|Year||Rate of abuse per 100 kids|
According to the report, "TYC adheres to the Family Code definitions of abuse, neglect and exploitation as abuses the Commission is mandated to investigate. (The above data excludes allegations of sexual abuse, neglect and narcotics investigations, according to a footnote.)
I pay closer attention to these matters than most people, and those figures left me agog. Why in the world is this happening now? The committee report identified three "contributing factors."
First, just like in the adult prison system, only worse, TYC faces an understaffing crisis. According to the committee report (p. 19), "Average staff to student ratios in TYC facilities are one staff member to 24 offenders, this is a far cry from the goal ratio of one to 15 offenders. This can become a vicious circle, staff turnover is 90% in the first six months due to the demanding nature of the job. Personal risk, unpaid overtime, and psychological stress are all major factors for staff loss ... that might all be alleviated by more staffing."
Second, thanks to funding cuts in the 78th 2003 Texas legislative session that were never restored, "the training period for staff prior to facility placement is only 2 weeks." Minimum requirements for juvenile corrections officers are that they must be 18 years old with a GED or better - this for jobs supervising offenders up to 21 years of age!
Finally, architecture and grouping of students may contribute. Housing kids of all ages together in large, barracks-style buildings gives older kids a chance to prey on the younger ones, says the report, and contributes to greater violence.
According to the report, "Of the many TYC Units the Marlin Unit is the most abusive." The unit in Marlin is the first stop for every incarcerated juvie offender for "orientation and assessment." It also happens to be one of the two units Chairman Whitmire has said he'd like to turn into an adult facility. I wonder if Marlin's record of abuse is part of the reason why?
With abuse rates skyrocketing and just one in ten new guards hired making it past six months on the job, it sounds like the Texas Youth Commission faces a real crisis, doesn't it? It's amazing to me, but as stark as the situation sounds I don't think it's even on most Texas legislators' radar screens.