Good News: The long-anticipated Frequently Asked Questions document from the Texas Youth Commission State of the Agency tour has finally been made public and put online. Here's the full document. I haven't had a chance to go through it but agency spokesman Jim Hurley just mentioned to me that they'd finally finished it in time for this morning's hearing. Give it a read and let us know what you think of their answers.
Meanwhile, Executive Director Dimitria Pope also mentioned two documents I've not seen that I'd like to be seen placed online:
- Project Reform Update Aug. 13, 2007
- Packet of supplemental information given to legislators
Pope and Owens took the mike first and began with a prepared statement then took questions. Rep. Debbie Riddle queried whether TYC was doing anything to force parents to take parenting classes, etc.. A fellow sitting next to me leaned over and asked, "What does that have to do with guards raping kids?" Honestly, I couldn't begin to tell you.
Rep. Riddle is right that when kids go home they often go back to problematic home situations, but while that's an important juvenile justice goal, I'm not sure it's responsive to the questions that arose out of the Pyote scandal. Pope said the Lege had funded family liaisons who should help youth stay in touch with their families and reintegrate more easily, as well as working closely with other organizations and state agencies.
Rep. Turner also expressed interest in spending resources to reintegrate kids with their families, but Chairman Whitmire said the agency may have to address the agency's fundamental problems before it would be possible to reintegrate youth, particularly keeping youth in facilities so far away their parents can't visit often even when they want to.
TYC has 396 employees with confirmed recent abuse allegations (they didn't say over what time period), according to the report given to the commitee. Rep. McReynolds asked for more detail on the disposition of those cases.
Sen. Hinojosa pointed out that none of the money to implement SB 103 officially becomes available until September 1, even though many of the bill's requirements took effect immediately upon passage.
Ed Owens mentioned that TYC began fingerprinting TYC volunteers in June to better facilitate more thorough criminal background checks.
Pope said that TYC has implemented new policies and processes to improve complaint procedures, but admitted under questioning from Rep. Turner that there has been no effort to determine whether employees who complained faced retaliation as a result.
Rep. Larry Phillips asked how long Owens anticipated TYC would be under conservatorship. He said that no end date was currently anticipated, and the decision to end the conservatorship lay with the Governor.
Owens said he was in the process of formulating his first Conservator's report, which was due under the conservator's statute on July 2, nearly two months ago. Owens declared "I wouldn't say that" when asked if the buck stops with him. Rep. Turner pointed out that Mr. Owens was appointed by Governor Perry, so that's who is ultimately responsible. Good point.
More updates soon from today's hearing.