Thursday, May 10, 2007

ACLUTX Chief To Become TYC Ombudsman

Here's some news out of left field, though I'd heard recent rumors swirling: A TYC employee forwards the news that "Texas Youth Commission officials have selected Will Harrell, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, as the new ombudsman." Here's the initial Austin Statesman coverage.

Will was my boss at ACLU of Texas - he's a strong and persistent advocate but not a great manager, so it'll be interesting to see if he'll be a good fit for the job.

At ACLU of Texas, Will leaves behind an organization that's frankly in disarray, having driven away much of the talent that put the organization on the political map in Texas over the last several years. I suspect in the medium term Will's departure will have significant implications for ACLU in Texas, likely spelling the end of much of its public policy and advocacy work and presaging a lessened focus on criminal justice, with a greater emphasis instead on litigating church-state and other culture war type issues.

At the same time, that may not be an entirely bad thing. Over the last couple of years, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has increasingly stepped up to plug many of those gaps, but from a more professional, pragmatic, less ideological perspective. A lot of legislators and state agency bureaucrats are more comfortable working with the more moderate TCJC, and I don't really blame them.

Only time will tell what this move will mean for either ACLU of Texas or the Texas Youth Commission, but you've got to give Jay Kimbrough credit - it's not a "safe" choice if his goal is to cover up misconduct, I can promise you that.

Good luck, Will!

MORE from Capitol Letters, Texas Politics, and AP.

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think his appointment will be nothing short of a power trip and I feel for TYC employees. His accusatory and take no prisoners style will definitely be a hindrance. Lest we forget, he was the one who said the mass exodus from TYC were those who were guilty anyway. Good luck TYC. And to Jay Kimbrough: you're more deranged than I thought.

almost outta here said...

Does anyone know if the job was ever actually posted for applications or if they just picked this guy?

And $85,000 a year. Jumpin' Jeebus on a Trailer Hitch. I don't even make half that.

Anonymous said...

I think the Ombudsman needs to work one week on the floor with those kids as coverage. I think the Ombudman needs to go through Handle with Care before he works those shifts. I think the Ombudsman needs to ride around and pick up security referrals to get a close up view of what we are dealing with, day in and day out.

At weeks end, I think the Ombudsman will a Budweiser...lol!

Anonymous said...

I supervised the Ombudsman in my previous agency. I seriously hope that our new Ombudsman will be required to take the same 300 hours of training advocated for JCO staff, and shadow staff at various facilities, halfway houses, and parole offices.

Then he will be a better advocate for the youth.

If the Ombudsman does not know the policies/realities from the ground up, he/she is just be blowing smoke and wasting everybody's time. The Ombudsman cannot overrule policy (unlike Jay K. has been doing), he/she just makes it stick; when somebody drops the ball or a kid "falls through the cracks."

Anonymous said...

Since he helped assist in the legislation it is little wonder he got the job. One might think he helped create the job for himself...

Not really anything new in political circles but does bring into question his motivation.

whitsfoe said...

Well, I figured something like this was in the works but I had no idea the freaking executive director of ACLUTX would get the nod! But if you think about it, politically, this does bring instant credibility to TYC in the public eye. I know, I hear you guys, bla.. bla... bla.

Appointed positions are pissing you guys off, I know. But that's the way it is now, and just like the new "at will" policy forthcoming regarding your employment, that's just something we are going to have to work with because it's just not going to change unless Perry does a line item veto. But most state agencies are "at will." We were lucky for a long time. But if you have the need to thank anyone for that, please consider Dwight Harris. He drove this agency right in the ground, and his lack of leadership, wisdom, vindictiveness were the principal reasons of why we’re here. He just didn’t listen to anyone.

So given that, how should we welcome the new Ombudsman to the agency? Think maybe his first day on the job we should all wear two left shoes? He is a big-time lefty on the political front in a very right wing state. There’s going to be some clashes, for sure. It ought to be interesting.

Hey Grits, are you going to get back on with ACLUTX now that Will's with us?

Anonymous said...

