Saturday, June 30, 2007

Open Thread: Evaluating the Ombudsman's Plan and TYC Media Coverage

Via Quorum Report, here is Texas Youth Commission Ombudsman Will Harrell's plan for his office and the letter for House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa. As mentioned previously, Harrell told the Austin Statesman: "I asked for $3.5 million (for two years), and I got $600,000 to do this job. And I have no staff until Sept. 1. ... The Legislature has given me a huge unfunded mandate." I haven't had time to examine either document but TYC employees in particular should take a look and let me know in the comments whether you think this article by Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman was a fair representation of the plan given limited resources.

In addition, some commenters here thought Ward misrepresented in this article how determinations are made at TYC for how long to incarcerate youth and when to release them. One commenter suggested next time he contact his ex-wife, Pamela Ward, who was formerly TYC's public information officer (!). I never knew that tidbit!

Consider this an open thread to discuss these articles and other TYC-related topics.

MORE: FYI, here's a pretty substantive media report from the TYC State of the Agency meeting Thursday in Waco.

AND MORE: The Dallas News says 503 misdemeanor offenders were still incarcerated in TYC facilities as of June 13. Question to TYC readers: What are the reasons these kids haven't been processed yet? What rules, practices or other impediments must Ed Owens and Dimitria Pope change or overcome to do this before school starts in the fall? And finally, how many of these kids haven't been released because they don't have anywhere suitable to go, and what are their options?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think his plan is pretty good - given he has a total of 5 FTE and only $300K per year to work with.

After salaries and benefits - and according to the paper his salary alone is $85K - I really don't know how they expect them to get on the dorms. Even if they aren't all in Austin, there are more than 5 facilities, halfway houses, and parole offices. The travel to get to them all will more than eat up what is left of the budget.

Kudos to him for trying to find the most efficient way to accomplish his tasks. And kudos to him for seeking outside funding. And more kudos to him for standing up to the leg.

Anonymous said...

Budget Rider 22, the rider that funds the independent office of the ombudsman's office actually capped all salaries at $65K, including Harrell's, contrary to media reports.

Anonymous said...

I can promise you that Ward, other newspapers, the legislators and, most sadly, Kimbrough and the "leadership" in place at TYC today have misunderstood and/or misrepresented the way lengths of stay were determined at TYC. The commentor on your other thread had it exactly right. Youth committed on an indeterminate sentence were and are committed until they reach a certain age (previously 21, now 19), any release before that was, basically, for good behavior - finishing the treatment program.

I, for one, am proud of Harrell for figuring out a way to have a positive influence with limited funding. Madden and Hinojosa should be ashamed of themselves for the shambles they created by giving immediate effect to changes that aren't funded for a couple of months.

Anonymous said...

Whitsfoe....are you still there???? I must say that I miss your comments immensely. I thought you were an exceptional commenter on this blog. You really know how to put things in perspective, so I can't figure out why you stopped writing.

Signed,
a Whitsfoe-fan

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits-
Any idea whats up with the Waco Tribune link? I can't access anything on their news page - I've tried every thing I can think of...I am most anxious to see the story.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It appears the whole Waco Trib site is down! It worked this morning.

For now I fixed the link to go to a cached version, which you can also access here.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to read SB 103. It clearly states that current misdemeanor offenders do not have to be discharged until their 19th birthday. If the legislators wanted them discharged why is there an exception that allows them to stay. TYC was already forced by the legislature to discharge murderers, sex offenders, gang members, and violent offenders into our communities, I guess that makes everyone feel better. And that doesn't even include those that that went to homeless shelters because no one wanted them. Where was the ombudsman than, so much for taking care of kids. Our communities will pay the price for many years to come. And our legislators claim they have made TYC better, I guess our neighborhoods don't count. Maybe if all those discharged TYC youth moved next door to our legislators they would think differently. And if the ombudsman can't make a difference for $85K, I am sure someone else can. At least half the people in the State of Texas would appreciate that salary!

Anonymous said...

To 11:26...You just nailed it! PERFECTLY!

Whitsfoe said...

I want to jump through this computer and snatch both Madden and Chuy after reading that letter sent to Will. My blood boils with anger and disbelief. The both of you need to be schooled, because you’re both wearing the "dunce" cap right now.

