Thursday, March 08, 2007

Owens: TYC is safe for kids ... WHAT?!

At a joint House-Senate hearing today examining alleged abuses at the Texas Youth Commission, House Juvenile Justice Chairman Harold Dutton asked TYC interim Executive Director Ed Owens, "Can you say to every juvenile judge in Texas that if they send a child to TYC tomorrow, that child remains safe?"

"I would have to say yes," said Owens.

Huh? Really?

That seems unlikely to me. The guy was only appointed to head the agency last week. How can he possibly know?

Only one person has been terminated - a registered sex offender working as a guard - but we know that other units have seen abuse incidents besides the West Texas state school where sexual abuse allegations have been raised. Documented abuse rates of TYC youth by guards have tripled in recent years.

Soon after Dutton finished questioning the TYC chief, Sen. Chris Harris told the story of an 11-year old TYC inmate incarcerated for credit card fraud who attempted suicide after being gang raped.

That makes me think it's highly unlikely Owens assessment about TYC's safety is correct.

Owens answer doesn't strike me as an honest one. I don't think he can know yet whether TYC facilities are safe, and it doesn't bode well to me that he would say so.

RELATED: At Burka Blog, Patricia Kilday Hart asks what would Harry Whittington do about TYC? It's a good question.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ed Rissie did a horrible job in the position he held before and Mr. Perry appointed him? Makes one wonder if this was to just move him and Rissie out of the same office. ut appoint someone who can not even handle adults to be over children, just does not make sense. Ed and Rissie both need to find other employment. Mr. Perry needs to go ahead and run for VP, then maybe we would be rid of him from Texas once and for all. He has done nothing good for Texas but veto every bill that would have help. Out with the old and in the with the new.

TJDO said...

I, too, was surprised that Owens said that during the hearing. My jaw dropped as I was listening to him. The guy is the poster boy for plausible deniability. He claims he never knew about a subordinate employee in TDCJ, Sammy Buentello, sexually harassing female employees. Buentello was finally convicted for a felony and misdemeanors because of this conduct. Owens is a bad choice for TYC.

The entire hearing was so sad. All have been AWOL.

Terry Pelz
Texas Justice Dot Org

Gritsforbreakfast said...

TJDO, I see from your website that you worked on gang stuff when you were a warden. Do you know Buentello? What's the story there, and is EO a part of it or not? The Back Gate said so, but a reporter told me in an email there is "nothing to it." Quien sabe? Tu, amigo? Regards,

TJDO said...

Yeah, I've known him for over twenty-two years. You can visit http://www.texasjustice.org/sbplea1.pdf to pretty much get the story. At the time, Buentello was an assistant director and Pam Williams was his boss. Owens was Pam Williams' boss. In any event, Buentello and Owens worked closely together. Maybe some of the victims would come forward. However, a reasonable person would have to assume he heard grumblings from below. In other words, if he didn't know, he should have. Now, we want to trust him with TYC? Hell, I guess the reporter knows something we don't.

dwts said...

This was one of the more obvious "say what they want to hear" moments...Owens doesn't know much of anything about TYC, so how could he know the youth are safe? Has he been anywhere near an institution? How many employees has he met? Has he even seen one of the youth he is now calling safe? So, they posted a phone number for youth to call to report abuse...is that on the same phones the kids already had the 1-800 CPS hotline access to? Or did he go out and manage to hook up a bunch of new phones that the staff can't control? How many of the officers they sent out to "help" the institutions are still at an institution? How many people did they interview? How can he possibly know if anyone is more or less safe than they were last month?