“Although TYC's legal duty is to rehabilitate delinquent children, in reality TYC facilities look and feel like prisons,” said principal researcher Mie Lewis, an ACLU Women’s Rights Project attorney and human rights researcher. “Girls in particular are hurt, not helped, by a system that puts punishment before treatment.”See the full 13-page document for more details. Hopefully other ACLU-related headlines this week won't drown out discussion of this new report - it addresses an important topic, particularly for the 800 or so girls in TYC and their families.
"We are concerned about the current shortfalls in TYC's provision of services to girls, and we will be monitoring the implementation of reforms closely to ensure our concerns are addressed," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. "TYC has a unique opportunity to transform from a statewide embarrassent to a national model, and we are encouraged by the interest officials have shown in receiving information and assistance from advocacy groups like Texas Coalition Advocating Justice for Juveniles, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and the ACLU."
ACLU researchers made the following broad recommendations:
The investigation was undertaken at the behest of Conservator Kimbrough by Mie Lewis, ACLU Women’s Rights Project attorney and human rights researcher, and her assistant Michele Batiste, a former TYC inmate and participant on the Conservator Case Review Panel. Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, contributed to and edited the report, and the ACLU of Texas participated in the research.
- Girls in TYC custody are very likely to have experienced abuse prior to their placement; they need, but are not receiving, the individualized counseling necessary to cope with childhood disadvantage, familial abuse, and psychological damage.
- Major aspects of TYC, including its range of available placements for girls, its institutional culture, and its rehabilitative programming, fall short of meeting the needs of girls.
- The ongoing disadvantage experienced by girls in TYC custody calls for the immediate appointment of a girls’ advocate within the agency.
I've been honored to have quite a few TYC staff commenters visiting Grits in the last couple of months, so I'll be particularly interested to hear what TYC folks think of the recommendations, plus any other thoughts you have on the topic in the comments.