Mental illness rates rise in youth facilities

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A criminal justice expert has told lawmakers that rates of mental illness exceed gang affiliation among juveniles in Texas jails.

The 2013 figures presented on Thursday show that 56 percent of young offenders have a diagnosed mental illness, compared to 39 percent in 2007.

Michael Griffiths, the director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, says those rates now surpass the 54 percent rate of confirmed gang membership. The numbers reflect a shifting challenge for the agency, which admitted 1,073 youths into six secure facilities in 2012.

Lawmakers are reviewing the rise of mental illness in a juvenile justice system was overhauled to shift the burden of early intervention onto local officials. Rates of mental illness among juvenile offenders under local supervision rose from 20 percent in 2007 to 37 percent.

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