Juvenile Justice - Key Accomplishments

Legislative gains

  • 2023: SB 1612 was part of a civil fees clean-up effort and abolished the remaining juvenile court fees levied against youth and their families. Now, justice-involved youth and their families can focus on rehabilitation instead of worrying about paying burdensome court fees.
  • 2023: Successfully advocated for HB 3186, which requires local governments to adopt a diversion plan for youth charged with fine-only offenses in municipal and justice courts. Currently, municipal and justice courts can only order diversion strategies after a case has been convicted or deferred, whereas this new law allows diversion at the front end of a case.
  • 2023: Our advocacy over the years and during this legislative session helped lead to HB 1819 becoming law, which abolished a local government’s ability to enact a juvenile curfew ordinance that targets youth and can subject them to a criminal record and high court fees, all without appointed counsel. Now, vulnerable youth, including those who may be homeless or fleeing abuse, cannot be punished for simply being in a public space at certain hours.   
  • 2021: Texas Appleseed advocated for SB 41, which abolished many juvenile fees. Juvenile fees exacerbate racial-ethnic disparities, increase youth recidivism, and generally cost more money than jurisdictions can collect. The bill was led by the Office of Court Administration and informed by our advocacy, as well as the research of the Berkeley Policy Advocacy Clinic.
  • 2015: Supported passage of SB 1630, which required TJJD to develop a regionalization plan and diversion program focused on keeping children closer to home in lieu of commitment to a state secure facility.
  • 2011: Texas Appleseed supported passage of SB 653, which merged the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and created the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The bill prioritized community-based care closer to a youth’s home in the language describing the new agency’s purpose.
  • 2011: No child under 12 can be criminally prosecuted in adult court for Class C Misdemeanors after legislation supported by Texas Appleseed passed.
  • 2008-2013: In coalition with other advocacy partners, legislative advocacy helped spur closure of multiple state secure facilities, resulting in a more than a 70% reduction in the number of youth in state secure lockups, principally by supporting budget initiatives focused on reallocating funds away from state secure lockups and into local juvenile probation services. Texas Appleseed’s work on this continues with an effort to close the remaining facilities.


  • 2022-2023: Due in part to Texas Appleseed's advocacy, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a rule ending the indiscriminate shackling of young people in juvenile hearings. The rule took effect on June 1, 2023. Before the rule’s issuance, children across Texas were routinely shackled at their wrists and ankles when appearing before a judge, even when charged with low-level offenses or having no previous criminal history. With the rule, youth will only be shackled in hearings if the court finds they are a risk to themselves or others, or if they are a flight risk. Legal experts and youth justice advocates agree that this practice can be traumatizing, developmentally harmful, and have a chilling effect on due process. It also runs counter to the presumption of innocence inherent to our justice system.
  • 2018-2021: Texas Appleseed convinced some courts to stop shackling all youth and worked with policymakers at the Texas legislature, who passed a bill asking the Supreme Court, in conjunction with the Children’s Commission, to provide guidance around the shackling of juveniles in courts and ensure uniformity throughout the state. In response, the Children’s Commission worked with stakeholders, including Texas Appleseed, to examine current shackling practices and concluded a rule was needed to ensure youth’s due process rights are applied consistently throughout the state.

State secure juvenile facilities

  • 2021: The U.S. Department of Justice announced its investigation into Texas’ five state secure juvenile justice facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas filed a complaint with the DOJ in 2020 urging the investigation based on unconstitutional conditions and grievous violations of children’s constitutional rights.
  • 2012: Texas Appleseed, Advocacy, Inc. (now Disability Rights Texas), the Center for Public Representation, and the National Center for Youth Law filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice urging the Department to investigate unconstitutional conditions and failure to provide required mental health services, advocacy that helped spur a legislative initiative in 2013 focused on closing a remote, condition-plagued state secure facility used by the TJJD to house children with significant mental health issues. 
  • 2007: Successfully settled a lawsuit alleging that the Texas Youth Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act by adopting an emergency administrative rule related to use of pepper spray in state secure juvenile facilities. The emergency rule resulted in a dramatic increase in pepper spray use. The settlement resulted in a rewrite of the rules related to use of force, and allowed Texas Appleseed and Advocacy, Inc. (now Disability Rights Texas) access to the facilities to interview youth.  

Juvenile curfew ordinances

  • 2023: Our advocacy at the local level contributed to the movement that led to the successful passage of legislation eliminating juvenile curfews statewide. Now, vulnerable youth, including those who may be homeless or fleeing abuse, cannot be punished for simply being in a public space at certain hours.   
  • 2018-2019: Texas Appleseed continued to advocate for abolishing the curfew ordinances in Houston and Dallas, leading to some gains such as weakening the enforcement provisions and including more protections for young people.
  • 2018: Texas Appleseed successfully advocated for the decriminalization of the San Antonio juvenile curfew ordinance, along with youth and other groups. The San Antonio City Council changed its youth curfew ordinance on May 31, and the new ordinance went into effect June 4. The curfew had criminalized youth who were out during certain hours. Youth ages 10 to 16 could be sent to adult criminal court without an attorney, faced fines up to $500, and could end up with a criminal record. Now, youth experiencing homelessness, youth who work late hours, and other young people won’t be saddled with tickets, court time, or a criminal record simply because they are out during certain hours. By decriminalizing the curfew, the City is supporting young people and utilizing non-law enforcement interventions to help youth, including through a Re-engagement Center, staffed by Municipal Court caseworkers, where various treatments and aid can be provided, from addressing mental health needs to helping human trafficking victims.
  • 2017: With the tremendous efforts of young people and parents, Texas Appleseed successfully advocated for the expiration of the Austin juvenile curfew ordinance. The ordinance, in effect for over 20 years, created a Class C misdemeanor to punish youth who were not in school or who were out at night between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Despite evidence that curfew laws harm youth and do not reduce juvenile crime, kids as young as 10 years old were subject to appear in adult criminal court without an attorney, could face fines of up to $500, and could end up with a criminal record. After achieving an early victory in ending the daytime curfew, Texas Appleseed helped lead a 29-member workgroup, convened by the Austin City Council, and teamed with city officials to find more appropriate solutions for youth than ticketing. The City Council sided with youth and families and voted to let the ordinance expire.