Tuesday, October 02, 2007

TYC closing Coke County private youth prison

After proposing, then scuttling plans to move all 10-13 year olds incarcerated in the Texas Youth Commission to private facilities, the agency has announced it will shut down a private youth prison operated by the Geo Group in Coke County for young kids because of unsanitary and unsafe conditions. (See this Grits profile of the company.)

This makes the third TYC facility closed this year. Reported AP:

Detainees will be transferred from the Coke County center, in Bronte, to other TYC facilities on Tuesday. The facility holds 197 young offenders, said TYC spokesman Jim Hurley.

"TYC's number one priority is the safety and well being of those youths under our care," Dimitria D. Pope, the agency's acting executive director, said in a statement. "The unsafe conditions I witnessed at Coke County this weekend are unacceptable. We have zero tolerance for any form of abuse within the system, and those responsible parties will be held accountable."

A TYC official found unsanitary conditions during a visit to center on Sept. 24. State officials followed up with an unannounced audit that began Wednesday and continued through the weekend, the Texas Youth Commission said Monday in a statement.

The audit found the facility was in an advanced state of disrepair and rehabilitation and other programs weren't being pursued, leaving detainees mostly constrained. It led officials to believe the health and safety of the youth housed at the center was in jeopardy, Hurley said.

A couple of thoughts here: First, why did TYC earlier this year propose moving all the younger kids into contract care if their only contract unit was doing so poorly? Had nobody been out there to check on the Geo unit? The agency came within a whisker this summer of shifting all 10-13 year olds into contract care. Thankfully they stopped the move after the decision was first reported on Grits and the MSM began poking around, but then Tim Savoy announced they still intended to move young kids into contract care. (Hopefully this new development will scuttle the idea completely.)

Second, one complaint against the Coke County unit is that they weren't providing rehabilitation programs. The same allegation was lodged against the Geo Group's adult facility in Dickens County by the state of Idaho, which discovered after an audit that Geo did not provide statutorily required programming they'd agreed to by contract. This appears to be a recurring theme at Geo, to judge by these reports: They're warehousing folks, but not always doing the programs for which states are paying them. The company had regulators close facilities in Michigan and Louisiana, and last year Australia and New Zealand closed Geo units.

Finally, this decision will exacerbate staffing problems at state-run TYC facilities, which were already struggling to maintain adequate ratios. The agency continues to hemorrhage staff and cannot meet statutory 12-1 child-JCO ratios, despite contrary claims by the leadership. Now the other units will get a couple hundred extra kids, but not the staffing assistance they need to manage them. It's possible the kids will be moved to new private facilities, probably in Kerr County, but at this point nobody knows.

Closing this facility, to my knowledge, wasn't on anybody's radar screen, and it certainly wasn't discussed at the legislative hearing in August. The surprising news shows TYC remains in a rocky transition period where leadership is still learning about the agency (and for that matter, about juvenile justice in general). So we may continue to expect radical changes announced with little or no warning, as Geo employees at this unit just found out.

Ever since TYC tossed aside the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations that were supposed to guide reforms, it's getting harder and harder to tell where the agency is headed next. And nobody at TYC is providing a road map.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

But, Scott you failed to mention that our Governor was quoted as saying he appreciates the swift action by the TYC leadership by these actions.

Either he has something to hide or he must really be clueless?

Anonymous said...

An open records request would tell when this facility was last monitored by TYC and by whom, and what they had found. This may shed light onto this situation.

Anonymous said...

You where reading my mind! Stop that.

Anonymous said...

TYC has staff onsite and this has always been a problemmatic facility. There is no reason that this should have been a surprise. I imagine that someone will lose a job over this - perhaps justifiably so.

Another issue is that this facility typically housed older kids who had parole revoked. I wonder how many of them are over 19 and should already have been released? Something else for someone to check into.

Anonymous said...

Great post...lots of great questions too.
Who is driving this bus anyway?

Anonymous said...

Q.A.

Anonymous said...

Coke County did not house the little kids. That's Garza County. Coke County houses re-commits, kids whose parole has been revoked. They are of all ages, but tend to be older. Again, this is not the same population (10-13) that TYC sought RFPs for to move into a separate facility.

Anonymous said...

Coke County was shut down because the conditions were abhorrent. Plain and simple. If you want details, Grits, just file some open records requests. There's plenty of gory detail out there to shed some light on why the agency made the decision it did.

Anonymous said...

