Sunday, July 29, 2007

Morning News expose' finds flaws withTYC private contractors

Are private contractors the answer for the Texas Youth Commission's woes? Probably not to judge by a good Dallas News piece today from Holly Becka and Jennifer LaFleur ("Texas youth jail operators have troubled histories" detailing previously unrevealed problems at Texas Youth Commission's contracted care facilities (13 statewide, in all). One of these is run by the Geo Group (see this Grits profile and this post about their juvie facility in Coke County)

The News article, however, fails to mention that TYC recently issued and received bids on another RFP for private contractors to begin to house 10-13 year olds by October 31 of this year. See Grits coverage of the RFP and the list of those who submitted bids.

Why isn't that part of a story on TYC private contractors? I know for a fact the reporters knew about it. That's a little frustrating, even though overall they did a good job with the story.

But coupled with that knowledge, the Morning News article raises an important question: If problems already exist at private TYC contract facilities (and there's little reason to suspect they do not), why rush into shipping out TYC's youngest and most vulnerable kids to private contract care? Why not at least have a public discussion of whether that's a good idea?

Let's hope the DMN story is just a first step toward forcing TYC's leadership to finally have that conversation more openly. After all, it has important implications for the future of the agency.

The News also provided these interesting links to prior stories and statistical resources on problems at TYC private contractors.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

"TYC officials said they were reviewing the agency's policies on contractors but could not comment about changes under consideration. However, just days after detailed questioning by The News, TYC canceled bid requests for new contract facilities. Bidders included contractors currently operating facilities in Texas that had a history of problems in other states."

Are these the 10-13 year old contract beds? It sure sounds like TYC CO is backtracking again...thanks Grits for helping keep these issues at the forefront!

Anonymous said...

I do not understand how they can continue with their plans to close three more facilities after cancelling the contract care bids for the 10-13 year olds. If the proposed plan was projected to cut back TYC population by 20% and they decide to cancel it, by what means are they going to decrease the population enough to close more facilities? Perhaps if 20% of Texas' delinquent youth decide to be good boys before they get caught, it could work...but that's like saying all the 19 year olds who left will never reoffend...it ain't gonna happen! It's a nice thought before reality sets in, but that's about it.

Personally, I am hoping to keep my job because I like it, so the cancellation of the contract care facilities may equate to job security for me and a lot of other people.

Grits, once again I thank you for all that you do, and if I ever find out I get to keep my job, I will draft a check to you every month. I have become addicted to your website, and not just for the TYC news...it's all good!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks, folks. :) And if anybody knows for sure the contracts for 10-13 year olds were the ones where TYC canceled bid requests, please let me know. If they are the same ones, I wonder exactly when TYC canceled them? I first wrote about it July 12.

Anonymous said...

Coke County (Geo group) needs to go. That place is a piece of shit. The Superintendent calls himself a warden and only has a HS diploma. We don't need them. Save WTSS and VFCC and remove Coke County ONCE and FOR ALL.

Anonymous said...

Given who they put as Supt and Asst. Supt at WTSS, I do not think WTSS is going away.

Grits, perhaps the MSM reporters do read this blog and are sniffing about for the right issues as a result.

I agree with the poster who said the Coke county facility has to go. Those bozos actively resisted all attempts to get them into accountability under the old administration, but they were strangely protected. There has got to be some money flowing into someone's pockets somewhere for Geo to be able to be so flagrantly diregarding TYC policy.

Anonymous said...

The interactive graphics are misleading. We have had a terrible time getting the Geo folks at Coke County to even report suspected abuse. They also really resent TYC sending in investigators. Even so, their confirmation rate is considerably higher than the average confirmation rate in TYC.

Within TYC confirmation rates average about 20%, for abuse and neglect investigations, with neglect confirmations being higher than abuse confirmations. Most of the neglect confirmations are with regard to staff not doing their checks as they are supposed to do. The 20% confirmation rate within TYC also includes confirmations for policy violations that did not rise to the level of abuse.

The GCTC figures look bad, with regard to its confirmation rate, until you realize that the youth there are 17-19, and most of the confirmations have been neglect confirmations where boys and girls have managed to get together to do what boys and girls do, or where youth have managed to smuggle contraband on campus. There has been almost no problem with GCTC staff abusing youth.

Anonymous said...

Here's how Coke County survived. After retirement, former executive director Ron Jackson became a consultant with Wackenhut, now the GEO group. Ron was pretty well connected downtown. Then Robinson came on, and it continued with former Juvenile Probation Chief of Abilene (what was his name??) keeping it alive. Well when Robinson retired, his former buddy Juvenile Probation Chief (God... what was his name) left, all the while Nancy Emeritt covering for that contract. Then Nancy left, and how she got back, I have no idea. Paula retired, who was the last to cover for them. Now they're all gone, and so shall the GEO group. People, that contract was all political. And I agree with the previous post about their resenting TYC internal affairs coming in to investigate situations. They had an excuse for everything.... but not anymore. I say we rid ourselves once and for all of this contract. It stunk from the beginning and it stinks now.

