Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TYC kids need healthy relationships with adults they can trust

This is a special guest post from Mie Lewis of the national ACLU Women's Rights Project, author of the recent report "A Blueprint for Girls at TYC" (discussed here on Grits). If you have any questions or comments about the report, she tells me she'd love to respond in the comments. Going forward, Lewis also asks that anyone interested in the report or concerned with girls' issues at TYC please contact her at mlewis@aclu.org.

* * *

It’s still a little mysterious to me why TYC granted the request of a lawyer from the ACLU Women’s Rights Project for access to its facilities to investigate the conditions in which girls are confined, but whatever the reason they did.

For two weeks I drove through central Texas in a rented Kia to the six facilities where girls are held: Brownwood, Willoughby, Corsicana, Marlin, WINGS, and Victoria. I interviewed as many girls as I could in that time, observed daily life, and spoke with TYC workers and administrators, some of whom I approached and some of whom approached me. I’m grateful to everyone who shared their thoughts. (I can always be reached at mlewis@aclu.org by anyone with opinions about what’s happening in TYC, what should be happening, or how to make it happen.)

I’ve visited juvenile facilities in a few different states, and what struck me about TYC’s state schools is how much they look and feel like junior prisons designed to produce junior prisoners. That goes against TYC’s legal duty to prepare delinquent kids for “reestablishment in society,” and anyone knowledgeable in juvenile justice will tell you that the adult corrections model doesn’t work for kids. Huge facilities, prison rules, and the 16-hour schedule also cause other problems, like pitting kids and staff against each other by keeping everyone worn down and on edge.

Good things do happen within TYC but often not so much by institutional design as by individual acts of compassion. For example, almost every girl I interviewed described childhoods full of exploitation and violence, but the girls hadn’t received individual counseling from TYC to address it. (I don’t doubt that it’s the same for boys, as some of you point out.)

One girl surprised me. She had the standard background: She’d been raped repeatedly by her father over about five years, she’d abused drugs from a very young age, she had a child, whom she neglected, by a much older man, and she was destructive:

I tried a lot of suicide, like I would carve on myself. Or like one time I rammed my head into a brick wall and I knocked myself out . . . I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t care. I’d always leave my child with my sister or my other sister and my mom. I’d just go out and drink and didn’t care. I wasn’t taking responsibilities for nothing, I was just throwing it to the side.

The surprise came when I asked the girl whether anyone at TYC had talked with her about the abuse. She said something very different from the other girls:

I had a wonderful caseworker. Like, I never opened up so much [before].…I would always talk to him. I’d be in his office every day. And then I started, like, I’ve been doing it on my own now. It went down from every day to once a week or so.

It felt good to finally talk.…It started helping me ‘cuz I started realizing everything. That I shouldn’t just dwell on what my father did to me…I just found, like, I opened my eyes I guess, started realizing.

I just know that I feel like I’m different. Like, how do you say it? Like I feel like I can do stuff on my own and I know what I’m doing, like I’m ready or something. I just want what’s best for me and my child.

If Texas wants reformed kids, better recidivism numbers, and fewer assaults on staff and fights between kids, TYC has to change profoundly enough so that every kid comes out saying what this girl did. TYC’s kids need a lot of things, including healthy food, decent medical care, independent living skills, and much more, but somewhere at the heart of things there has to be a chance for kids to build healthy relationships with adults they can trust.

I know there’s been a lot of talk about the “Missouri Model,” but I was surprised that no one I met in the TYC leadership had bothered to go see how Missouri’s facilities actually work. I visited several of them last year and I found that, although kids from the streets of East St. Louis are just as tough as kids from Harris County, the Missouri facilities are another world. Everyone’s pretty relaxed. Everyone, from teachers to unit staff to cafeteria workers, is required to have positive interaction with the kids every day, and they do. The kids carry around little books called “Passports to the Community” marking their progress through the program, and including things like mandatory family counseling meetings and home visits. Workers don’t have to debate the relative merits of pepper spraying or tackling out-of-control kids because kids and staff are usually nice to each other. When higher-level administrators come by for visits, which they do often, they know staff and kids by name. In 2005, Missouri’s recidivism rate was 7.1%.

I see very little in the reform legislation or the administrative shuffling that will get TYC from here to there. But what Missouri offers is proof that it can happen, and a model for how to do it. For TYC workers, any progress toward that model means a safer, less stressful work environment and a better chance to make a difference in kids’ lives. It’s possible but it will take a lot of heavy lifting by everyone involved in TYC, from the leadership to the workers to the kids and their families. For our part, we’ll help however we can.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well here's a start, and by the way, thanks for opening this up for discussion. First and foremost, change in the TYC culture will not happen over night. As of this moment, people who have put hurdles in our way by creating unrealistic expectations of these kids in the treatment aspect, are gone... we are reorganizing, so give it time.

Second, and I've been in this business for 22 years now, but since you asked, and because I am a state employee I can't advocate for a change in the sentencing law, but man-oh-man, I have started referring kids who are now 25 years old with felonies they got when they were 12 who can't get in the military to serve their county because of the felonies. It's a crying shame that although most can have their records sealed, most parent's don't have the money for the attorney retainer fee to get it done, or who don't have parents who care to not realizing that it's going to significantly impact their kids lives forever. I've been referring these former kids over to the Texas Civil Rights project hoping that someone will see the injustice of this all. I mean, how many times have you done stupid things when you were a kid?

Are you in Austin? I'd like to get out of my state hat and talk as a citizen and call you about what I've been seeing over the past ten years. We are just not drawing a big distinction between what an adult felony looks like vs. a 10 year getting the same charge. I even had a state rep staffer call me on one of these cases. A 10 year old selling crack in Houston, who was sent to us, released at 12 years of age, completed his parole, and was discharged. Learned his lesson, went to College, and got a degree. Signed up to go to Iraq and was denied.