"Using buses provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, all youths at the Bronte center will be transferred out today, Hurley said."

Oops.. went last night! Already gone.

Anonymous said...

No Variances for this facility????
Could it be that there is change in the wind? This whole mess still stinks!

Retired 2004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for clarifying, 8:46 - looking back I mistook an AP reference to "young offenders" for the younger kids. Thanks for correcting me.

Dont Be Denied said...

The governor is under so much federal review in Texas jails and prisons for health conditions that 1 TYC location finally has attention.

Unfortunately, real disease control and quarantine isn't being approached or addressed, even by their own current state handbooks and infection guidelines (which I guess they forgot to read).

Friends, please read my personal journal about my cousin as an inmate. She is bi-polar and has been infected in the system with a disease called MRSA. I wrote about Dallas and Collin County and how they treated her medical concerns. This problem is state-wide.

http://amyedits.blogspot.com/2007/10/dallas-county-jail-or-collin-county-to.html

Anonymous said...

Four TYC QA staff have an office in a trailer just outside the fence of the Coke County facility. I heard that when the executives who did the surprise inspection knocked on the door there was no one there.

Expect more heads to roll....

about time said...

Coke County was well known around CO as having serious problems. Unfortunately, they have/had a very vocal director and political clout. Some staff at TYC (CO & QA) periodically tried to rein them in or cancel their contract, but couldn't. They were always treated as a 'special' case and the regular contract care rules didn't seem to apply to them. I always wondered why/how they kept getting away with providing such a poor quality of care.

Anonymous said...

The place didn't get bad over night. If there were TYC people on the unit then why was Central Office clueless? Why the sudden rush to move youth out in the middle of the night? I wonder what really happened to trigger the rapid response. I have been told all of the youth were taken to Mart 2 where they started arriving at 4:00 AM today. I think we will see some more releases in the near future because they don’t have the staff to take 197 youth at Mart 2 if they stay very long.

Once again it appears TYC administration is in over their head and has no firm operational plan. We are seeing a wonderful example of “Flying by the seat of your pants”! Also how could GEO have a program to present when TYC itself has no rehab program? I understand there will be a “Transitional Rehab Program” out soon from TYC. Why a transitional rehab program? Why doesn’t TYC develop a real rehab program that addresses the needs of all the different groups of children housed in TYC? Looks like another half baked idea from the experts in juvenile justice (TDCJ People) at Central Office. From the information I have received from inside TYC Central Office the old TYC employees are getting fewer every day. There are numerous open positions in CO that have few applicants when posted. This could explain why jobs are handed out by TDCJ TYC administration instead of through the required posting of jobs.

Got to run, it is tea time on the veranda!

Anthony Mikulastik

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like someone told TYC Management: "Do something or we'll bring a law suit and we'll win."

If it is true that these Coke County youth are part of the 150 19 years and older being held for lack of TDCJ Parole Supervision, then the risk of law suits already exists. This may just be a last ditch attempt to reduce the damage.

Anonymous said...

The 19-year olds are sentenced offenders, and I doubt Coke County had any of those. Coke County was primarily for technical parole violators.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you Anthony - this didn't happen in one day, one week, one month or even one year. Who was watching? And why did it take so long to report the 'horrendous' conditions? Sounds like "lets hurry up and cover up" to me.

Anonymous said...

I posted on "Grits" several months back that the private adult facilities have "variances" approved (I know that is not congruent); why wouldn't TYC?

Present and former legislators should be held accountable for this very old problem. Whitmire,Hinijosa, Hightower, Allen, Hodge to name a few. And don't forget the board members and former Executive Directors of each agency.

Building Facilities, Privatization of incarceration and health care, reduction in ag operations ("We need to sell it rather than the land just being idle"). . . I'm just regurgitating what has been going on for years under each political party. SOS (same old stuff).

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Retired 2004,

I haven't read your other posts on variances, so I apologize if you've alread explained, but: How would variances have positively (or negatively) impacted the conditions at Coke County?

Anonymous said...

It's all smoke and mirrors...How do you get past the OC spray debacle that highlighted the basic incompetence of the current TYC executive administration? Create a diversion, an illusion. Make the people believe that you are responsive, decisive and on top of things that are going on in TYC, even when you're not. As Anthony M. pointed out, this situation didn't just develop over night and had there been real oversight on TYC's part, it would have been caught long ago. History is repeating itself and TYC remains caught in a quagmire of of ineptitude that is likely to linger on awhile and can only continue to make a bad situation worse for both youth and staff.

swabbie said...