I can't go into detail here about the work we’re doing to ensure kids are protected in the sense of preventing abuse. I can assure both of you this is going to happen, and that the "monitors" will NOT be reporting to the local facility.

But the biggest problem I see with what you two wrote was the fact you seem to think 5 employees will be able to walk on water and be everywhere all the time. This goes to show your ignorance. If that's what you wanted, you should have funded the Ombudsman accordingly. There is only one God, and only one Jesus, and Will is neither so get off his ass. And while you're at it, tell Elmer Fudd I'm thinking about him :)

Anonymous said...

Has "Elmer" even weighed in on the ombudsman issue yet? I hadn't heard - I thought maybe he's been too busy seeking to rid the state of lowly bartendars who dare question his sobriety! *snicker*

Mike Ward is full of it - he's been doing hatchet jobs getting facts wrong since day one of this mess. I don't even read his crap much anymore - the Houston Chronicle (Radcliffe? Radshaw? Rad-something I think) has done much more thorough and fair coverage. Which I guess is ironic considering Mike is right here in Austin. Dummy.

Will Harrell - I haven't met him personally, so I don't really know anything other than what others have said (and most of it wasn't very flattering) - but I was quite tickled at the fact that he looked right back at the legislators and basically said "you people have got to be kidding me - get a grip!" I mean, you KNOW that agency leadership (and that's ALL agencies, not just TYC) always want to say that! To point out the obvious right to their faces, to tell the media "ummm, yeah - it's pretty stupid and impossible what they are asking us to do, and they know it" It's all such a political shill game, and Harrell basically put it right out there! Kudos to him, then. HEEEE!

Anonymous said...

Grits - for your question about the misdemeanants not being released - it is quite likely because they aren't 19 yet and nothing in SB103 instructs the agency to release current commitments because they were committed on misdemeanors. The law changes the family code provision on the criteria for committment - but that is not automatically retroactive to youth in custody at the time the law changed.

whitsfoe said...

That person is right Henson. The other thing everyone needs to understand is those misdemeanors on TYC parole, as I understand it, can be returned to a TYC lock-up should they violate their parole. I've asked about this and the consistent response I get is 19 year olds are gone regardless; misdemeanors on parole and/or still in TYC institutions remain in our custody until their minimum length of stay is up and they have completed the program, whatever that is now. It’s a simple as this: we're no longer taking new misdemeanor commitments but retain custody (institutions, HW Houses, and Parole) of those prior to Perry signing SB 103.

almost outta here said...

I just have one thing to add on why some of the misdemeanants are still in institutions...it's more than likely because they do not have their behavior under control. Kids still have to go 30 days without a major rule violation to be release eligible in most cases...and for a lot of youth in TYC this is really difficult for them to do. But you know what, if they can't keep their behavior in check well enough not to assault another kid or a staff or not to engage in indecent exposure or not try to make a weapon...then they aren't really safe to be let out.

Anonymous said...

1. Good for Harrell for talking back. If TYC administrators had had the guts to do that years ago, we would not be in this mess.
2. SB103 has an interesting provision: misdemeanants can still be committed to TYC if they committed their misdemeanor prior to September 1, 2007. Therefore, we are still getting them, and will continue to do so for quite awhile.

Anonymous said...

Plan? There is no plan...maybe in writing...something that sounds good, in theory. But unfortunately theory leaves you wanting. We have all heard the adage "book sense and no common sense". That is applying here in spades.

What is the result:
Many youth getting pushed out of TYC with no where to go. Sent out before vocational training is complete or GED obtained.

Youth with no direction provided in TYC because staff are afraiid to discipline...why because we are supposed to "talk them down".

There are 225's being written and dismissed across the agency when these kids act up - why - because we need to get them out.

These offenders are feeling invincible. Tearing up equipment, cursing staff beyond your wildest dreams and physically assaulting staff. They are hurting each other daily.

It is only a matter of time before someone is maimed beyond repair due to this climate that was created by the legislature, current CO, and the proliferation of lies by the MSM.

Listen all you hot shots...the kids that are trying to work the program CAN"T. They are living in utter chaos now. There is no control.

My parents taught and preached one thing to me that I never forget with my own children..."Your kids don't need a friend. They need a parent. They need rules and discipline, they might not think they want it - but they aren't capable of making that decision at this age. Be their PARENT!"