Anonymous said...

As a TYC employee, I have worked in the state school and halfway house setting. I am currently working in the halfway house in Harlingen and there is more time to spend with the youth. Our supt made this a safe environment by teaching us how to talk with the boys and stay positive. If you had visited our place a month ago, you would of loved to see how the staff and kids were. Now, our supt is out on suspension, not for abuse, but for postage and fed ex. What is sad is my fellow JCO staff, or most of us except one, are sad. The youth behavior has changed and we can see it. Our supt was able to give hope to the kids and when she said she would do something, she did. Now, we have do direction, there is no leadership and not the youth and JCO staff are suffering. I can only speak for myself, but I know many would agree, we want her back, for us and the kids.

Austin said...

If the Legislators state (and they did) that they want all youth regionalized why are they placing all the girls in Brownwood Texas? Last time I checked it is 4 hours from Houston to Brownwood, but this was the direction they said would occur.

TYC has changed but the youth have changed as well, I am sorry but you cannot compare a state (Missouri) to Texas, just look at the size and the amount of youth in each state.

Lets compare Ma and Pa's grocery store to Walmart, of course you get better service with Ma and Pa!!!!

Leadership is needed right now within TYC and direction, how about a plan to move forward and not a plan to change TYC to TDCJ.

But this is what is occurring everyday, jobs are not posted, staff from TDCJ are appointed, what direction is this agency going in, I am sure someone knows but their not saying.

Anonymous said...

I am an associate psychologist with TYC and have a license to practice counseling in the state of Texas. As a "counselor" with this agency, however, I am required to do assessments that are meaningless and ultimately the 20 or so pages get reduced to a couple of paragraphs at Austin anyway.

My education, training and experience as an LPC are all geared toward providing the type of counseling these kids need. Instead of being allowed to do what I do best, though, I am relegated to paperwork.

The agency is not focused on helping kids or they would have allocated their resources (like the dozens of LPC already hired and working in the facilities) toward that end. The State of Texas wants the bad kid problem to go away and hiding the problem in kiddie prisons apparently serves that purpose well enough. They need my credentials to make the paperwork look important and proper, but when I try to provide counseling services, I get shut down or discouraged from doing it.

It has been very interesting to listen to the high muckety mucks the past few months. What comes out of their mouths is "treatment" but what come out in policy and directives and culture is "incarceration."

TYC is in a desperate tailspin the effects of which won't even truly be felt for several more months. People are abandoning ship daily and the agency has developed a reputation for being hostile toward employees. Who would willingly come to work here now? This kind of problem takes years to fix but this group of leaders are much more interested in making things look "fixed" now.

This is a very sad time for the citizens of Texas and most of them don't even know it yet.

Anonymous said...

I agree 9:50pm and this all falls on Perry, Whitmire, Hinijosa, and Maddens head.

For not providing leadership and just placing TDCJ staff in Juvenile settings. Where did they get the experience in working with these youth?

TYC is not TDCJ and anyone who has spent anytime working with juveniles would know this. Lets just stop the spin.

Anonymous said...

For some very bizarre reason, the state has chosen TDCJ as a model for TYC -- from the people in place to the policy changes made daily. If the ACLU wants to help these youth, find ways to push the govenor to find someone with some knowledge, ability and skill in juvenile treatment or law to serve as the next leader.

Anonymous said...

To Mie Lewis....What a breath of fresh air you are! Maybe YOU should run the TYC...no kidding!! I have worked for TYC for over a decade now, and you have no idea how much I support what you are saying. The TYC kids need more positive role models if they are ever expected to change. More than anything else...they need to know we care. Many of them will experience positive input FOR THE FIRST TIME in their lives when they come to us.

I have seen first-hand the failures of a "boot camp' mentality. It may work fine on the short-term for grown men who willingly sign up to serve their country. It works because they are only in boot camps for a few weeks--fully expecting to be treated roughly... but for the long-haul in dealing with the rehabilitation of youth...kindness goes a long way. If they are treated like animals...they will act like animals. If they are treated with kindness and respect...they will do the same.
If the Missouri Model boasts a 7.1% recidivism rate because they have good relstionships with their youth...then we need to follow suit.

Thanks for your input Ms. Lewis. I will bookmark your email address. I have a lot of ideas to share.

Anonymous said...

Question to Grits...when are you going to get a guest commentator who knows what they're talking about instead of flunkies like this Lewis person who doesn't?

If Lewis knew what she was talking about, she would know that comparing recidivism rates between states is like comparing apples to kumquats - different states with different ages of majority have different definitions of what it means to recidivate. If she had bothered to do real research instead of read the press clippings off of the Missouri DYS web site, she would know that 7.1% figure is B.S. I know I've done the research - it's obvious she hasn't. How she could comment on the problems of TYC without mentioning the lack of adequate financial resources is anybody's guess.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 11:29: Please be polite - a) I haven't gone through the funding in detail myself yet, and b) I told her to keep it under 1,000 words, so she couldn't cover everything.

Please don't use insulting language like "flunky," not just about Lewis but in the comments generally. Frankly I'm increasingly annoyed at the unkind, unconstructive tone of some of these TYC comment strings. Please try to disagree without being so disagreeable, not just with Ms. Lewis but with each other, too. Save your venom for those who deserve it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The posting title is obvious. Like all kids, TYC kids need healthy relationships with adults they can trust.

TYC has many faithful and dedicated employees who can provide this.

What TYC kids need is a governor who can think of someone besides himself and make thoughtful and appropriate decisions about the juvenile justice system.

What TYC kids needs is real advocates in the legislature who actually pay attention when there are early indications of sexual abuse, not just when the media gets ahold of a story.

