Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter reflections and roundup on TYC

Contemplating Christ's resurrection on Easter morning, we may indulge the view, even if for a fleeting moment - perhaps just for a flash while sitting in a church pew or watching children hunt for colored eggs - that new beginnings are not only possible but a miraculous gift from God, a birthright of humanity that's available to all.

That's what the now-473 kids being released from Texas youth prisons have in front of them: a second chance, a gift from above. And because they all have free will, some will accept the gift and some will inevitably fall back into the crowd and habits that got them incarcerated in the first place. Even so, Easter reminds us that everyone harbors within them possibilities for both sin and redemption.

One critical theme recurring in Grits' comments recently has been the idea that releasing these kids will launch some massive crime wave, but I really doubt it, and think those who indulge in such knee-jerk rhetoric should give the matter more thought. The same complaints were made recently when Dallas County had to release 700 jail inmates because of overcrowding. The tuff-on-crime crowd wailed that the local crime rate would skyrocket, but no such crime spree occurred - and that was 700 people released in one county. Releasing 473 kids back home to their families statewide simply won't cause a statistically noticable bump.

The Texas Youth Commission finds itself in many ways in the the same position as the Dallas County Jail. Health conditions are poor and there are too many inmates per guard for either inmates or employees to be safe. The only possible solution is some combination of reducing the number of inmates, increasing the number of C.O.s (probably accompanied with big pay hikes to attract new workers and substantially more pre-employment training), and spending significant amounts to improve healthcare and conditions. In addition, new alternatives to incarceration must be developed and funded for nonviolent and misdemeanor offenders. That prescription holds for both TYC and the Dallas County Jail, and actually for Texas' adult prison system as well. For all the complaining, I've not heard anyone come up with better ideas.

I've also heard criticism from some TYC employees that these kids don't "deserve" to be released, that they haven't fulfilled all their rehabilitation requirements, etc., and should remain incarcerated until they do. Once again, Easter reminds us that we don't all have to pay, ourselves, for every sin to the Nth degree. For Christians, that sin's price has been paid by someone else, because "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," as Paul told the Romans. Or to use Christ's sterner dictum, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Certainly those whose jobs will be lost because of closing the West Texas facility or shifting two others to adult units, not to mention those fired because of their own past transgressions, some decades old, have cause to complain. But none of it is the kids' fault, it's the politicians and top administrators who ran the agency into the ground.

Like the kids, TYC itself deserves its own chance at redemption and ultimately resurrection. Though it has entered the tomb of conservatorship, it may yet emerge again whole, allowing Hope to finally conquer Despair. Even then, I suspect more than one Doubting Thomas will want to touch the holes in the agency's hands and side before they really believe.

Lots of TYC coverage from around the state this morning, so I append below links to some of the highlights. Happy Easter, everybody!
EXTRA EASTER FRIVOLITY: Forgot to mention, see this homemade Easter cartoon I posted on Huevos Rancheros. And enjoy the holiday.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen Grits, Amen. Thanks for bringing back into focus who is really in control of the TYC situation- God. For all the complaining and jabbing of each other on this site- we all do have one thing in common; passion. We need to be doing a LOT of praying that the right things happen with TYC this time.
Thank you for your post, your Easter wishes and for the reminder of who we need to be looking to and asking for help from. God.
Happy Easter Grits and everyone.

Anonymous said...

God, please make UTMB go away. Please?

Anonymous said...

Grits
Just letting you know the 12 kids scheduled for release link isn't working.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The link should work now, 11:43. Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

I for one do not have an issue with releasing these youth, I believe the problem come when you have a program in place (Resocialization-phase assessment) and we are telling all the youth who enter TYC this is what they have to do but at the same time we are saying but this does not apply to the 500 we are releasing this week. I understand this is grandstanding and politics by the "Conserver tor" but would it not make more sense to change the criteria and rules and then follow that criteria. The reason you have not seen any new solutions to the problems is based upon politicians. We have an acting Executive Director that might have a clouded past with TDCJ, a "Conserver tor" who might have been involved with the West Texas scandal making the decisions. Politicians (Whitmire, Hinijosa, Perry office) that received e-mails and the Rangers report when this broke but no one is looking into this. We have Administrators in charge who allowed an employee break the law by having marijuana in a state vehicle and not call the police, a girl (youth) on this same campus become pregnant by someone, this same campus has the highest rate of abuse, but nothing has come of this administrator. If we really want to do the right thing lets come up with a new plan and make all abide by the rules,10 through 13 years old on one campus, 19 year olds to TDCJ, vocational programs that actually gives a kid a chance once he leaves, pay raises for all TYC/TDCJ employees, a government that does not turn a blind eye on funding for 10 years and then wonders why there is a problem, consequences for youth that assault staff, and honest Administrators. I could go on and one but I am late for the "Egg hunt". Happy Easter

Anonymous said...