Hot Damn! The hits just keep right on coming, don't they? First we get Ed Owens, cover-up artist for TDCJ and now we Wiseass Will who has succeeded in running off those people dedicated to the cause of the ACLU. Seems he will leave one mess behind and undoubtedly create another one for TYC. Who says brown nosing doesn't work in this state? Right now old Will must look like he only put tanning solution on his nose. Old Will's style in meetings should bode well when he says something to the effect of....I don't give a f____ what you think. He has been known to do that with ACLU meetings. So professional...such good leadership. I pity the poor people who have to work around him and those that call on him to help with problems. Hell, he will be laughing all the way to the bank on our tax dollar.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"are you going to get back on with ACLUTX now that Will's with us?"

No, my friend, one should never aspire to go where one is not welcome.

I think you should give Will a hearty bienvenidos when he arrives - no left shoes but show him the ropes and let him in the loop so he can do what will undoubtedly be a hard job.

I also predict you won't see an "accusatory, take no prisoners" style. When I worked with Will I was ALWAYS the bad cop - he doesn't really have it in him and is a fundamentally nice, likable guy.

I'm in complete agreement that the new Ombudsman (and the new ED and his top aides, for that matter) should all take the 300 hours of training and shadow staff at facilities and halfway houses. That would be a good faith effort to show you're all in this together.

Don't prejudge Will - maybe I didn't leave ACLU on good terms, but he's a smart guy who I doubt will exhibit Kimbrough's slash and burn style. Besides, ideally an ombudsman not only takes complaints but sets up systems to resolve conflicts without escalating as often to formal grievances from staff on youth or vice versa. And he's got a lot of charisma, leadership skills, and background on restorative justice-type issues that should benefit him in that environment. It's a bold choice, anyway you look at it, and possibly quite a good one.

Buena Suerte, Amigos!

Anonymous said...

The House version of SB 103 requires the Ombudsman to take the same 300 hour training as the JCOs.

Anonymous said...

It seems like TYC officials have made their decision already. I hope that Mr. Harrell takes what his critics say to heart, but I also hope that his critics lay off of him a bit.

It seems fairly obvious that some of these posts are from folks at the ACLU, so please tell us what you believe needs to change about Mr. Harell's management for him to be a success in his new position.

Tracey Hayes said...

The staff of the ACLU decided immediately to refrain from commenting on this issue in any public way. Any comments on this thread are not from current ACLU staff, nor do they reflect our official position. While it may be clear that people who are aware of current or past inter-organizational dilemmas are commenting, I'd like the readership to know that current staff is not interested in defaming the name of the ACLU TX or it's current or past leadership.

From the staff of the ACLU TX

Anonymous said...

for some reason I doubt that...

"Chuy" said...

Appointed, applied for interviewed, who gives a rats butt. At this stage in the game I just want some form of leadership and clear communication.

We have had no direction in over 4 months just sound-bites and false/misleading statements in the paper about TYC.

If this appointment and many others will get us back on track, so be it.

Yes we need a strong union and the CWA that currently represent TYC is worthless. Not to say this could not change but it will take all staff to join/support and leadership.

Personally Whitsfoe I have no stomach working for or with elected officials (in response to your post earlier about union leadership). I deem the majority of them void of any morals or character.

The ongoing saga for not only the state of Texas but Nationally is our elected officials say one thing to get elected and once in office (for 20/30 years) forget where they came from.

Term limits would solve this issue and the inability to lobby 20 years after office. But this is my dream and I will soon wake up back on campus wondering what direction we are going today. It truly is not just a job but an adventure.

whitsfoe said...

I say "Grits for Executive Director."

Lets turn the tables.... we got Will, now lets get tha' "Grit." Then let's talk about poetic justice...

Didn't Will speak of "poetic justice" when he referred to his appointment by Kimbrough in the DMN blog site? He was quoted as saying something about Kimbrough being a cowboy, a republican and in so many words, an asshole... and Will says this is "poetic" justice.

Well, if he’s been reading this blog, he should have some knowledge of our poetry….

OK… Welcome aboard Will. Your first task…. Write a poem...

"Willy-Boy" said...