Anonymous said...

Oh and to add: I firmly believe any contract awarded to any TYC provider should be fully investigated by an independent firm recognized by the USDOJ. The 10-13 year old's are a very vulnerable population. We need the feds to check their past given they've practiced in other states. Make it a requirement. Is there anything unlawful about that idea?

Anonymous said...

Here's a little aside on this, only because it is the latest post.

It has been mentioned several times in different places on this site that TDCJ and TYC need to get a good union. Forget the union - enlist the power of the pulpit!

Today is the 164th anniversary of the death of William Wilberforce. Some evangelical Christians around Trinity Church in the then little town of Clapham, England influenced him and PM William Pitt to end the slave trade in the UK and to bring about the beginnings of penal reform in Great Britain.

When preachers get together on something, politicians tremble. Look at what happened with the SCLC and civil rights in the 60's. More recently, and more to this point, look at the quick turnaround TYC did with the qualifications of volunteers when the preachers among them got stirred up.

TYC/TDCJ workers and their families do not represent many votes in and of themselves. Get your priests, ministers and rabbis on board, and just see what might happen. I suggest starting with those religious volunteers that are coming to your campus.

Oh yeah, it wouldn't hurt if we all engaged a little prayer ourselves while we are at it! :)
Old Salty

Anonymous said...

In reading the DMN article it talked about a youth not getting medication. UTMB provides mrdical care at Coke. UTMB's operations really need to be looked at. TYC is about to renew the contract with UTMB extend it to all its facilities and will not have proper medical care for youth throughout its facilities.

Anonymous said...

If it is true what one poster wrote here about Ron Jackson, that is really disappointing. My understanding of his work with TYC was that he was more of a progressive reformer than this activity would suggest. Perhaps his "consultant" role is just a title and he is really in practice more distant from this facility's day to day life?

The history of TYC is littered with "consultants" - some with national reputations - who unwittingly enabled abusive practices by visiting the facility once in a blue moon for a dog and pony show, then wrote up a glowing report about the great work they were doing.

As a rule, private contractors, contrary to what they will say, do not save money, do not provide better services, and are far less accountable to public oversight.

Grits, that DMN piece does imply that they are holding up private contracts, but maybe someone could press the reporters for more specific info? They may actually know more than they wrote in the piece.

Bill Bush, UNLV

Anonymous said...

Research the Federal Tax Records of RJ and see for yourself Bill. I gave the lead, you follow up. And then look beyond. If you have the resources, check it. You'll see. It started in 1993 or '94. Look at what Robinson and his former TDCJ folks are doing now. Former TDCJ Executives and one TYC former executive director forming a consultative group…. Look a little deeper.

Anonymous said...

Since when are Federal Tax Records public information?

Anonymous said...

They represent a firm that takes federal and states money, thus full disclosure of income and sources of funding is mandatory. If they received federal funds of any sort (and they did), they are subject to disclosure? Right?? TCY did, and well, tell me if you understand otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Old Salty..I like your idea!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the choice for supt and asst supt at WTSS: How does a supt who allegedly turned off the the cameras at San Saba for 3 weeks because too many abuse allegations were being generated get to keep any TYC job, much less get the supt job at WTSS where there have been NO major issues with students since the alleged coverup?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you answered your own question "allegedly". The problem most of these anonymous posts have is the attacking of TYC staff and the issue is TDCJ and their tactics.

With all the Texas Rangers, Attorney General Law Enforcement, and TDCJ (OIG) at every facility if a crime was committed by anyone at any facility the issue would have been addressed.

What this appears to be is a personal issue from a person who yells fire all the time but there never is a fire.

The Advocate said...

Here is a take on this I thought it would be good if Grits critiqued it,


South Texas Chisme: Contracting with cronies.: "At 5:05 AM, DAC said...

Not much you can do with a legal system that mandates these children do time snd give few or inadequate alternative other than set up a system that is for warehousing and not education, evaluation or treatment. If you are tired of juvenile law breakers you play on fear (crime and higher taxes) and build them their own prisons, telling yourself and the world at least we are not sending them to adult facilities. The Shawshank Redemption Defense don't work here. These kids did the behavior that was outlawed by the legislature, the parents and schools would not or could not stop the behavior (much of which went on when we were children) ... so what you going to do? (Socrates would stop there) .. cheaper to warehouse bad eggs til you have to bury them...less government and lower taxes say conservatives
and as if by magic here we are"

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't have much to critique. I mostly concur. These things don't happen overnight, they're a result of long-term neglect and a counterproductive bipartisan callousness bordering on animosity toward any and all "lawbreakers" (which is a lot of folks with >2,300 felonies on the books and maybe 3-4,000 misdemeanors). Look at California's adult system: All of a sudden it's a crisis, say the media, but like ours (and TDCJ is in nearly as bad shape as TYC, maybe worse), it's been going to hell in a handbasket for many years. best,

Anonymous said...