What TYC kids need is leadership in the agency, at all levels and all divisions, that know what they are doing and have experience to provide direction for the departments they oversee.

What TYC kids need is for an agency to be funded to provide facilities, not just cut corners by utilizing old TDCJ facilities.

What TYC kids need is basic services and supports when they leave.

What TYC kids need is honest and experienced advocates who don't accept as the whole truth what they are told by TYC youth.

What TYC kids need is a legislature that focuses on the prevention of kids becoming TYC kids. Texas does so little with youth who show early signs of chronic delinquency.

What TYC kids need is to be from another state.

Texas should be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

The prognosis for TYC is bleak, to say the least! I have never seen such an ill conceived reorganization of an agency. People with no juvenile experience or progressive management skills were placed in charge of an agency which continues to affect many of the youth in Texas as well as the public. The impact of the TYC reorganization will have lasting scares on the State of Texas. My greatest fear is that the reorganization will setup a backlash in juvenile justice in Texas that will foster a punitive style juvenile corrections system similar to TDCJ. Just when I thought things could not get worse at TYC they did. When there is no one to work at TYC I hope the National Guard can do a good job for the TYC kids. I guess the TYC youth could all be released to end up in the adult system then we would need the three additional prisons. Progress in Texas is an elusive thing!

A Critical Observer said...

As an observer of the state's criminal justice and juvenile systems for more than four decades, I have never seen it in such a critical state, due primarily to a lack of visionary leadership. Placing Dimitria Pope in charge of the Texas Youth Commission defies logic, and allowing her to make important personnel decisions with no apparent oversight borders on incompentency on the part of our elected officials. If our elected officials think they solved the problems of the Texas Youth Commission during this past legislative session, they are sadly mistaken. They have created a monster they will have to deal with for many years to come.

Anonymous said...

"TYC kids need healthy relationships with adults they can trust"...yes, that is true. But the staff have to work together first before any of the youth feel safe, secure and are willing to take the step to trust. These kids know who is on the up and up and who isn't. They see more and hear more than you could possibly imagine. They know which staff is respected and trusted by their peers and who isn't. The TYC environment that they are in needs to foster this. At this point in the TYC saga, it's hard to trust...period. How can you when you've got posters or it painted on the walls "Call the hotline on alledged wrong doing"? How can you trust when you go to work everyday in such a deteriorated envirnoment, full of paranoia because you don't know who's talking about who or saying what? How can the kids learn to trust in that environment? For the kids to begin trusting, the staff has to feel safe to trust...and many do not.

Anonymous said...

I would like to respond to two topics raised in this discussion.

1. I see nothing inherently wrong with making state-to-state comparisons. TYC was created in the 40s b/c Texas reformers were copying other states. After the Morales settlement, in the 1980s, other states looked to emulate features of TYC - were they mistaken b/c Texas is different?

Also, Missouri is far less dissimilar from Texas than, say, Vermont. It is a moderately sized, politically conservative state, with large numbers of juvenile offenders coming from inner city neighborhoods. In fact, Missouri's leading conservative pols (including, I am told, when he was governor, John Ashcroft) support the "Missouri model" b/c it is saving them money.

The fact that the Texas juvenile inmate population is larger than Missouri's shouldn't be an automatic disqualifier either - any program can adapt to that kind of variable.

The real rub, in my view, is that Texas, a much wealthier state than Missouri, tends to resist spending money over a long period of time on things like juvenile rehabilitation. Instead, historically, the state has gone for quick fix solutions like we may be seeing now.

Obviously, there will always be differences between states, but that doesn't mean there is nothing useful about looking to another state's solutions for ideas, esp if they seem to be producing success.

2. Several posts have asked why TYC is so heavily influenced by the TDCJ correctional model, and why so many TDCJ officials and employees cross over into TYC. This feature is not unique to Texas but it is pronounced there. One post even stated that TYC has "chosen TDCJ as its model".

To varying degrees over the past century, before and during the TYC era, juvenile corrections in Texas has taken cues from the adult system: classification systems, modes of discipline, inmate labor regimes, methods of maintaining order.

Why? Partly because policy makers and public opinion have periodically swung back and forth between seeing the kids AS kids, messed up and in need of help ("a caring relationship with an adult they can trust" as Mie Lewis puts it), and seeing them as adult-like monsters in need of restraint and punishment.

I would argue that the reason staff today are constantly put in impossible situations that call for physical violence and an adversarial relationship is b/c of the prisonization of TYC by policy makers in the 1990s. And right now the words coming from legislators ("we fixed TYC") and policy people in Austin (e.g., Kimbrough) isn't encouraging about this changing.

Kimbrough's report, with its list of recommendations, was overwhelmingly concerned with order and security and lacked substantive ideas about the stated mission of rehabilitation. The few items that did reference it offered earth-shaking suggestions like separating the kids by age or offense category, ideas that are only about 100 years old.

I do get the sense, as some posts here state, that some people in Austin would like for the TYC problem to just go away and for these kids to become invisible like before. If that means locking the institutions down even more, so they resemble TDCJ facilities, fine with them.

It is here that the battle for TYC's future must be joined by those who don't want it to go the way of TDCJ. That would be a disaster for both the kids and the staff. It will be like throwing gasoline on a burning fire.

Bill Bush, UNLV

Dr. Papschmear said...

"A Critical Observer" makes probably the most astute observation regarding Ms. Pope. But it goes deeper than simply a lack of visionary leadership. She is bound and determined to make TYC over, not just in the image of TDCJ, but of Demitira Pope. All of the faults the Lege found with the old TYC execs in regard to no communication with the field, fostering an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and retaliation and crony-ism are flourishing to a degree now that boggles the mind. Secrecy regarding the fate of Marlin and John Shero is the order of the day, even though our good friends at UTMB know that we will be closing 08/31/07 and have known for some time. And don't forget Sheffield Boot Camp, Victory Field and West Texas State School who are all slated for closure by the end of FY 09. But, shhhhhh, don't tell TYC staff. Their executive leadership hasn't told them anything yet. It's a surprise!

And whatever happended to competitive hiring and equal opportunity employment? Is it legal to appoint a TDCJ or Jay Kimbrough crony to every available TYC job vacancy? Let's see, the Ombudsman, the General Counsel, the Inspector General, Karen Collins-Giles replacement in HR...even Dimitria Pope's secretary to name a few. Add to that the fact that most of the investigators, having to be licensed peace officers, will come out TDCJ and they get to keep their 2.75 retirement multiplier (TYC's is 2.25). The old TYC Guiding Principle # 8 used to read "TYC recognizes that staff is its most valuable asset" has been replaced by "Dimitria Pope recognizes TDCJ staff as TYC's most valuable asset."

To me, the bottom line here is how this new crew has demonstrated no concern whatsoever for the staff who have and continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of the delinquent youth of the State of Texas. Every opportunity is seized upon to belittle, berate and humiliate the hundreds of good, decent human beings that were the TYC family. Not everyone in TYC is a pedophile, nor are those staff fired for past misdemeanors and/or felonies necessarily bad people or bad role models. And not everyone who has an opinion different than yours, Ms. Pope, is an anarchist. Compassion for the families of our employees and for their communities aren't even a fleeting thought in the new institutional consciousness. I guess those high dollar salaries that are up for grabs in Central Office somehow dull one's sensitivity to the fact that one of the basic tenents of leadership is that if you take care of the people who work for you, they will take care of you. Somewhere along the line our execs decided that the only way to fix TYC is to get rid of anyone who knows anything about juvenile corrections.

And what of "the Plan"? That magical panacea that'll cure what ails us? Again, how do you formulate an effective plan when you haven't an inkling about what you're doing? Soon there is to be yet another messenger from CO to conduct yet another survey. This one is on the Transitional Treatment Program. Actually, it's just a way for those folks who know nothing about treatment to hopefully get some ideas from the people in the field so that maybe no one will notice that they are clueless about treatment and treatment programs. See what happens when you fire all the people who know treatment?

I don't recall who said that TYC would be months recovering from this dark chapter in their history, but I think we're not going to be that lucky. I think it'll be more like years. Juvenile crime isn't going to go away and all the misdemeanants that don't come to TYC will be replaced by felons, and lots of them. No thought has been given to where you're going to put them once they begin to backlog in the counties. With the negative image our legislature has graciously hung around our collective TYC necks, I wonder how many "quality" people will seek employment with TYC? And how about those great wages? You get what you pay for.

And before I forget, I'd like to say a couple of things about Sheffield Boot Camp. $8.9 million for the new dorms, 10 new housing units built for staff use, a 32-pad mobile home park, three houses in Sheffield from Iraan ISD and eight houses in Marathon Park in Iraan. Can you say fraud, waste and abuse?

I'd like to quote Mr.(or perhaps Dr.)Bill Bush (UNLV), who, in his blog said,

"It is here that the battle for TYC's future must be joined by those who don't want it to go the way of TDCJ. That would be a disaster for both the kids and the staff. It will be like throwing gasoline on a burning fire." Thank you, sir for your insightful comments. You wouldn't be interested in our Executive Director job, would you? (Just kidding! :-))

TYC and its people deserves much better than to go the "way of TDCJ."

Anonymous said...

Seriously Mr. (Dr.) Bush - would you be interested in the executive commisioner job? Or, do you know anyone with both knowledge and vision that someone might be able to talk Perry into? PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

Hey - for those of you listening in CO.....

We can't make it out here in the field much longer.

* we have no staff
* we have no respect from anyone
* we have no time to worry about what direction you are taking us.
* we need help now!

I agree with a sprinkling of several of the comments. I have some of my own.....

* treat them like criminals they act like criminals, treat them like kids they act more like kids. Our current situation is preventing us from treating anyone from anything other than herded cattle.
* trust is needed in treatment. You cannot gain a trustful relationship in our current staffing situations. We were barely functioning before, we are dying now.
* all good parents know that behavior modification takes rewards and consequences - hey, if you are listening, it takes staff to provide rewards and consequences. We have none! It's like being a single parent of 24.
* there is plenty of time to turn the agency into tdcj or whatever model you choose, but there is not time to continue neglecting the critical state that your institutions are in. I realize that you don't have to work in this everyday, but there has to be someone up there that realizes the mess we are in. Good managers would realize that they must help us. That would start with talking with us. At this point, I don't care if it is Ms. Pope or Bugs Bunny, anyone that is willing to help cover some shifts is welcome.

It is that urgent and it is that desperate out here. We cannot make a difference if cannot keep the dorms covered. We cannot teach them if we cannot keep them safe. We cannot worry about long term reform until we get staff to just work the floor. The more staff leave through their own choice or as disciplinary measure, the more apathetic the rest become.

I am not perfect and I do not know it all, but I am there and attempting to hold things together - where are you CO? I don't need you reading the blogs and attempting to influence policy. I need you on the floor talking with the local management teams finding out what issues need to be addressed today and tomorrow. Yes, it is that serious. I don't care about you coming to talk with us about the HB - We are just attempting to survive. It is like talking to a a homeless person about Thanksgiving dinner when they are only worried about where they will get dinner today.

I am here; I am still willing to do the right thing. I cannot do it without some support. I realize that this may mean that I am the next target for dismissal, but I have been doing this for 17 years and I will be damned to leave everyone high and dry. As a recent employee stated in his good bye e-mail..... You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run......
I refuse to go - I feel an obligation to the people that I work with to help them get through this. We cannot all leave. Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for some of them that have chosen to fold them - but I just can't go there. I also cannot hang on in the current state of affairs.