I have said this before and will continue to do so. I have been at Mcfadden Ranch in Roanoke for a few years as a religious education teacher and I can tell you now that they should be used as the bench mark as to how a facility should be run for the benefit of its inmates. I know about all the past problems they have supposedly had but all the trouble makers have slowly but surely been sent packing. McFadden should be the poster facility in the Texas grouping. The boys are given every tool they need to make it as good citizens upon their release. I have not in the time i have ben there seen one incident of abuse or neglect. And I am not afraid to use my real name........

Lonnie Vessell

Anonymous said...

For those of you wanting to know the real "religious" leader at McFadden. Check out this website. myspace.com/texasbootsncalico

There you will find our very professional JCO 6 listed as one of her "friends" if thats what its called. Your credibility is awful Lonnie, so is your girlfriends. What does your wife think of all of this? hmmmmmmmm?

Anonymous said...

That doesn't look like any religious website I have ever seen!! Which one is the JCO 6? The one who is a "bad girl"?? No wonder employees are leaving Mcfadden in droves. creepy. don't they do background checks on these people?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Folks, I just deleted a couple of comments that accused a named person without any evidence (and really just as a smear) of being a "child molester." I let y'all roam pretty free down here, but that's uncalled for and I'll enforce civility.

Play nice, people! Try to treat each other with respect, please, and if you can keep the dialogue constructive, not so hostile, I'd appreciate it.

Thx. The Management.

Anonymous said...

yes, thats the one! She has made her website "private" most likely because her and her buddy Susan had quite a few youth on their websites. You all know that is AGAINST TYC POLICY, right? Just telling everybody so they can't claim "ignorance" as an excuse. But that seem's to be the theme at McFadden, when caught breaking policy or the law, they always claim ignorance or try to place the blame on others. How about it Roberson and Royal, did the investigators buy the story Cooke ordered you to tell about the bleach today???

Anonymous said...

Sorry Grits....I will try and play nice! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Lonnie,
Your girlfriend and her buddies need to be removed ASAP before they do any more damage. The fact that you are here singing Mcfadden praise is no suprise to those of us who have known you over the years but to use that place as an example of what TYC should be....come on now! McFadden needs to be used as an example of what bad management and unqualified staff can do to youth in their care and that is putting it nicely.
As far as people being "sent packing" if you are talking about the retaliation for reporting abuse that occured by the unlawful termination and constructive discharge of some very well qualified employees, I don't know how as a "volunteer" at McFadden that would even concern you...and really should not be discussed with you or anybody else. Maybe you should inform that to those "professionals" you work with, if they can manage to break away from pouring bleach on kids.

Anonymous said...

I heard the Harris County monitor made the first visit to Coke County and got the ball rolling on this investigation.

Anonymous said...

Swabbie, maybe you should stop considering people who speak up on abuse they witness "troublemakers"

This is a problem all through TYC.
Why is it that somebody who travels a great distance at his own expense is considered a "troublemaker"????

What do you consider those people who stood by and acted like it wasn't their problem and turned away from the abused youth?
Thats right....YOU CALL THEM "FRIENDS"

Anonymous said...

If TYC has staff onsite and this is known to be a problematic facility why were these problems not addressed until Harris County reported them?

Kuddos to Harris County for leading the way. They should think about sending the state a bill for this one.

Anonymous said...

This Harris County investigator is the one who was so sorely abused by Senator Whitmire. What is the connection between Whitmire's lawfirm and the Geo group? Maybe there is a reason Whitmire wanted so badly to discredit her?

Anonymous said...

I still think it is strange that the Senator from Houston tore into the monitor who was watching out for the kids from his town. It doesn't make sense but nothing in this whole mess has.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't the government came in and closed ALL TYC facilities? Thats the real question here isn't it? What are they waiting for to clean this mess up for once and for all. TYC is dying a very slow, painful death that is ruining peoples lives and their careers. Somebody needs to come in and close down all facilities until they can straighten this mess out. Move all of the youth into the bigger campus's...bring in the national guard to keep the peace and then sort through all of these terrible choices for staff....just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...

McFadden needs closed down. Pope needs to show up with her crew ( not giving ANYBODY the heads up of where she is going) and find out what really goes on at McFadden. Talk to more than just the morning staff, talk to the kids that have been there for a while. Keep Cooke away from the kids so she can't intimidate them into being quiet....and McFadden will be closed. You can bet money on that.

Anonymous said...

