TYC officials said Wednesday they recently changed the policy based on a new interpretation of the Texas Family Code that mandates privacy for youths. Previously, the agency released summaries of inmate mistreatment cases with only the youths' names redacted by black ink. ...The change in policy was discovered when the Chronicle sought information on the announced firings of 66 TYC staff with felony convictions. Wrote Ratcliffe:
But several lawmakers said the troubled agency cannot look like it has something to hide.
"To me, this is moving in the wrong direction," said Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, one of the legislators pushing for TYC reform. "I don't want any reports sanitized except to remove the juvenile's names."
The change in records policy became evident this week when the TYC responded to a public information request from the Houston Chronicle.Regular readers know I think open records are absolutely critical to ensuring accountability at not just prisons and law enforcement but all government agencies.
The newspaper had sought the names of 66 TYC staff members who are scheduled to be fired because they had felony arrests in their pasts as well as allegations of misconduct while working at TYC.
TYC responded by giving the Chronicle the names of the individuals as well as statistics on mistreatment of youth allegations against them. But detailed summary reports were released only in cases in which the youths were age 18 or older.
Of the 66 TYC staff who had felony arrests, 31 had allegations of youth mistreatment made against them. There were 80 total complaints, though six of the staff members had five or more complaints lodged against each of them. But because of the change in policy, the Chronicle was provided with the detailed summaries of just eight of the 80 allegations.
These records have always been public in the past, but I think there's a secret motive behind Kimbrough's claim they now should be private: By forwarding them to the Attorney General, Kimbrough puts off this information becoming public for up to 45 business days while the AG makes a determination.
By then, of course, the Legislature will no longer be in town. Convenient, huh?