CO - WE ARE STILL HERE AND I HAVE A 12 HR SHIFT TO COVER TOMORROW NIGHT - LET US KNOW IF WE HAVE ANY TAKERS!

Rambo said...

Anonymous @ 11:06pm.

I hear your cries. Unfortunately, the concerns you shared have been a problem for TYC for a long time -- They've only recently been compounded. I'd love to help, and would be more than willing to take that shift, but I'm still on suspension.

Rambo

Anonymous said...

For me the most frustrating thing is the silence in the MSM now that all the Kimbrough egotistical grandstanding is over.

Why are we not reading news stories about the staffing crisis?

Why are we not reading stories about the exponential rise in violence in the facilities?

Why are we not reading about the increase in workman's comp claims?

Why are we not reading stories in the newspaper that quote field staff instead of the TYC talking heads?

Mr. Ward? Are you there? Dallas Morning News staff: you took so much credit of "blowing the lid off this story" some months ago. Where are you now?

Are you going to do your job and tell the good citizens of Texas what a disaster this is becoming? Or are you guilty for having given Kimbrough such a big platform upon which to hang the employees and children of TYC.

I've been reading the Austin American Statesman and the Dallas Morning News for more than 20 years. I have never been more disappointed that I am today...and some days their silence even disgusts me.

no jailbird said...

Ms. ACLU
Please let me tell you what these kids don't have:
Repect, ethics, morals, accountability, Pride,hatefulness, just amoung afew. Most don't have parents that give a hoot about them.
Now let me tell you what they do have:
They have a place to stay that is warm in the winter cool in the summer with hot running water and restroom facilies. They have medical,dental,medications,eye glasses an education. They have 3 meals a day and snacks. They have cloths and shoes to wear. They are provided with personal items for their use. They still have caring staff that watches over them. They get to participate in sports and fund raisers. They get to watch tv Much of these items are better than what the children of employees receive. So "What" is your problem????

Anonymous said...

To no jailbird: For starters, some of those kids get raped and nobody seems to give a crap. Who knows what goes on that the media didn't report? We know Ed Owens will never tell us. Confirmed abuse by staff has tripled since the '03 budget cuts, but who cares? They get three meals, wear shoes and watch TV, right? That makes up for being taken away from your family and beaten or raped in some godforsaken prison in the middle of nowhere. Give me a break! Maybe change your handle from nojailbird to headinsand.

no jail bird said...

To 10:40
Did I address you? I think not. You must not work for TYC because you have you head stuck in the abuse lane. What happend happened. It was not right. We can not change it. We can only learn from it and do everything we can do to make sure that it does not happen again. So get in the left lane and get past it and get back in the lane that can make a difference. The kids will still get all the things listed and maybe just maybe they will earn and learn some of the things that they do not have be for they are sent back home to those who don't care and never did....
For you I will change my name to U can Stick it....

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:40. You do realize that these kids are criminals, don't you? They weren't taken away from their family, they broke the law and were incarcerated as a result of their actions. They lie, cheat and steal and use whatever they can to get over on the staff in charge of them. Does that mean they deserve any type of abuse? Of course not. They need a program that hopefully can get them back on the right path and teach them the right way to do things, but the fact remains, they are drug addicts/dealers, armed robbers, thieves or worse. If they weren't, they wouldn't be where they are.

Anonymous said...

"Does that mean they deserve any type of abuse? Of course not."

And yet, some commenters like 1:04 seem to think WTSS was an isolated incident and we can move on to address whatever personal complaint or internal bureaucractic enemy they're whining about at the moment. I don't believe for a moment that the abuses at WTSS are the only ones out there, or that they're not happening any longer. It's more likely the mass departure of experienced staff and the purging of those with criminal records has worsened abuse problems. Stick your head in the sand if you want, but then expect another media frenzy in a year or two when the next case is discovered.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dr. Papschmear, here's a little tidbit for ya! The following was taken from an email to UTMB staff. All that si not relevant was edited out. Very interesting!!!!
06/14/07 11:18am P. 002
Attachments:
I promised to keep everyone updated as best I can so as of this minute.

MAOU will move to Mart by August 31st, 2007.

Shero will close by August 31st, 2007.

Sheffield, Vernon, and WTSS have tentative closure dates of 3/1/2008.

IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT NONE OF THE ABOVE HAS BEEN FORMALLY ANNOUNCED TO TYC STAFF THEREFORE YOU ARE NOT TO FORWARD THIS EMAIL OR DISCUSS ANY INFORMATION IT CONTAINS WITH TYC STAFF!!! ALL OF THIS INFORMATION IS STILL SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

...SBC, WTSS, and VFCA will be included in the HR meetings once the decision is finalized re: their coming to UTMB.

Please be patient as details develop. i know this is a trying time for you all and for your TYC colleagues and I will do my best to get correct information out to you asap. PLEASE....no dates to be communicated to TYC staff at this time. TYC Administration will send out communication to them soon. i appreciate each one of you very much; thank; you!

Anonymous said...

People like the 1:04 poster and others are what happens after the media does what it did. I don't think what happened at WTSS is an isolated incident either. My point was that I don't feel sorry for the kids because they are incarcerated. They made choices that got them where they are. What they need is a program to help them realize the errors they made and hopefully when they get out, have learned the right way to live their lives and make the right choices. Otherwise, they'll end up in the adult prison system, which will make their TYC experience look like summer camp in comparison.

Anonymous said...

I recieved a document today called "Texas Youth Commission" "Executive Sumary-FY2008-2009 Appropriations". It states quite clearly that "funding not included for Vernon, West Texas and Sheffield in FY 2009".