Okay, Okay, but if I write a poem it will LEFT margin only.

Also, you cannot put any time limit on me like you do with TYC staff when they have to write a CCF-225. 30 minutes to write a report about two youth fighting, then you have to restrain them, then sit down calmly and write a report.

Al Sharpton will be the next Executive Director.

Al Gore will head up all Tech Support, he did invent the intra-net.

And lest we forget "It Takes a Village" Hillary as Chief of Staff. Just in case her hunt for the Oval Office falls short.

"Chuy"

Anonymous said...

Who brought up this concern?

The staff of the ACLU decided immediately to refrain from commenting on this issue in any public way. Any comments on this thread are not from current ACLU staff, nor do they reflect our official position. While it may be clear that people who are aware of current or past inter-organizational dilemmas are commenting, I'd like the readership to know that current staff is not interested in defaming the name of the ACLU TX or it's current or past leadership.

From the staff of the ACLU TX

So Tracey, who gives a shit? That's sounds pretty anal if you ask moi.....

whitsfoe said...

By her posting that alone, she just violated their position from "refraining from commenting on this issue in any public way." Well, Tracey, you just did....

Anonymous said...

Will Harrel is an exceptional leader and will do great in whatever he chooses to undertake.

I think all his critics should give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to enter his new position with a fresh start.

Lest you create some karma for yourself with all the hate and ill-will.

Will I wish you the best and may your days be filled with love light and peace.

Anonymous said...

"I think all his critics should give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him to enter his new position with a fresh start."

And then we have this "no comment" from the ACLU.

Whenever someone tells me they need a "fresh start" I always wonder "from what"?

Robin Hood said...

Isela Gutierrez is next...look for her to be appointed to the board just as soon as the executive director/advisory board deal is done...all of these folks who have been trying to make a name for themselves during this fiasco will all be turning up in highly visible positions within TYC...I've smelled this coming for a while now. And on that subject, I hope the background checks apply for all of these people who are 'only interested in the welfare of our youth'. PROVE IT and don't try to wiggle out of the CRC/fingerprinting. I hear we already have one former employee lobbying the Speaker of the House for a board appointment. Why am I not surpised! I just can't wait to see who else turns up running things...Randy Chance even? The 'whistleblower'? Good Gosh, when will all of these people get done with their 15 minutes of fame? Sorry to be so negative, but enough already. Somebody post one of these jobs and at least pretend we're doing things legally before the EEOC gets involved. That's all we need:(

Anonymous said...

Once again I do not believe Will is the problem but how all this came about to begin with. He is allowed to assist with Jay and Ed to "Straighten out" TYC. Then out of the blue he is "Appointed" into this position.

These are the same folks that gave us Ray Brookins who failed a polygraph X2 while employed with TDCJ, but what the hell he is only going to TYC to molest children why should we inform them he is allowing inmates to perform on him for favors.

You really have to love all of this, can anyone out there help me the title of my forth coming book?"

Anonymous said...

The Kimbrough make the elephant (Gov. Perry’s Knowledge of the West TX abuse) disappear show. Jay Kimbrough does one outlandish thing after another! Fire the felons and start a big stink while getting headlines. Fire TYC administration and get headlines. Fire the TYC treatment team and dump Resocialization getting more headlines. Talk about firing employees with misdemeanor convictions getting more headlines. Now hire ACLU TX Will to create more smoke and mirrors effect. I can barely see the elephant.

Please don’t take your eye off the elephant! Kimbrough’s only job is to protect Gov. Perry! All the wild stuff Kimbrough is doing is to keep the focus off of Gov. Perry. Just wait till you see Kimbrough’s next move with ACLU Will! They will declare the girls in TYC have been victims of some type. They will be at the Marlin Unit to interview the girls there next week. They will have the authority to tape the girls and have no restrictions while “Investigating” how and why the girls are some type of victim. What happened to the youth’s privacy rights Mr. Kimbrough?

Anonymous said...