To Anon 4:46pm
I believe his name is Roy Robb. You nailed it on the head in your posting. However, we now have some more people who will do the same, Elizabeth Lee. How she, Nancy E.,Lynne Parra, and Karen Lashbrook still have jobs is astounding. Now they will be able to continue the work of their mentors.

Anonymous said...

For Anon 6:53 AM re my 10:37 PM comment. I stand admonished, as there is a clear distinction betweeen allegations and proof. The reference to the turning off of camera's came from a TYC Board meeting prior to the big blow up and subsequent Rangers and IG presence. Being published does not change the possibility of baseless rumor. However, it may demonstrate a couple of ongoing problems: allegations passed on to Central Office under previous leaders was dismissed as having insufficient proof, so there may be a sense of "same old same old"; and, if staff suspended pending investigation return to daily work, there is no indication of being exonerated or there just was insufficient evidence.
Unfortunately, the evidence is buidling that little has changed; TYC good old boys changes to TDCJ and law school cronyism; coverups become blame games; and transparency to speaking out of both sides of the agencies mouth; e.g. D. Pope at the state of the agency meetings repeatedly referred to TYC students as kiddo's and just talking to them; Humphrey in 2 memos reported here in Grits, says stop talking so much and put them in handcuffs if they don't do as they are told... not to mention indicating a return to pepper spray (inside sources report). In any case, the treatment approach has been discontinued and has not been replaced and the physical restraint procedure training has been ended, again without replacement. And finally, "at will" employment with new personnel rules (effective 6-20-07) including NO personnel manual rules can conflict with at will; i.e., effectively, no recourse if you are fired unless the reason is that you are a protected population. See for example "Compliance"; if you fail to do as you are told, even an illegal act, you can be fired. Wouldn't Brookins have loved that rule?
Note: neither the issue nor the assumption is that this is how the rules are applied. The issue remains perception by the staff and, increasingly by the media and hopefully by the legislature. To date, no one new in Central Office has shown themselves to be worthy of trust or respect.

Anonymous said...

MGT is a company that employs x TDCJ and TYC directors. You can find them at this link.

http://www.mgtamer.com/criminal_justice_and_public_safety_market/our_experts

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:26. I do not know Karen Lashbrook or Nancy Emmert, and only know Lynn Parra in passing, but I do know E. Lee. Unless she has changed tremendously in the past 3 years, and I mean a total change in character, then your implication that she is a dishonest wheeler-dealer calls into question the accuracy of your allegations against the other three. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Well Ol Salty, alot has changed in 3 years. I use to respect and think she was above board, but once she moved down to the SA office, she has changed.

not-so-common-sense said...

not quite sure how the contracting process should go but i can say for sure that the 10-14 year olds DO NOT need to reside with the 15-18. In my years spent with TYC, I have witnessed that age group of young boys just learn how to be bad young men. They are at an age that they are attaching to a "big brother" or "leader" and all they learn are some very bad habits. They become a menace!! Their behavior is like watching an 8 year old try to drink or smoke--little people doing grown stuff--and it's hard to reverse their behaviors because it becomes a new found knowledge and personality for them. So again, I don't know how we should contract those babies, but they definitely don't need to exist with the big boys!!

Anonymous said...

9:18...your have a very interesting perspective!

Anonymous said...

My experience has been that when 10-14 year olds are separated from the older kids then the establish very similar behaviors as the older kids. But instead of the older kid being the head "bully" now it is a 13 or 14 year old.

If a good peer culture is established I have seen older kids help mentor younger kids with positive values. So for me it is more about how effective the people running the program are rather than the kids/students in it!

Anonymous said...

Maybe TYC needs to look at Tamayo House who has been working with these youth for years. Look at their numbers. It has been a successful program until lately. It can be done, working with youth of all ages, they did. Look at the report from the OIG, Texas Rangers and AG's office when they came out, interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Maybe CO needs to look at putting these young kids at Corsicana. It has play grounds,swings, indoor pool and they already house the ones who are Emotionally Disturbed. Their dorms look like cottages.
Need to get them out of the big facilities. It was once a home for kids without families. It has alot of activites for kids also that are already in place.

Anonymous said...

I like the Corsicana idea. They already have a dorm of little boys in MHTP, and since the girls will be moving out to Brownwood, there might be room, unless, of course they close the MHTP program at Crockett and move it all to Corsicana. If the MHTP moves out of Crockett, there are some dorms there that are ideal for younger youth - and staff that are used to dealing with them. (Assuming, of course, that we get someone better to lead Crockett than what they have now.)