Jones' piece today tracks the case of former TYC inmate Chris Gann. As in other such stories, TYC staff were prohibited by confidentiality laws from addressing specifics about the youth's behavior, so the tale is largely told from the ex-inmate's point of view, for good or ill. But in particular I wanted to ask current and past Youth Commission employees about two practices described by Mr. Gann that were allegedly used at the now-closed Marlin unit. Read this, TYC'ers, and tell me if you've ever witnessed these tactics in action:
Does the description of "discipline training" accurately describe how youth were treated at Marlin or at other TYC facilities? Are kids made to run or exercise to exhaustion? Has anyone ever witnessed a youth handcuffed out in the sun for ceasing rigorous exercise without staff permission?
The staff at the TYC prison in Marlin called it "discipline training."
Every afternoon, for an hour or longer in the summer heat, Mr. Gann and other Marlin inmates were forced to run laps around a dirt track inside the compound, he said. On a staff member's command, the inmates would throw themselves to the ground for push-ups, then scramble to their feet for more laps.
Anyone who stopped without permission was slammed to the ground, handcuffed and left to lie in the blazing sun, he said.
"We were all just falling over and throwing up," said Mr. Gann, by then 14. When it was all over, "we would all be laying there, crying, sore, all scraped up and bleeding."
Young inmates who got sick or hurt found little sympathy, he said.
"When you would go to the infirmary, all they would tell you was to drink water and you'd be OK," he said.
Inmates also performed a drill known as "55-5," he said, in which they would stand at attention for 55 minutes at their bunks, then sit for five minutes. They did this about six times a day, he said.
And is the "drill" (not much of a drill, really) that Gann refers to as "55-5" still used at TYC, and if so what is it's purpose? The claim that up to six hours of a 24-hour day were spent on 55-5 drills, seems outrageous: Can this be corroborated?
The videos are compelling. While administrators claim abuse of youth has been 98% reduced, I wonder whether all the agency's abusive practices have even been identified? The DMN website along with Gann's story makes me think that a pure oral history project interviewing inmates and staff, in particular, would substantially enlighten debates over what's wrong at TYC and what should be done.