I work in Vernon and was informed yesterday that the principal has transferred to Gainsville state school. I went to education and asked him if its true; it is, he told me to my face when I asked.

Our local representative, Rick Hardcastle, has been lying to us from the get go, and still claims this closure isn't going to happen. I hope my awakening is not to late.

It is not so much who I'm voting for in the next election as who I'm voting against. Compared to this pond scum, I'd do a write in vote for an "Al Quaida" terrorist. I may not like what the terrorist says or does but at least I can trust what comes from his lips!

As far as closing, I don't like the effect on the local people, but if the big cities want to keep their perverts, thieves, rapists, and murderers close to home, then who am I to object? I definately would not want to interfere with this type of family lifestyle. Expertise takes training and time. Besides, who am I to poor chlorine in the gene pool?

I would like to say; congrats to the TDCJ clan on infiltrating TYC with your perverts, destroying the TYC working morale, and then taking over the base camp. You have been fantastically successful. Now go celebrate with an inner city crack head and have a blunt on TYC's funds.
At least you could have kissed me first!!!

I pity the children with this leadership!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Grits and you ask the MSM where they are with this new change taking place. Could it be they were in the pockets of legislators and once they went home the media left with them?

Why are the firing still taking place?

The ones fired why are they still on the payroll 3 months later?

Does anybody really care what is currently taking place in TYC?

Why are these memos going around but nobody informs the field, and leaves them with no answers and decisions about their family they will have to make based upon no one in leadership saying anything?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that Ray Brookins came from TDCJ originally? Are you surprised then at the high quality, ethical, morally upstanding individuals running TYC now? Why haven't any of the current execs bothered to visit and talk to the staff at John Shero? Hell, it's only 90 miles away. My guess starts with a chicken and ends in poop.

Anonymous said...

They're already backing up in Marlin! So much for Jay's, Ed's and Dimitria's master plan. When is the State going to wake up and realize that this whole TYC reorganization is just smoke and mirrors? There is no substance! It is clearly the product of what you get when you appoint people to run an agency who have no idea what they're doing. And once the five facilities close (and they ARE closing) the only option will be to overcrowd those remaining. So much for the legislatively mandated 12:1 ratio and safety of both staff and youth. What do you think the chances are that we'll see Jay, Ed and Dimitria working a dorm? Nope, they'll be the ones pointing fingers and blaming whomever may be left over from the original TYC crew for the whole mess they created.

As a completely unrelated aside, does anyone know if what is being done as far as these indiscriminate TDCJ appointments to TYC is even legal? And what about awarding contracts (UTMB)? Aren't they supposed to be offered for bid and not simply "given" away?

And one last thing...where are our good friends the media? Evidently there's no Pulitzer prize possiblities for reporting on the screwing of an agency.

A Friend of TYC said...

There have been some negative comments concerning Ed Owens, which are unjustified. He has devoted his entire career to public service.

If he is to be critized, it is for appointing Dimitria Pope as Acting Executive Director of the Texas Youth Commission. Because of her inability to effectively lead the Community Justice Assistance Divison of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, she was moved to the Research, Evaluation, and Development Unit, where she supervised a handful of employees.

Ms. Pope is ill-equipped to run an agency in crisis.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Friend of TYC: Lots of people devote their entire career to public service (another phrase for being a carreer bureaucrat) but are not competent to manage a state agency. After all, TDCJ was poorly run when he was #2 man there! I detailed my criticisms of Owens' appointment here. Take a look and tell me which of the three main points you consider invalid.

In addition, the TYC folks rightly point out that Owens and Pope have no juvie experience - neither do I, but I know enough to know the corrections philosophy toward youth differs mightily and decades at TDCJ wouldn't have prepared him for it. And you're right, drawing other top staff from TDCJ instead of people with juvie backgrounds exacerbates the problem. But that's just further evidence of poor management, not IMO reason to defend him. best,

no jailbird said...

To 6:22
Stupid is as stupid does....
With so many negative people like yourself those that do care and have faith that TYC will change and change for the better have a harder fight in front of them. We can make thigs better for both students and staff. It will be the people out in the field that will get the job done not the ones in central office.....
Those of us that care will do our best to make sure that the kids are safe and not harmed in anyway. We may lose our jobs but we will not let this happen again on our shift if we are aware of it....
The criminals will do their time and maybe they will leave with a new and great life ahead of them. In the end it is up to them...

Anonymous said...

10:22...Are you on crack or are you just still dreaming? No amount of caring can fix a sinking ship. You're on this boat with the rest of us. It's going down, and you can thank your ship captain, Rick Perry,and his crew mates from the 80th lege for not having enough lifeboats for everyone on board.

Anonymous said...

They said Resocialization isn't working; stay tuned for the new and improved treatment programs. They're coming soon! And what did we get? A compacted, highly edited, reworded version of Resocialization. Thanks CO.

Anonymous said...

Why are we hearing that the blogs are being investigated? And why is it so important to congregate and speculate on who is writing what about who? If the people who have been named in these blogs are so offended by what has been said, then WHY are they printing off the blog, passing it around and discussing it? All you are doing is promoting "the horrible things" that have been said and vicitimizing yourself. That is on you and no one else.

There has been some very nasty things said and there have been positive notes left unwritten--all of which promote unhealthy relationships. It is imperative that staff stand above this. When that can be done, then there will be healthy role models for the youth to follow and quality, life changing work produced.

Anonymous said...

Dear 11:35 pm,

Not saying anything about the nasty things that went on at WTSS two years ago and those responsible (both directly and indirectly) brought us to where we are today. The staff that tried to "stand above this" paid dearly for taking that stand. As distasteful as it is, sometimes "nasty things" have to be said. As far as role models go it would be nice if there were a few in Central Office for the staff in the field to look up to for positive guidance, support and understanding instead of living in fear of when the axe will fall on another one of us.

