Michael Griffiths (MS '74), an instructor for the College of Criminal Justice and the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, was named Director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
Michael Griffiths, a Sam Houston State Alumnus and online instructor at the College of Criminal Justice, has spent five decades serving youthful offenders across the state and was recently appointed the new executive director of the state agency that oversees juvenile services.
Griffiths (MS ’74) took the reins at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department on Sept. 10. Griffiths not only will take on the daunting task of combining two state agencies – The Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission – he also will help restore public confidence in a system marred by several high profile incidents of violence and gang activities.
The TJJD created a unified state juvenile justice agency that works in partnership with local county governments, the courts, and communities to promote public safety by providing a full continuum of effective supports and services to youth from initial contact through termination of supervision. The TJJD operates juvenile institutions, halfway houses and parole and is the regulatory and funding agency for 168 juvenile probation departments in the state. The agency only handles about 2 percent of the state’s juvenile offenders, while 98 percent are handled by county juvenile probation departments.
“We have such a fantastic system, which serves as one of the best models for courts, prosecutors defense attorneys and probation to help serve youthful offenders,” said Griffiths. “We want to continue to make sure the facilities are safe and secure and to provide quality programs.”
Griffiths is credited with turning around the Dallas County Juvenile Department, which he led for 15 years before his retirement in 2010. During his tenure, he developed more community-based programs, focused efforts on the entire family, not just offenders, and began the first charter school in a juvenile correctional facility in the state.
“Our correctional programs focused on treatment and prevention and had a compliment of programs based on the needs in the community,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths hopes to use the model of community-based program in his new position, moving more youth out of state facilities and into programs that can serve their needs locally. He is committed to reducing the number of juveniles in state facilities, which currently stands at about 1,500 annually.
From the TJJD 2013-2017 Strategic Plan.
“My long term goal is to strengthen our system,” said Griffiths. “We need more vocational and educational programs and more funds for the communities.”
Griffiths said students taking his current online class in Juvenile Justice and Delinquency at Sam Houston State University continue to focus him on the age-old debate in criminal justice on punishment versus rehabilitation and allow him to share ideas with the next generation of criminal justice professionals.
“We look at theories and best practices,” said Griffiths. “But it is also good to look at how it is applied in Texas. There are 50 different ways to do juvenile justice in the U.S. It just helps to reinforce that Texas has one of the best systems in the country.”
Griffiths began his career as a juvenile probation officer in Tarrant County in 1976. He worked his way up the ladder in juvenile and adult and adult departments in Dallas, Tarrant, Montgomery and Nueces counties and served briefly as the program administrator for Tarrant County Mental Health Mental Retardation, where he oversaw outpatient mental health clinics and vocational training programs.
Griffiths has earned many accolades for his work from Georgetown University, Mental Health America – North Texas, the Texas Corrections Association, former Texas Governor George Bush and the Texas Association of Residential Service Providers.
Griffiths also works with the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, where he trains new chief probation chiefs and managers. He also provided training for Mel Brown & Associates, a consulting firm that provides executive coaching, mentoring, vision development, training, contract monitoring, program evaluation, management studies organizational needs inventories, technical assistance and planning and research to public and private entities. “I have trained people in the principals of leadership and when you train, you learn,” Griffith said.
“It has been an absolute honor to work with Mike in our training and professional development programs,” said Doug Dretke, Executive Director of CMIT. “He is a dedicated and committed professional that eagerly shared his leadership experience and insights mentoring new probation chiefs. We look forward to working with him in his new role and continuing to serve the many juvenile justice professionals who serve throughout the state of Texas.”
Griffith said Sam Houston State University helped solidify his philosophy of management through a lot of hard work, which including washing dishes in dormitories, operating the first telephones consoles at the university, and working as a loan collector and retail clerk.
“That work ethic helped pay my way through college,” said Griffiths. “I think the culture of an organization is enhanced by the quality of the service delivered.”