Steve B Tyler For District Attorney Victoria Texas

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Juvenile Study

The Victoria County District Attorney’s Office became involved in the renovation and changes at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center at the request of Victoria County officials. It is the legal duty of the District Attorney to provide legal advice upon request to county officials.

Research provided by the D.A.’s Office, financing of an independent study, and providing legal opinions as to liability helped Commissioners’ Court and the Juvenile Board:

1. make our juvenile justice facility safe for kids,

2. avoid liability from endangering juveniles, and

3. save taxpayers money.

Members of the Victoria County Commissioners’ Court asked the District Attorney’s Office the following questions:

4. Does the Commissioners’ Court have authority to set the budget for Juvenile Services?

5. Does the Commissioners’ Court have authority concerning the use of the facilities?

6. Does the Commissioners’ Court have the authority to stop the subsidy of detention of out-of-county juveniles?

7. Given that the county’s architect and engineer advised the Commissioners’ Court that the facility constitutes a “Life Safety Hazard” to persons living and working in the facility:

a. Does the county have a moral liability?

b. Does the county have a civil liability?

c. Does the county have a criminal liability?

Commissioners’ Court Authority

I studied past court records and determined that Victoria County (Commissioners’ Court) owned the land and the juvenile justice facilities. Legal research confirmed that Commissioners’ Court had authority to set the budget for Juvenile Services without dictating how to spend that money. This opinion was independently confirmed by Commissioners’ Court through the outside law firm of Allison, Bass & Magee.

Open James Allison Letter

Independent Study

Using cash seized from criminals through forfeitures, the D.A.’s Office funded a thorough independent outside study of the juvenile justice center. The completed study showed that the 72-bed juvenile facility had an average of 42 juveniles (58% of capacity), with only 11 being Victoria residents (15% of capacity, or 26% of total juveniles detained). The housing of out-of-county juveniles from 1994 until 2014 cost Victoria County taxpayers almost $24,000,000 in unreimbursed expenses. From 2010 until 2014, the major recipients of this subsidy from Victoria County taxpayers were large urban counties like Bexar County, Dallas County, and Harris County. The unreimbursed cost to Victoria County taxpayers in 2014 alone was over $1,400,000.

Open Phase 1 Report 

Open Phase 2 & 3 Report

Results of Restructuring

Results of the independent study assisted Commissioners’ Court and the Juvenile Board in restructuring the rates charged to house juveniles from other counties. In a single year since the study, the overall reduction in costs to local taxpayers was more than the one-time cost of the study. This represents a significant and ongoing or annual savings to Victoria County taxpayers without reducing services to local residents.

Safety Issue

In a letter to Commissioners’ Court and the Juvenile Board, engineer Scott Stridde characterized the facility as representing a “Life Safety Hazard”, and local architect Rawley McCoy believed it needed an “Engineered Smoke Control System.” The fire inspector thought an interior wall was a “Fire proof” barrier allowing for only a partial sprinkler system and no engineered smoke control.

In a formal opinion, our office advised Commissioners’ Court that it and the Juvenile Board had unlimited civil liability in federal court, limited liability in state court, and could have some criminal liability. Later construction demonstrated that the interior wall in question was not a “fire barrier.” Involvement by the D.A.’s Office helped Commissioners’ Court improve the facilities, prevent a tragedy, keep kids safe, and avoid liability that could have bankrupted the county and members of Commissioners’ Court and the Juvenile Board.

Open Engineering Opinions 

Open Final Liability Opinion