Wasn’t Isela Gutierrez a former board member of Southwest Key - a contract provider who had lucrative contracts with TYC before the 79th session ended and TYC had to slash all those contracts? If I’m not mistaken, she had something to do with SWK – their general council or something? And then, she teamed up with this coalition to get more community based programs where SWK had resources, facilities… after TYC was mandated to cut them from our budget from the 79th legislative session.

Now she doesn’t show up on their board any longer. Hidden, in a contract care “blind spots.”

We’re watching and don’t be surprised if anyone sees an allegation of exploitation of children come from this issue. Anyone notice how the board chairman of SWK (Sanchez) dropped off the radar after first being a part of the coalition?

Anonymous said...

Isela's coalition used to be apart of SWK -- she was an employee. Now her coaltion broke off and is part of the infamous TCJC. Don't be surprised if his girlfriend, Isela, ends up working at TYC in some capacity.

Anonymous said...

How did this conversation turn into an attack on Isela? You are animals. Why would you slash and burn the people that you work with? Even if you have personal disagreements with them, or if you dislike their management, you get over it. We're adults and few of us are acting like it. This whole thing just stinks.

Anonymous said...

It would be veeeery interesting if Scott could magically make the names of all these anonymous posts appear...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Folks, don't start attacking Isela Gutierrez without cause or you'll get my dander up! No one among the activists involved has worked harder and done LESS grandstanding than Isela. If everyone knew HALF of the work she did that others have taken credit for, she would be a legend, but she never blows her own horn. Of all the people involved in this she is NOT out for 15 minutes of fame, I assure you. (As a matter of disclosure, she worked for me as an intern on a project briefly a few years ago.)

It's correct Isela was a former SW Key employee - not for very long, though, and as an organizer, not a service provider. It's also accurate that she's at TCJC now, though whether it's "notorious" or not I cannot say. But to accuse her of just wanting to get SWK more contracts through all this is a lie and a smear - she's a good and talented person who could make a LOT more money doing something else if she chose to. I'm thankful she's focued her energies on this - there's little question the West Texas scandal would never have been made public if she hadn't.

JT Barrie said...

Some would say that I am a "take no prisoners" type. But to be honest, I'm into moral suasion: I'd much rather see someone's political career destroyed by public humiliation than impose an actual prison term. Besides I pay taxes and don't like punishing myself for someone else's willful misconduct.

Anonymous said...

Talk about poetic justice... Will, as the watchdog of TYC, serves the term well. Knowing him to be an ardent fighter of human rights, I believe the kids will finally have a champion to stand up for them. The State must be serious in not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the past - Will is a good choice!

Anonymous said...

Well, for those of you who have not seen it yet in the DMN, Anthony Mikulastic, frequent Grits poster and caseworker for TYC was fired May 7th. He had a 30 (+) year old conviction for burglary he committed and served time for when he was 19. Despite two letters suggesting a pardon from the offense (though not granted by a Governor), he was still let go.
Anthony, you and I may not have always seen eye to eye, but I don't feel this is right. Not to you or anyone else with the old convictions. I could better support TYC had they taken a fair approach of "Grandfathering" in employees with old convictions and just not allowing future employees from being hired under the new policy. What is next? Will Mr. Kimbrough become an advocate against smokers and fire them all since they are a bad example on children and could influence them into actions that could lead to their deaths? I'm sure he could somehow work in their smoke breaks and higher medical costs to show they are somehow also detriments to the agency. Why not? It's about as relevant as what someone did over 30 years ago and firing them for it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 2:21 PM....
I can see having a rule about felonies within the past 10 years, but dang, 30 years ago? I think even TDCJ hires felons if you have been "off paper", meaning probation or parole for 10 years. A felony committed 20 or 30 years ago shouldn't even be considered unless it is for murder or aggravated sexual assault. That is just crazy.

whitsfoe said...

That is crazy. Just beyond belief. I bet if he had a strong union, they'd be backing off this non-sence...hint...hint...

whitsfoe said...

See what TDCJ was able to pull off or at least get serious consideration whereas we got nodda.... a Grits Blog...

"CO/Staff Pay
HB 2498 authorizing additional hazard pay for TDCJ guards was approved by the House last night. The Back Gate has more on HB 325 creating a new career ladder for non-CO TDCJ staff (and brought news of a guard who decided to supplement her low pay)."

