"The alarming rise in juvenile crime continued. In Texas, from 1990 to 1998, the juvenile proportion of total arrests increased from 23% to 35%. Juvenile violent crime arrests also increased. The 74th Texas Legislature passed the most expansive juvenile reform legislation since 1973. This legislation that took effect in January 1996 has been described as a "get tough, balanced approach" that reflected the public attitude that we want to punish youth in some meaningful way, and yet not abandon rehabilitation as a principal aim for our children. The Texas Youth Commission implemented a "back to basics" philosophy - public safety and punishment for criminal acts are balanced with the need for rehabilitation.

To accommodate the “get tough” or “zero tolerance” approach, during the 1990s and early 2000s, bed-space and the youth population at TYC dramatically increased. In 1991, the total number of TYC youth in residential care (institutions, halfway houses, or contract programs) exceeded 2,000 for the first time. In 1996, the population crossed the 3,000 mark. The next year, it was 4,015. In 1999, there were more than 5,000 youth in TYC residential care. The population peaked in 2001 at 5,599.

Over the next few years, TYC began to struggle with recruiting and retaining juvenile correctional officers to properly staff its facilities. Increases in youth and staff injuries, and concerns about mistreatment and abuse of youth led to increased parent and staff involvement with the media and Legislature. Advocacy groups became increasingly active in calling for changes in the agency..." and  "The directive from state leadership and lawmakers was clear: stop the abuse of children in the state’s care; solve safety issues; and begin emphasizing programs that provide youth the best possible chance at rehabilitation and a respectable future. To ensure the timely and effective execution of reforms, the TYC Board was disbanded and the agency was placed under conservatorship in March 2007."