Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot has instructed his prosecutors to distinguish between juvenile "nuisances" and "dangers" and to lock up fewer of the former, a policy that cut the county's detention centers' population by 20% from March to June, the Dallas Morning News reports. Creuzot acted in response to a report released in March that approximately 9 out of 10 children accused of delinquent offenses went to court, with many of them languishing in the detention center for an average of 140 days. “What’s the point in keeping them locked up for that period of time?” Creuzot said. “That’s ridiculous. We’re not creating rehabilitation. We’re creating recidivism.” Creuzot has directed prosecutors to send only those at a higher risk of re-offending or committing violent crimes to detention centers and says he wants to see a further decrease.
The independent report found that Dallas County's juvenile system kept more children in detention than any other county in Texas. Creuzot acknowledged that long periods in detention lead some children who enter the juvenile justice system for low-level offenses to reenter for progressively worse offenses. The report found that prosecutors filed petitions seeking formal juvenile justice proceedings 91% of the time. Often when prosecutors file a petition, the children are locked up in the detention center before a judge determines whether the child is released, placed on probation, or serves more time. The stricter standards at the front end of that process are working, the DA said. "That’s why the detention population has gone down because we’re not filing petitions and putting people in,” Creuzot said. “We are being more discerning, and being more proactive in getting kids out if they’re in.” Dallas’ juvenile detention center is still more crowded than those in other urban Texas counties. Harris County, where the population is twice that of Dallas County, has a juvenile detention population of 120 as of July 20.