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Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center struggles with staffing

Homer Flores, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Nueces County says, "At this point, I will say that both facilities are approximately only 60% staff."

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In a new report, The Texas Tribune found that the Texas Juvenile Prison System is on the "brink of collapse." The report also states that the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is so understaffed that teens have reportedly been spending up to 23 hours locked in their cells.

RELATED: Report: The Texas juvenile prison system is on the brink of collapse

Nueces County has two facilities that hold juveniles – a pre-adjudication and post-adjudication facility. 3NEWS spoke with Homer Flores, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Nueces County, who said they're experiencing issues with retaining and recruiting employees.

"We're having problems, recruiting, hiring, and retaining staff," Flores said.

Even at 60% - Flores says the department is meeting the required ratio of staff to residents. But, in order to meet that required ratio, they've had to pull from other departments, like probation staff who work in the field.

"We've had to use them in order to cover supervision ratios, supervision ratios in the in the institutions," Flores said.

According to Flores, South Texas offers the lowest salary for juvenile supervision officers.

"Nueces County in particular is just below that average," Flores said.

Despite the odds, Flores said they're focused on changing lives. Lives that can begin again for youth once they're discharged from these facilities.

'H-E-L-P' stands for Hammons Employment Leadership Programs where youth from many backgrounds find work ,but especially those in the juvenile justice system. That's where you'll find the nonprofit's director, Ridge Hammons.

"Anytime you don't have enough gravy, for as many biscuits, you have problems," Hammons said.

Through various projects, Hammons nonprofit, H.E.L.P. finds ways for vulnerable youth to find promising careers.

"We're not trying to say hey, you need to be a welder," Hammons said. "We are saying welding is one of the many great jobs that you need to look at. So you'll have something to work towards."

What troubled youth need most when they're discharged is hope.

"If you show a child that you're willing to invest your love and your hope in him, won't that help him be more likely to believe in himself," Hammons questioned. "I think so."

To learn more about H.E.L.P. click here

You can also give them a call at: 361-815-6122

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