If we treat one another with respect and dignity and as the professionals say we are, we'll recover and survive. If we don't, we won't.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it would be nice to have a few role models for staff to look up to. Apparently these are few and far between. It would be nice to feel so good about my administration that I would feel the desire to let others know about them.

Anonymous said...

To 6/14/07 6:37 pm-Thank you so much for posting your info from the e-mail. This has generated a lot of talk at WTSS, Sheffeld and VFCA. Hopefully this has caused enough people to start asking questions to possibly make some people change their minds about the closings. I don't know about the other facilities but I do know that VFCA has a wonderful record of working the kidos through RIO-Y, high scores in their MATH scoring and wonderful success rate with their obtaining GED's. No, I do not work in education, but I am a VFCA employee.

I for one am sick and tired of all the turmoil and dread Fridays as all the bad news hits on Fridays (has anyone else noticed this). I would appreciate the powers that be at CO use some integrity and ethics (I borrowed that from a fellow employee who made that comment in respect to how they make us take ethics training every year)and give us some time lines. I don't mind working until they shut the doors as long as I have the opportunity to try to line up work with another state agency ahead of time.

If VFCA, Sheffeld and WTSS are shut down and all those employees go on unemployement, they lose their sick time that many dedicated people planned to roll into retirement. They will not be given that opportunity, so be prepared for lots of employees calling in sick over the next 10 months so that they don't lose that time. So much for bucking up and coming to work when you felt lowsy, because you knew others were out on vacation or gone on mandatory travel for the agency.

I encourage all your readers to now-immediately start bombarding your senators and representatives and the govenor about how you feel as an employee in the dwindling employee pool at your facility. If enough don't take action now, the lege will wake up in 2009 with a problem of too many kids and not enough facilities.

How many of you expect as I do for the population of TYC to explode before the end of the summer as the young people that have been turned loose, are out stealing cars, assaulting, robbery and gang banging until the late hours of the morning. They will be caught, as many haven't even gone to see their parole officers since their release, and will be sent to TYC by DA's and Judges who will no longer be leanent and plea bargain.

Those county detention centers can only hold so many and then they will be forced to send the sentenced ones to TYC.

I think the lege will be shocked at how high our population will explode before the end of this calendar year.

I will also be watching for announcements of numerous contract facilities magically appearing in the larger counties. I think someone was dragging all this out so that their friends could finish some up and will automatically get contracts because none others have been built yet. I would also be curios to see which Senators and Representatives might show up on their board of directors or friends or relatives of owners.

Grits, if these start showing up, please check out their owners.

Anonymous said...

Dear 11:06....I'm not sure who you are, but we've probably crossed paths at one time or another at Victory Field. I've been there ten years and was hoping for another 10 to 15. Those hopes have been cut short, as you may have heard, due to the anonymous controversial posting on this blogsite by anon 6-14-07 at 10:27pm... I don't know where this person found that email, but God bless him/her for posting it here so that another VFCA hero could enlighten the rest of us as to what is REALLY going on.

According to our local polital representative, this was yet another "mistake" mentioning the closure of Victory Field. These "mistakes" and "misprints" just keep popping up, yet each time, we are supposed to believe they are just speculations and mere rumors. Plllleeeaaaassseeee...give us a break!!!

To answer your question ANON 11:06, no, you are not alone in your feelings that Fridays are dread day. I have noticed that too, and this past Friday was the worst ever. I'm with you 11:06 in that I will hang on until the end, or until another suitable state agency job becomes available (not likely since we are last on the projected "axe list").

And another thing, it would be nice to know what the metamorphosis of Victory Field will be. After all, there are all kinds of repairs currently going on: cameras being installed, giant lights being installed along the fence line, roadway cracks being fixed...etc., etc...What is up with all of this as our youth population takes another 25% dip, and no one is getting hired to replace lost staff? I love working with the kids at Victory Field. It's been my life for the past decade, and I'd be more than happy to stick around if I only knew exactly what the changes were going to be, and most importantly, if I knew what my chances were in keeping a job with the new "whatever it is going to be" facility (TDCJ...is that you?).

Will the person with the answers PLEASE STAND UP???? How can we demonstrate acts of human decency to the youth when they are observing first-hand the great diservice the agency is handing down to its most dedicated employees (wouldn't that be the ones who have not jumped ship and are still hanging in there???) To those of you who know what's REALLY going on, but refusing to reveal...what exactly are YOU role modeling to the youth with this tactic? If your plan is to fix the agency...why not start by showing your employees a little respect?

For anyone "investigating" who is blogging on this website...you really should consider spending more time figuring out how to treat your dedicated employees?

signed,
an anonymous, frustrated, yet dedicated VFCA employee (FYI:there are many more)

Anonymous said...

Thank Dwight Harris...the man who destroyed TYC by incompetence and cronyism...yet he retires and slips aways...

Anonymous said...

If we are going to put blame on anyone, we need to start with who really started the downward spiral of TYC, Steve Robinson. Talk about a good ol boy system. He put so many positions in CO that he would never have to be looked at. The mess at WTSS and Evins started long before Dwight Harris took over. I have been in this agency for close to 20 years and saw it go down with Steve Robinson. He retired and hit the road right as things really started to go downhill. Dwight Harris was the fall guy for the years past and the corrupt ways CO did things. As far as them wanting to close facilities, I think it is disgusting to not let employees aware of this. How someone can sit back with the knowledge that they are going to drastically effect the lives of many and not say anything is in itself "abuse". How these individuals sleep at night is beyond me. To the great folks at VFCA, Sheffield, WTSS, thanks for a job well done and staying on for the kids, and know that there are those out here that support you and hate that you are being treated this way, no matter who is to blame.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 12:01....that was me at 1:07 (anon). I really do appreciate your support. Too bad people like you aren't running the TYC show.

