and the risk he or she poses to the public and set a Minimum Length of Stay (MLOS) for the youth of between nine and 24 months. Youth are 

eligible for release when they have successfully completed MLOS and their assigned treatment programs. They are not guaranteed release at the end of their MLOS. It depends upon their behavior and treatment progress. Once sent to TJJD, youth can remain in custody until their 19th birthday, which is when Texas law mandates they be released from the juvenile system. 

Courts send a smaller number of youth (10 to 18 percent) to TJJD with specific sentences, called determinate sentences because the court determined the time that must be served. Determinate sentences can be up to 40 years long and are typically reserved for youth who have committed serious felonies. If a determinate sentenced youth is successful in TJJD treatment, he or she can often serve the balance of his or her court-mandated sentence on adult parole rather than be transferred to adult prison from TJJD, which by law can only hold youth until they are 19.

Orientation & Assessment

Clipboard and Notes InfographicThe first place youth go in TJJD is an orientation and assessment unit at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex, in Brownwood.

During orientation and assessment, staff work with youth to determine their strengths and needs. Medical, emotional, educational, and psychological needs are evaluated. The end result for each youth is an individualized treatment plan that is evaluated and retooled as necessary while youth move through TJJD.

Placement in a High Security Facility

High Security Facility Infographic

Most youth go to one of TJJD’s secure correctional institutions for most of their time in TJJD. Some youth go to private, contracted facilities or directly to medium security facilities or halfway houses. They are placed according to treatment needs and as close to home as possible. At all residential placements, youth participate in individual counseling, group sessions, and school. Youth also have opportunities to earn work-release privileges and participate in skill-building activities, such as vocational training. 


Placement in a Low or Medium Security Facility

Placement in a Low or Medium Security Facility

TJJD operates several halfway houses and contracts with other organizations to provide low to medium security treatment facilities. Typically, these facilities provide youth the opportunity to gradually transition back into their home communities.


Determinate Sentenced (DS) Offenders Only

Discharge / Successful Completion ImageYouth who are committed to TJJD with determinate sentences will ultimately transfer to the adult system – the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) – if they do not complete their assigned treatment program before they turn 19. Depending on progress in treatment, they may be able to serve the TDCJ portion of their sentences (if any) on adult parole rather than in prison. Only a judge, not TJJD, can send a youth to prison.


Release Review Panel

Release Review Panel ImageIf youth have served their minimum time at TJJD and have not already been released on parole, their cases are assigned to a release review panel. This panel, which is made up of three members, determines whether a youth should be released based on behavior, academic achievement, and his or her response to treatment. The panel can order a youth’s release or extend a youth’s stay in TJJD.



Parole Image

Most youth are assigned to serve some time on parole upon release from TJJD facilities. Usually, youth live at home while on parole and report to parole officers until they are discharged from TJJD. If a youth’s home is not approved, or he or she will be living on his or her own upon release, TJJD offers an independent living program.



Discharge/Successful Completion of the TJJD Program

Discharge infographicTJJD’s goal is that youth complete treatment and leave with a new outlook and plan for success, either continuing their education or finding gainful employment. Even after youth are discharged from TJJD, the agency’s educational liaisons can help them apply to college or trade school and for educational financial aid. Most youth are discharged from TJJD after they successfully complete their program, turn 19, or are transferred to the adult criminal justice system (determinate sentenced offenders).