Sunday, August 26, 2007

TYC renews plans to privatize care for 10-13 year old boys, pregnant girls

Earlier this summer, the Texas Youth Commission retracted stealthfully crafted plans to privatize care for its youngest offenders. Now, the San Antonio Express News reports that the plan is back on, and that requests for proposals to house these offenders could be issued as early as September 15.

That's news to me, and I'll bet to most folks inside the agency, who probably feel yanked up and down like a Yo-Yo over this and other on-again, off-again changes. Reported the Express News ("Closed Kerr juvenile center could house offenders again," Aug. 26):
Upheaval at the Texas Youth Commission could mean a new revenue source for Kerr County from the leasing of vacant beds at its juvenile detention center.

Two companies vying for state contracts to house offenders want to use the 48-bed facility that was mothballed by the county last year amid a fiscal crisis at the center that saw half its staff let go.

The remaining 16 county workers were assigned to a newer, 24-bed facility next door that the county still operates.

Leasing out the larger facility would help offset operating losses — budgeted at roughly $500,000 this fiscal year — at the smaller center, which the county bought in 2005 for $1.9 million.

County Judge Pat Tinley is optimistic about leasing the larger building, which the county took over in 1997 after the private company that opened it in 1994 declared bankruptcy.

"There are only a limited number of secure long-term juvenile facilities available in the state," he said.

The state's juvenile corrections agency sought bids from detention companies last month. But it withdrew the "requests for proposals" so it could assess the impact of laws and operational changes sparked by troubling revelations about abuses of inmates at TYC facilities.

"There's still a lot of change going on with everything from our treatment programming to our population needs," said Tim Savoy, TYC spokesman.

But, he said, the agency plans to seek bids Sept. 15 for secure sites to house boys between 10 and 13, and pregnant girls.

Two vendors, Eckerd Youth Alternatives and Cornerstone Programs, are positioning themselves for state contracts and to lease the Kerr County facility.

The agency issued its last press release issued in June. There's no release on the decision to re-issue the RFP for 10-13 year olds in September, just as the decision to cancel the last RFP was ultimately confirmed to the press but never announced. For an agency whose leaders promised a new "transparency," the decisionmaking process has been utterly opaque, without even public hearings as part of agency rulemaking. While there's no "stakeholders" list for notification about key decisions, some folks apparently know some things before the rest of us.

This story bubbled up in the media, not from a reporter covering TYC, but from a journalist focused on local politics in Kerr County, where vendors and local officials knew the RFP would be re-released before the public had been told.

So, an RFP was issued, then retracted, then plans formed to re-issue it again without any formal announcement to the public. Privatization of care for 10-13 year olds is not a requirement of SB 103 or the Legislature, it's just something Ed Owens and Dimitria Pope apparently want to do. Why? Quien sabe?

I hope the agency's plans on privatization get fleshed out in much more detail at Wednesday's legislative oversight hearing, which also needs to address the pattern of secrecy surrounding decisionmaking at the agency.

See prior Grits coverage on TYC privatization issues:


Anonymous said...

Wasn't Kimbrough the county judge in Kerr County at one time?

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

The people in the field would like to know where the transparency is, also.

The current facilities are bleeding to death with staff losses, teacher losses and the random firing of administrators (who for the most part are trying to follow the directives). It is little wonder that the agancy and the public are in chaos about this.

Anonymous said...

Another on again/off again plan! Give it up Owens & Pope, admit failure and leave while you can still save some semblance of your selves.

Anonymous said...

I hope the parents of these young kids get wind of this and stop this.
I may be incorrect here but wasn't one of these agencies found to be abusing kids in another state? I think it was Cornerstone?

Anonymous said...

Numerous child care contractors have violations against children.

Whackyhut was one of teh worst, and whoever has bought their contracts, or taken them over is not much better.

Some of us even remember the water scandal they had at Bronte.

Anonymous said...

Wackenhut was taken over by Geo Corp.

Anonymous said...

Wackenhut Corrections changed it's name to GEO.

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