Bet their union had their hands involved in this...

Anonymous said...

Adequate staffing should translate to safer facilities, and given the current staffing shortages in TDCJ, COs need good incentives to stay on board. Prisons won't be closing, and our staffing problems won't be going away any time soon.

whitsfoe said...

Our turnover rate in TYC much higher than TDCJ. I think we are at 47%.

Here's the other problem I see coming down the pike (you kind of gave me a hint).

I'd think the pending closures are going to give way to more community based programs. And to me, that's fine for youthful offenders (and I'm sure you can make an argument for non-violent adults as well, but that's not my arena). However, as I have seen not only in Texas, but Maryland, Louisiana, and a few others, these public sector firms pay their brass very well, but they don't pay their front line staff hardly anything and don't offer much, if any, benefits for those employees. So, you kind of get what you pay for, and I’m telling you, not a very qualified staff. I'm sure, I used to work in a contract care facility, and when I was ready to release a kid, if I had no one to fill his bed (referrals), I was frowned upon. But that was in the early 80's, maybe they have re-thought this but I doubt it. - Thanks for your response...

whitsfoe said...

sorry... "private sector firms."

Anonymous said...

HB 198, a bill that increases the number of private beds TDCJ can contract out for, passed the senate CJ committee this week. The author of the bill argued that private facilities with room for more beds weren't able to take on any more prisoners because of the 1000 beds-per-facility limit, and that those prisoners were being sent to the more expensive county jails. He said private facilities could provide cost-savings to the state and that they have community and treatment programs that the county jails don't.

But, like you say, there's a reason the private facilities have a lower per-diem rate than other facilities. It isn't that they have economies of scale. They have untrained guards...

And then there's that little conflict of interest we have when a private corporation lobbies for tougher sentencing and tries to keep their facilities full of nonviolent offenders.

Bottom line--leave the word private out.

HB 198 was a prison expansion bill that was probably brought to the author, Chairman Madden, by GEO group or CCA, and it wasn't touched by the Senate Committee because they were afraid of pissing off the guy that has all their bills.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If I'm not mistaken (and I could be) HB 198 was to allow TDCJ to contract with one private Intermediate Sanctions Facility that just opened in Rusk County up in East Texas. Whitmire signed off on it as part of their joint plan (again, this is all second and third hand), and I think that's why the Senate didn't oppose it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oh, the company that owns the East Texas facility is called Management and Training Corp, or something quite close to that.

whitsfoe said...

Ouch, sounds like they haven't learned...

"And then there's that little conflict of interest we have when a private corporation lobbies for tougher sentencing and tries to keep their facilities full of nonviolent offenders."

Uh, yes, a private corporation lobbying for enhanced sentencing would be a problem. The problem here is that the greenback is driving the car as opposed to common sense.

Anonymous said...

HB 198 raised the cap per private facility from 1,000 to 1,150, and it raised the number of overall beds TDCJ can contract out for from 4,580 to 5,580.

It's a permanent 1,000 bed expansion of the current prison complex.

Anonymous said...

The talk about being part of Whitmire's plan is a little misleading, I think. Doctor Deuell sponsored the bill, and I think Whitmire saw this bill for what it is-- a prison expansion.

Madden filed another bill this session that would have basically allowed private facilities to clear out treatment rooms and put beds in hallways.

Madden is the chair of House Criminal Jurisprudence. Because all of the Senate CJ committee's bills go through him, the guy's got a considerable amount of power. I don't think Madden's a bad guy. He's done a really great job this session, with TYC reform and all. But I don't think he was doing his job on this one.

SB 1909 was coincidentally *cough* brought up in Madden's committee the same week that his bill got a hearing in Senate Criminal Justice.

The counties have prisoners in them because we have a capacity crisis. Grits pointed out that Dr. Fabelo said that we won't have this capacity crisis if some of the reforms get through this session.

Assuming the reforms do get through, we'll be able to put the county TDCJ inmates in actual TDCJ facilities.

