First they're going to shift 19-21 year olds to TDCJ, then for some reason they can't get there from here. Then they're going to privatize prisons for 10-13 years olds, then announce they won't. Then they're going to parole offenders who've remained past their minimum length of stay, then they're not. Over and over TYC announces some new reform then almost immediately retracts the idea the first time it's criticized.
Now I'll bet dollars to donuts the same thing happens with the recently announced policy to use pepper spray more widely on TYC youth, which I've argued is an excuse not to address the agency's serious understaffing problems. Providing further evidence the present TYC administration simply cannot handle the job they've been assigned, the Austin Statesman's Mike Ward today reports ("Pepper spray use at Youth Commission draws ire," Aug. 24):
National experts are questioning whether expanded use of chemical agents will limit injuries or cause further trouble inside Texas' juvenile lockups.
"It's not a reform at all. It's a step in the other direction," said Patricia Arthur, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Youth Law who is considered an expert on chemical agents in juvenile lockups.
"It doesn't address a problem. It will only compound it."
Steve Bercu, an Austin bookstore executive who was a lead attorney in a landmark lawsuit two decades ago against the state over unconstitutional conditions in Texas' juvenile lockups, was more blunt: "That's something they shouldn't be doing. It's definitely a violation of the settlement agreement. No question."
Youth Commission officials said Thursday that its lawyers are looking at whether the change conflicts with the 23-year-old court settlement and said the pepper spray is a water-based formula that is milder than the one used at Texas' adult prison system.
So the new pepper spray policy apparently contradicts a longstanding court settlement governing TYC's use of force. Hmmmm. I guess when your general counsel has no background in juvenile law, these things happen. And happen. And happen.
Let me say this plainly as a close observer: TYC today is dysfunctional and paralyzed by incompetent management, and the "reforms" implemented by the Legislature did nothing to solve its fundamental problems. This agency is in crisis.