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Tarrant County judge considers defunding juvenile judge positions

Tarrant County Judge_Glen_Whitley sits behind a desk wearing a dark gray suit/
Christopher Connelly
/
KERA News
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley says the county's juvenile justice system should not be treated as a "mini-adult" program.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley wants to address problems with the county’s juvenile justice system.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley says county commissioners will vote Tuesday on a budget that would defund the jobs of two associate judges.

The move comes after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on a series of issues plaguing the juvenile justice system, including teens being held in adult jails and a judge facing criticism for posting videos of juvenile hearings on YouTube.

"Those are all things that, you know, raise questions," Whitley said. "I believe that all of those things contributed to the fact that we need the juvenile board to look deeper into the issue."

Whitley said he’s giving the juvenile board until the end of the year to come up with alternatives.

"What we're basically saying to them, 'We want your advice, we want your recommendations, we'll work with you on this deal, but we're not going to just let things continue to go on as is,'” Whitley said.

Whitley said the county's juvenile justice system should not be treated as a "mini-adult" program.

"It is a program where we're doing our utmost best to, one, keep the kids in a good family environment, and two, to rehabilitate them and not to potentially train them to be adult criminals," Whitley said.

Local criminal justice advocate Jonathan Guadian says the move could be a step in the right direction.

"The judge is realizing that the current system is not working," Guadian said. "That funding needs to be redirected from the original system into alternatives, which is exactly what organizers throughout the country and throughout decades have been calling for."

Guadian said he hopes the $500,000 that may be freed up in the county budget can be invested into programs that can help troubled youth build connections.

Got a tip? Email Pablo Arauz Peña at parauzpena@kera.org

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the breaking news reporter for KERA News.