We are the closest thing to a parent these kids have. We can not let the tail wag the dog. Someone needs to stand up and say ENOUGH...before disaster strikes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits,

I have a question. Isn't it a state law that if you have a potion in your agency that you have to post that position? There have been some new hires in the Inspector General division, but the jobs were never posted, and quess what? They are all former TDCJ employees. I didn't think you could just hire someone without posting the position.

Anonymous said...

Not only is OIG "hiring" TDCJ employees without posting the positions, but they haven't begun conducting their own investigations yet! What's the hold up?? Same as for the ombudsman??

Anonymous said...

A repost from the July 14th meeting thread..

If you wonder why Will is underfunded and why TDCJ Inspector Generals are not working yet- here's another thing to think about in the realm of investigations and the myth that TYC is interested in doing the best job possible and protecting the youth and staff....

Anonymous said...
You guys are kidding yourself if you really think anything within the TYC infastructure has really changed.

Want to see a marker of where reality really is? Look at the TYC Investigators that were working and doing the internal physical and sexual abuse cases before this all started and look at who they KEPT in the same positons with the "new changes" now in place. Even though there is a new Ombudsman's office- there will still be TYC investigators inside TYC doing cases like they always have before. Did you know that? Mr. Harrell, I hope you take a SERIOUS look at these Investigators and their work/ethic. You may be VERY concerned with what you find. They decided to keep some of the Investigators and demote others out of their positions. They kept a "chosen few". The chosen few may make you raise an eyebrow or two.
Look at the ones they kept and then look at the ones they demoted out of the position.
Look at their job performance of: Number of cases overturned on appeal due to inadequate or improperly done investigative work; Number of complaints filed against them for behavior indicating their findings would be pro-agency despite the facts and unprofessionalism; The number of follow ups or addendums they have to be told to do before submitting reports because they don't make sense or add up, etc. etc. etc. Look at who they kept to "do a good job and keep the students safe" and who they didn't.
It will seal the deal for you if you have any misconception that what started all of this has really changed for the better.

Anonymous said...

Finally, one of the Central Office bigwigs found his way to John Shero, where he spent about two hours talking with kids and with the facility administrator. So far, Will Harrell is the only member of the new, executive administration to make the treacherous 84 mile trek from Austin to San Saba. Although it took a while, at least we know that at least one person in CO cares enough to actually "see" what's really going on out in the field. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that John Shero and Marlin are six weeks from closing and that there is still no viable plan for reorganization? Wasn't that supposed to have been completed in April? Last week, it seems that Dimitria, once again rejected the reorganization plan for juvenile corrections. I guess it's difficult to formulate a plan when you haven't got a clue about what you're doing. It should be painfully obvious that these folks from TDCJ are out of their depth and still refuse to understand the differences between adult and juvenile corrections. Perhaps the MSM should shift its focus from Will Harrell, who is being criticized for not doing his job in TYC with no staff and no money, to Ed, Dimitria and the rest of the TDCJ scavengers that are slowly, but surely dragging TYC down to ruin.

Anonymous said...

to 7/03/03, 7:44pm--

Regarding all these appointments to positions without following an application & interview process: No doubt the administration will use the status of "under conservatorship" to justify these actions. They will use this status as carte blanche. This is downright scary.

What accountability is there now? Are they to be held accountable by the no-longer-in-session legislature? By a governor who himself made the appointments? By the MSM who no longer treats TYC as the chic topic it was a few months ago?

Anonymous said...

You know what surprises me is that everyone thought Will was going to be a pain in the ass when in fact everyone I've spoken to has described him as approachable and open to ideas. huh? You bet. The field staff he's met seem to be impressed as evidenced by 7:21's comments. Is this just a honeymoon or is this shit for real? If it's for real, and he's truely advocating for both youth and staff, we may have found a bridge between our population, families, and our staff. This ought to be worth watching...

Anonymous said...

To Annyn. 10:54am. I am one of those investigator's that was there on the inside the whole time. You don't know what you are talking about. You don't know about the number of times that we had tried to get charges filed when the local DA didn't want to be bothered becuase those kids are in "jail" already. My position is limited on what actions I could take, and I have seen case after case where I have confirmed on abuse charges and nothing happened becuase we had facility supervisors who didn't want to take action becuase that staff was a good employee, or they want to cover their collective keisters. I can't speak for other investigators, but I will speak for myself. Since all this broke I have had my caseload go from 10-15 cases a month to over 70. I am away from my family for up to three weeks a month, investigating cases because I care about what I do. I welcome anyone to check out my work ethic, and welcome anyone to review my cases. You don't know what you are talking about. I have been with this agency for over three years, and have worked alot of cases, I have never had a case overturned, and all my cases have been upheld on appeal. I am proud of the work I do, despite the fact that our section (Youth Care Investigator) is the only one without a carrer ladder, and we don't get overtime. My two supervisors are two of the finest men I have ever worked with, and trust me I have had some major idiots as supervisor over 15 years in state employement. I welcome Mr. Harrell, Mr. Toney or anyone else to come and review my cases, and my work ethic. Because I know that it will pass any test. I don't mean to be rude, but I have been silent, and just doing my job, but you are out of line, and a moron who doesn't know what he/she is saying.

whitsfoe said...

That last post... yeah I know you guys are busting your ass. I'm seeing it all. I can't imagine having to do quality investigative reporting under those time constraints with that many cases. The OIG is only getting criminal and you guys are getting all the employee misconduct claims and that 3X the load of an OIG investigator. Unfortunately it's going to keep at this pace for a while. Hang in there... don't sweat the feedback on here... it's just the way it goes.

"Chuy" said...

I for one have seen great work done by out TYC IG's. But, I will also say over the years these positions have been posted and open for over 6 months at a time and CO just hired anyone that met the minimum then would not provide training to these folks.

I believe these are the ones getting the finger pointed at, based upon who hired just to fill a slot. But, I agree not all should be painted with the same brush. Kinda like saying all TYC employees are pedophiles based upon the West Texas Scandal!!!

Anonymous said...

To 6:01 pm-
Regarding your "moron" outburst and belief that I am out of line for my comment:
I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT AND AM WELL QUALIFIED TO SPEAK TO IT.
You may have been one of the investigators during the whole process, but are YOU one of the "select few" being being KEPT as an investigator now? Or, are you one of the ones being "reassigned" to a different position by the new administration?
And, if you are saying your two supervisors (and I know who you speak of) are two of the finest people you have ever worked for, I can only recommend expanding your work experience. Your view may change.

Anonymous said...

To 9;02

I am not going to bother with your outburst about investigators. I have worked hard over the year, I don't get involved in politics because I am too busy working cases. I don't know about who is getting reassigned. I am not assigned to a school, so I am not being reassigned. I have almost 25 years experince including several as a supervisor, so I think I am in an excellent position to be able to judge good or bad supervisors.

Signed 10:05

Anonymous said...

To 10:05/6:53

If you are not assigned to a facility nor know about the reassignements, then it appears you responded to a post without having the information of what and who is being talked about. Before you react and call someone a "moron", it may be beneficial to have that information.

Regarding your statement that you feel your years in the supervisory role make you qualified to know a good supervisor when you see one:
That ability is subjective and relative to the eyes being seen through. High opinions are usually given to others with like minds, actions, approaches and ethic. I.E.- sheep flock with sheep and wolves with wolves. Ask either which is better and both will say they are. You have your opinion and I have mine.

Anonymous said...

Back to Mr. Harrell. My initial reaction was to be critical of the pols who were slamming him - however, he could have spent more time visiting the facilities and observing what goes on, good, bad, ugly and beautiful. He could spend some time talking to those "incompetent" TYC investigators to a. pump them for information, b. judge for himself their level of competence and dedication, rather than having to rely on the opinions of others, such as the angry poster here. I, too know the two supervisors mentioned, and I agree that they are fine, competent individuals with lots of integrity.

Anonymous said...

Actually, to Mr/Ms "KNOWS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT", all of the current YCIs were offered a choice of whether to continue as a YCI or to take one of the new YRS positions.

I myself am closing in on 20 years with TYC and spent 5 years as an investigator inside the agency and close to 10 years, military and civilian, doing and/or supervising investigations. That said, it is true that when times got tight, some folks were hired who had no investigative experience, and they got only the two weeks of DFPS training.

Anonymous said...

4:05- You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. I have seen enough actions and lack there of from these two individuals to form a different opinion than yours.
To 4:14. You might want to spend the time talking with the actual investigators before you claim knowledge that they were given the choice and knew all the facts of this. That IS NOT the case. Some were told nothing and others who were told of the "choice" had information left out that would have been important in forming a decision for them.