To 9:53...you are right too. Dwight Harris retires and slips away. My guess is that he either doesn't possess a conscious, or he is not enjoying his guilt-ridden retirement at all.

To Robinson, Harris and the (alleged) child molesters out in West Texas: WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. I will sleep well knowing you'll get yours in the end (no pun intended.)

Anonymous said...

to 12:01,

Not that I disagree with you about Robinson but I really tend to believe and track the downfall of TYC to when Dwight became Deputy Executive Director after Sandy Burnam retired. Dwight systematically started bringing the likes of Chester Clay and Lydia Bynard who would cover up for those in their camp no matter their corruption or incompetence. Steve had Alan Steen but Steen might bring you in but he had no problem dropping you fast if you couldn't do your job or were going to make him look bad. Steve was coasting the last couple of years and was letting Dwight run the show. Besides Dwight had the blessings of
Leonard Lawrence and was pretty much doing what he wanted.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of who to blame, back to the line of the blog post...the full legislature needs to know that with the onslaught of so many TDCJ employees coming to TYC, who have no juvenile justice background, only adult prisons, how in the world do they no anything about what a CHILD needs to help them back into society and a lifestyle that will help them succeed in life...not go to ADULT prison...everyone contact your representatives, senators and the governor. Start with Whitmire and Madden...it is their joint committee and TYC is feeding them a line of SH**.

Anonymous said...

VERY GOOD POINT 2:33....Power is in numbers, so if we band together, maybe our message will be heard. Sure we can scream, cuss and throw blame around from now until doomsday, but the TYC kids and the dedicated TYC employees are the ones who will undoubtedly suffer in the end. We need to band together before this thing goes to far.

Anonymous said...

Normally, I don't believe in assigning blame, I believe in fixing the problem. The problems were not TYC and its programs as a whole, imperfect they may be, i.e. resocialization was not the problem.

The problem with the agency lay with those who were ultimately in charge, setting and interpreting policy... Management that was so worried about how things looked rather than how things functioned. Unfortunately, the house cleaning was more about destroying the house and rebuilding (extreme makeover, at least on the TV show they appear to build something better than the original) rather than throwing out a few problem tenants (there were many hard working people both in CO and in the field that got caught in the crossfire.)

If they, the new administration, really wanted for things to work then they would bring back some of the persons fired with new management to set the tone. Nothing like a good kick in the rear to set the tone and get people out of their comfort zones or power base. One example, I would hire back Linda Reyes (she's too soft hearted but she was good at rehab...not good as a Deputy Exec Director.)

Things needed to be shaken up changed, but not destroyed. Leave the Marie Murdocks and Brit Canarie (bring him back) the Stan Degelorami's and others that actually cared more about running the agency rather than covering for their buddies or engaged in destructive little power struggles (Steen vs. Clay).

But for now, the new administration, the governor, and legislators appear to more concerned with appearing to have done something than DOING something...and that is NO CHANGE AT ALL!

benthardunthat said...

There are many true and sad comments on here about the problems with TYC. But the problems are just beginning. The boys in the Senate saw a chance to grandstand, take all of our eyes off several balls they did not want us looking at making a scene about a real issue...the abuses.

There is no excuse for the WTSS stuff and those men need to put under the jail. But Harris was toast long before the WTSS story broke. WTSS just gave them a faster way to take make moves and one that everyone could get behind. When the lights went on to other issues in Austin is when you really got to see just how much they worried about the kids in TYC. They put thier "partners" in places where they have no.....hear this...NO, experience! For the kids! allowed her to hire her old friends also with no experience! For the kids!

There are hundreds of wonderful people working in horrible conditions who are now going to pay an even greater price as they try to work within a system being led by friends of Whitmire. Friends that failed at hier last state leadership position and now have given a more critical place to mess up...without consequence!
Because if you think Whitmire and friends will ever admit a screwup then you have not paid attention to the goings on here. But this screw will be huge because these kids will grow up!

Anonymous said...

Ya know what? I've worked at VFCA for almost 6 years and have been treated like crap most of that time.

I can truthfully state that I now know what INSANITY actually is and is not.

Insanity IS NOT doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Insanity is getting mad because you're fired from a crappy job!

Now that's crazy!

It's not so much the firing but the total lack of ethics and decency displayed by CO. If you look in the Legislative Budget Board summary of HB1, page 139-140, Youth Commission, you'll see where the budget is set for closing 5 facilities. Even having this information in hand and showing it to them they still look you in the eye and say "Oh no, That was a mistake". The mistake was letting us know.

It's like riding in an elevator with one other person, they fart and look at you and blame you.

Come on. Give me a break!! Something definately stinks here but it isn't us. I do believe CO has let a STENCH loose but can't admit it. Grow up CO and find some morals!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey 6/17 @3:44,

Don't lump Stan in that category, he has messed over several Administrators in an effort to save himself with the new Central Office dictators, but he will go to bat for his buddies that kiss his butt. Ya'll know who you are.

Anonymous said...

What a chicken shit. Going at Stan like that... geeze, what a new low.

Anonymous said...

You must be one of his buddies. If the shoe fits, Stan has to wear it. Keep up the butt kissing Stan, you may be the very last one to get the axe from Ed and Dmitria. Don't forget to wipe your nose before you walk out of Central Office for the last time.

Anonymous said...

Let me see.....most of the key Central Office positions are being filled by TDCJ good ol' boys (and girls) with no knowledge whatsoever of juvenile corrections or rehabilitation programs. The chances of ever having a system that will effectively address juvenile justice issues in Texas are exactly two....slim and none.

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