But we'll still have the 1,000-bed expansion of the state prison complex because of Madden's HB 198. I bet those beds will get filled somehow, and I think that the whole "cost-savings" argument is moot in the long term.

All the hoopla about avoiding building new facilities is pointless when we let the private companies add 1,000 beds.

whitsfoe said...

Well, I know you're about to get 1000 more beds from two of our facilities.

I think these are slated for non-violent felony drug programs, and I'd like to think TDCJ would run these facilities as opposed to contracting them out. The retro-fit would be not an obstacle.

But the rest of them.... I don't know because they're not all that secure. There is one that's in the middle of “BFE” and is only a few years old that's very secure, and relatively new, but good luck finding anyone to work there. It's in a dessert. We warned them then, and they didn't listen, and over eight million in tax payers’ dollars is about to collect dust....

I bet Pete is peeling his head right now...

"Chuy" said...

Lets be honest about this does Jay Kimbrough really want the legacy of closing more than two TYC facilities in hopes that contract beds will do justice for the youth of Texas.

If he is that STUPID then Perry better do a better job next time (TDCJ) needs gutting.

In 2 to 4 years the abuse will run rampant and once again everybody in Austin including the Governor will pint fingers and we will be back to square one.

You cannot push these youth into the private sector in hopes that it will do justice. I just hope our elected officials and Jay are not this stupid. Look at the contract programs now and ask yourself would you want your kid in a program where the guards get minimum wage but the Supervisors get JCO IV pay.

whitsfoe said...

We are overly criminalizing in Texas folks, no doubt about it. We need to back off this at some point. But every session, they seem to embrace enhancements, and now I'm learning that the private sector is profiting from it all. Not good. It's getting out of hand.

flawedplan said...

A pox on the critics, this is exactly as it should be. Two words, dum-dums: father figure.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see where Hernandez's bail was cut by over half a million dollars????? What a message to send to child molesters everywhere!!

MONAHANS - A former Texas Youth Commission administrator accused of sexual misconduct at a West Texas facility has been released from jail after a judge lowered his bail by $555,000.

Judge Bob Parks slashed the bail for John Paul Hernandez to $95,000 from $650,000 after hearing arguments Thursday, court records show.

Hernandez, the former principal at the agency's West Texas State School in Pyote, was indicted on one count of sexual assault, nine counts of improper sexual activity with a person in custody and nine counts of improper relationship between a student and educator.

Anonymous said...

He might be safer in jail than going home given all his collateral unemployed victims. Do you know if he made bail?

Anonymous said...

Hey Whitsfoe...when you referred to the facility in "BFE" (on 5-11-07) were you refering to West Texas or Victory Field; or was it some other BFE facility I haven't been to yet? I'm curious because I read everything you write, and you seem to know a LOT about what's going on with TYC.

Anonymous said...

BFE facilities include West Texas in Ptote population 300ish, and Sheffield boot camp in Sheffield Tx population less than 100 heres not anthing in the town but a small store and a post office the facility was built (due to austin politics) and has never been fully staffed it is running at about 40-50% capacity. both of these fcilities make Victory field look lke a metroplitan setting.

And while were on the subject of closing TYC facilities and Austin Politics, What about Sen. Hinojosa and his precious Evans acility in Edinburg, TYC has tried based upon Sen. Hinojosa's political motivations a "close to home" approach to juvenile corrections and guess what it didnt work The Evans Facility is and has always been the worst facility within the agency in reguards to contraband,corruption,unrest and violence, guess haing he homies that close was a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

How freakin hilarious is it that Kimbrough is having to eat his words on not allowing folks with A or B misdemeanors in the last 5 years to work in TYC now that it has been made public that new Ombudsman Harrell has a conviction for reckless driving in 04? According to Kimbrough, the no misdemeanor rule was not his intention. Funny how it became policy and was placed in all the employees new job descriptions, including the one signed by Mr. Harrell when he was hired. Com on Jay, as the Conservator, is it not your job to know these things? You gonna put it off on Ed or Dmitria? OIG, don't you think you need to look into this? Smells like a coverup to me...