Grits, this is an question to you. Where can we go for help when it seem's that for some unknown reason the state is allowing this abuse to be "covered-up" at McFadden?? TYC has sat on their hands for much too long....allowing the superintendent to interfere with yet another investigation. If you remember right, that is why she was suspended in the first place a few months back. It is a cycle that keeps repeating itself. We have lost very qualified staff. Our morale is at an all time low. The exploitation ( taking the kids off campus to work with a TDCJ parolee at an employees house) has been buried.The only thing that they are concerned about now is the kid getting bleach treatment for his poison ivy. They have searched the internet for this cure and have shown investigators that its a "home remedy" and that they used it on him in "good faith" and guess what? The state is buying this!!!!! What has the world come to??? If i used bleach on my child, I would go to jail for child abuse!!! The kid had chemical burns on his arm's for god's sake! Grits, I can't just stand by and watch them allow her to continue...because if she is allowed to remain and a child dies next time, I couldn't live with myself. Please, PLEASE help us get some justice at McFadden!!! For our staff, for the kids in our care!

Anonymous said...

What staff should investigators talk to when they visit McFadden? Would they be willing to report these problems if they were in a private setting at the facility?

What staff have been terminated since the bleach incident was reported?

Anonymous said...

I don't feel comfortable putting names out there, because these people will be targeted at McFadden. It has been a pattern with the administration. They consider anybody who speaks out a "troublemaker" I KNOW YOU JUST NEED TO TALK TO ALL STAFF! Not just the one's Cooke offers up.

Anonymous said...

Will McFadden staff from all of the shifts talk?

Anonymous said...

I am wondering why the youth involved in the tatooing are still here (Mcfadden). In past months and years they were removed from the facility for tatooing. Now the youth involved are walking around as if nothing happened.

Anonymous said...

"What staff have been terminated since the bleach incident?"

I hear that the staff person who administered the bleach is going for a promotion.

Anonymous said...

Thats just wrong! But it goes to show how well TYC has been "fixed"
The fact that they are leaving people in place at McFadden shows us that they really don't want whats in the best interest of the youth. But don't despair, these incompetent people will make more mistakes because they obviously don't know how to follow policy or simple common sense for that matter, using bleach on poison ivy....thats just being an idiot!
So when a youth dies in TYC care at McFadden, guess who will be held responsible? DEMETRIA POPE will be, because she has been warned that she is leaving these idiots in charge of a job that they know nothing about. I have heard that they even allow tattooing at McFadden. God help those kids..because it doesn't seem anybody else is. Pope is failing in her job if she leaves that facility open. If you look at the conservators first report, McFadden had more complaints than all of the other halfway houses COMBINED! And a few facilities...

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you what really went down with TYC and Coke county. First of all for at least 2 years that I truely know of CCJJC was given contract facility of the year by TYC. Then we were NOT put in their budget so they couldn't pay us.So they sent some long haired ponytail geek to try and find things. Didn't really find anything so they sent in another team with brownies to bribe these little angels with. All these things that were wrong were caused by the angels. They flooded their toilets, they smeared their own crap, what they didn't get thrown at the officers. There was NO abuse at this facility. We did things right(we didn't sleep with them like TYC does.Maybe if we had there wouldn't be any problems for them to talk about. Wake up people..TYC is just trying to get some of the heat off of them and what they have truly done to these angels. This is jail not church camp they committed crimes not for jaywalking or breaking curfew. But actual crimes like sex crimes, armed robbery, TRUE CRIMES like TYC.

Anonymous said...

I was a resident at CCJJC... it was as corrupt as they say it was. I witnessed JCO have oral sex with residents on the units...they did not get reported because there is blackmail involved from both jcos and residents... If you ratted out a jco that jco got you done in if you had a complaint you might as well go to protective custody and jco take care of each other... jujst like us residents... I participated i nwell planned out riot that I came up with and I got out of there minor scratches and rep to hurt my future but I am still successful... I was put back in tyc wrongfully... two wrongs do not always make a write but if planned well it works out.... August 14 -28 was a time to plan my freedom sand it worked I had enough contacts to plan out how I could get a lesser charge and I did it... I could have recieved as much as 10 years for aggravated assault but because i was smart I recieved 540 days state jail and now Ii am free not like my cohorts who took probation and are still in the cycle... I know all tyc are not all corrupt but one rotten apple will always spoil the bunch.
If you really want to know what happened give me an email address have your question ready and i will answer all that i can