Hey grits...do you know something for sure about the West Texas facility closing?..please advise where you got this information, as I know about 250 people who would like for somebody to confirm one way or another. Care to share your source?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 1:13, I don't know "for sure," but here's the article where I got the information, and here's a chart the Statesman published that shows Pyote closing. I wish I could confirm one way or another, and I apologize if I stated that prematurely.

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to all of you WTSS staff. I know this is a difficult time, and this uncertainty has to be stressful. We are thinking of all you. You all are certainly in my prayers. I pray we stay alive out there because you are some of the finest Texans I've ever met. We love you, and we feel you. Hang in there guys…

Anthony Mikulastik said...

Easter is a time of great hope for the victory Christ has demonstrated over sin and death! I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I also believe all things work out for the greater good of His works. No government official holds his office without it being the will of God. God has the power to use evil people to work for good.

May the peace of God be with you. Go forth in the world with His protection and leadership. Let the world see Christ in you so others might be forgiven and rise up with a new life in Him. Amen.

Rev. Anthony Mikulastik
Criminal Justice Chaplain

Anonymous said...

I second that Anthony. May He bless the souls of each of these men and women who brave the uncertainty with the love of Christ in his/her heart. We love you West Texas!

Anonymous said...

I was surfing the web and saw where
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was interviewed by the Monitor and he is just so clueless. He has no problem stating other TYC facilities should close but when Evins Unit is mentioned he becomes defensive and states this facility should not be slated for closure, could this be because it is in his district??? He goes onto to state the youth should be close to their famlies, the biggest problem TYC has had over the past 10 years has been the Evins Unit, because the youth from the valley went to this unit and the parents would smuggle drugs and contraband to their children. A decision was made to send some of the valley youth to other facilities to break this operation up. And when they did not smuggle this stuff in they just became employed there and would bring it through the gates. This is an elected official who appears to be clueless of whats in his own back yard. But it is okay to close other facilities down as long as I get to keep mine. I am glad you are looking out for the best interests of the agency (TYC) and not your political future. And while your at it raise the employees salaries $500 a month so they can afford to live in these bigger cities that you keep harping about, and you have a degree???

Anonymous said...

Amen Scott. "We're all better than the worst thing we have ever done!"
Inside or outside the system.

Anonymous said...

Pure CYA on the part of Ben Raimer and UTMB. Disgusting. Disgusting, but typical of UTMB.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits- do you know of any more legislative hearings scheduled about any TYC issues?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

On TYC, there are some in Wednesday's House Corrections hearing. I'm going to try to get to that today or tomorrow a.m., but that's all I've seen so far.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Some of those issues listed to be talked about are pretty hot topics right now among TYC employees- especially the facility locations and closures. Thanks for keeping us informed!!!

Anonymous said...

If the house bill goes to the floor that closes facilities larger than 100 bed, where are they going to house all the kids. They expect this to happen in a year. No new construction has been approved for TYC (I don't think I've seen any yet), has land already been purchased in these large counties or does someone's brother in law have large empty warehouses or something ready for remodeling.
New fencing, security cameras, telephone lines, computer lines will have to installed at all the little facilities. Teachers would come from local school districts..okay if the they have extra teachers, but what if some of the school districts don't have teachers that want to teach in that environment..assuming a lot aren't we..where is the money coming for all of this, not just pay JCO's more money.

Anonymous said...

Speaking on the local teacher issue, I can assure you teachers are in short supply everywhere, especially since NCLB and "highly qualified", the extra year of science required in High School, etc. This is just another example of the legislature jumping in with both feet before thinking...reactive behavior is the norm these days in Austin. This is exactly what we are trying so hard to teach TYC youth NOT to do...react without thinking. Maybe some of the legislators need to take a look at their 'thinking errors'. But I am just a lowly taxpayer and voter, so what do I know? I'll tell you what I know - some of the Senators and Reps who are trying to pull these facilities out of 'rural' areas should prepare themselves...the voters are watching and West Texas is where your bread is buttered.