Bush offered these reactions in the blog's comments, not as a formally written piece, so forgive its relative informality. I'm so close to some of these people, issues and processes, it was a good reality check to see what an outsider thought of last Wednesday's dog and pony show. Here's what Professor Bush had to say:
I finally watched several parts of last week's hearing.IMO the good professor can be forgiven for such harsh impressions. His description nails the overall tone of the hearing, which seemed aimed primarily at protecting bungling administrators instead of demanding they do a better job. I don't understand why the joint legislative committee took that approach, but I predict it will come back to bite legislators down the road if problems aren't fixed and they've been less than diligent in their oversight. Next time, they won't have the excuse that they didn't know what was happening.
The Owens/Pope testimony was exactly as everyone here has described. A lot of broad and suspect claims about progress. The most precise evidence given was the lower number of inmates. The discussions of key issues like use of force, a rehab program, and staffing shortages, were overly general. I'm left feeling like I still don't really know what is going on with TYC, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment for an 8-hour hearing.
It's clear that most of the committee is very invested in the current admin's success. This was evidenced in the blatant double standard applied to statements by TYC (questioned very little) and by its critics (questioned a lot). Wasn't credulous acceptance of agency statements how these geniuses got into this mess?
Maybe they don't have any interest in having a substantial Sunset Review at all, and they want SB103 to be the last word. That's my impression, they think their work is mainly done. It's "fixed." Miller Time. Huzzah.
It was disappointing and a little sickening to watch them shout down or intimdate anyone who presented information that conflicted with an obviously pre-fabricated conclusion that things are progressing swimmingly - even to the point of real absurdity.
Senator Whitmire might want to sit down with Ben Barnes, who as Lt Governor during a TYC investigation in the late 1960s behaved almost exactly the way Sen Whitmire did the other day, ultimately to the state's cost, since the Morales lawsuit came about two years later.
I was especially appalled at the sophomoric treatment of the Harris County monitor when she pointed out the lack of a rehab plan and criticized the use of pepper spray. Frankly, I wish she hadn't "apologized" and backtracked when challenged by Sen Whitmire and others. She said that she wished TYC would spend as much on staffing and training new staff in mediation as it is on pepper spray, and the response was to quiz her for dollar figures, to enthuse that pepper spray is "pretty cheap" after all, and to call her statement "irresponsible." Well, how revealing.
Here is a seasoned juvenile justice professional who has clearly been working extremely hard (450+ interviews with juvies in just a few months!) and has tons of first-hand information to present the committee, and she's treated like a bomb-throwing hippie. To call this performance disgraceful would be too charitable.
Obviously criticism of post-SB103 TYC is a full contact sport for thin-skinned legislators. In that spirit, let me suggest that Sen Whitmire's attempt to further discredit the Harris County monitor's testimony by criticizing HC's lack of a monitor for its county JDCs was one of the more pointless, Student Government quality diversionary tactics I've seen in a legislative hearing.
Excuse me, were they gathered there to talk about the county JDC? Did HC go thru a massive abuse scandal that is the slightest bit relevant? Is it in crisis the way TYC is? Why not just do the chicken dance, or jump around in a circle?
How about putting a little more thought into these affairs, so that people with, like, actual information aren't testifying at the end of an 8-hour hearing, when attention spans are clearly fading?
Grits, sorry to depart from my usual tone, but this irritated the living crap out of me. I'm left with the strong impression that the lege simply doesn't care a whole lot about this and would just like it to go away, the sooner the better. I'd love to be proven wrong, but wouldn't bet my last dollar on it.
You can view the 8.5 hour video for yourself here. See also prior Grits coverage of the hearing: