Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ombudsman's report on solitary confinement at TYC available

I've not had a chance to read this thoroughly yet and I'm about to leave the house - I'll go through it more closely in the morning - but I wanted to post a link to Texas Youth Commission Ombudsman Will Harrell's memo referenced in this Grits post about TYC's use of its "Behavioral Management Program," which he says is devolving to adopt more features from the adult prison system's administrative segregation model.

See the memo, titled, "Concerns regarding increased utilization of isolation and security."

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

This report is dated November 7th. More than two months ago.

My gut feeling is that nothing changed in the past two months. The questions are why not and when will change occur?

Notice I did not ask if change was needed! Clearly everyone, except TYC and Ms. Pope, agrees that isolation of youth is a bad idea that creates more problems than it solves.

Where does the new conservator stand on this? Finding anyone with accountability is like looking for a needle in a haystack at TYC.

Anonymous said...

I am not the smartest cookie on the plate, but did this mombo jumbo report give an answer to the problem? I do not mean that disrespectful.

Ok,how are we going to control the behaviors of those who refuse to listen to anyone and whom are a threat to staff and students?
This "you can't do nothing to me" syndrome is gaining ground in TYC with the kids. Another ground breaker is " don't give a fkjk about this shkk, can't keep me here after my MLOS is up" Screw you attitude is growing by leaps and bounds.
So how will these people who just come to TYC to look around going to fix this. Walk in our shoes and then see if your plan is going to work.

Anonymous said...

TYC has a great deal of knowledgeable AND ethical employees that are in full agreement with Will Harrell's findings. Those employees that have had the courage to speak out have been blatantly retaliated against and scared the hell out of everyone else.

Whitsfoe said...

Will brings something to the table that we've seemingly deviated from in the past decade: Best Practices, Constitutional Rights of Incarcerated Juvenile Offenders, but most importantly, Common Sense.

Will Harrel's advocacy for the emotionally disturbed child is unprecidented.

Thank you Scott for posting his memo. Will may be a lefty, and I may a middle of the road kinda guy, but I'd want the issues brought forth by Will Harrell to be recognized, understood, and acted upon, as his understanding of our situation is valid and fact based. He is truly an inspiration to this agency. And those of us who have survived welcome him wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

No one seems to understand there are several different types of youth housed in TYC. There are insane, emotionally disturbed, and hard core criminal youth! As long as they are all dumped in the same treatment program it is not going to work. The hard core criminals will victimize the other youth and staff and dare anyone to do anything to stop them. The limit setter youth are now running TYC not the half ass administration in Austin! One size does not fit all! All of the experts might want to learn what the TYC youth are about. Once you know the different types of youth in TYC you might start to understand just how much it is going to cost to do TYC correctly. The Texas Legislature did not even come close to fixing TYC.

Anonymous said...

The politicians want to do it all on the cheap. Without the means to provide proper treatment (which costs $) TYC has little option but to lockdown the superpredators.

Anonymous said...

Will has been a true advocate for both the kids and the staff.
He has endured through DP's openly hostile criticism and continues to show compassion and concern for others.
Will, thank you for not losing your positive attitude and smile it has helped many us to not give up.

Anonymous said...

Will please quit posting you own blog listed up above at the times of 7:35 and 9:01. Talk about patting yourself on the back. Im getting a sugar rush just reading it.

Anonymous said...

9:24 I am about as far from Will as you can get. In fact, I find the thought pretty amusing but, I can undertand why you would think that.

I am a supporter of the TYC staff that are trying to make a difference and have hung in there. I know that contrary to popular opinion TYC is not a bad word. The agency still has experienced and talented staff that should be considered an asset.
Gratefully for all of us it seems that Will has come to realize that too.

spearshaker said...

8:48 Anybody that worked Marlin in assessment would probably heartily agree (as would Mart OA, I would guess). Several of us have suggested a major priority for the Legislature SHOULD be initial assessment and initial treatment planning/placement. Now that we have a Conservator with some background, maybe he can convince the holders of the purse strings that success requires getting kids to the right resources as soon as possible. For what it is worth, it is even the basis for legitimate contract care. Don Paget, a former supt at WTSS and Brownwood came to us from North Carolina where a super agency for child care made it (at least on paper) irrelevant if the kid was sent to their equivalent of MHMR, TYC or CPS; in each case, the services needed by the child could be provided without having to go back to civil or criminal court each time. Super agencies scare the hell out of me, but proper evaluation could do the same. The recommendation is that Tx A&M, which has a forensic psych program could supply doctoral interns by the bucketful and they could learn and practice to a level that would make any future employer envious of Texas. In a similar manner, other topnotch programs could supply social workers, school psychologists and/or educational diagnostician etc. The expense could be limited to reasonable stipends with the expectation most would move on at the end of their training. Experience with the "worst of the worst" could make these interns and residents the best of the best even when working with less abnormal children. With top notch supervision, TYC might be the source for new approaches to teach those who have not learned or could not learn in the regular classroom.

Anonymous said...

blah, blah, blah! I am growing very tired and quite bored with the real lack of ANY substantial "change" taking place....Hey Demetria, PUT UP OR SHUT UP!

I dare you to run for president someday Perry....this whole mess you have allowed to continue for MUCH TOO LONG, will come back and bite you in the ass!

Somebody do something to put this agency out of its misery already!

Anonymous said...

i am all for intensive initial assessment but what good does it do when there is really limited resources for mental health or other forms of treatment? an exercise in futility because it really doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

I know Bronco was behind a bunch of this ship em to Mart and lock em up business. I even think he retaliated against some staff who questioned his insistence of placing youth on BMP without due process. I am curious why it has taken 2+ months for this to hit the news, why it came into light only after Bronco left. Maybe it goes higher than Bronco but in December the Pope was talking about a complete review of security unit procedures and in particular BMP.

Anonymous said...

SUNSET

Anonymous said...

THEN WHAT?

the sun will rise the next day and these youth will still be sent somewhere. If people think TYC is bad they should do a full scale investigation of juvenile probation detention facilities.

Anonymous said...

I think the key emphasis in Harrell's report is his insistence that TYC is still bound by the Morales settlement. I seem to recall either Pope or Humphrey specifically suggesting (incorrectly) that Morales was either outdated or inoperative. That may explain why this report comes out two months after being written.

This is really a Pandora's box b/c it applies not only to isolation of youth, but also to intake and assessment, which some of you have pointed out has also slipped dramatically. And it applies to use of pepper spray. And probably a range of other areas not even mentioned here.

IMO, it all adds up to further evidence that TYC at some point in its recent history began sliding back into a pre-Morales state in numerous areas, a trend probably sped up in the past year under quasi-TDCJ management. I say this b/c Harrell's descriptions of isolation here differ little from the facts of the Morales case itself, as well as numerous scandals in the decades before it.

The new conservator has a hell of a job on his hands.

Bill B.

spearshaker said...

10:46 You are correct. My (likely unfounded) assumption was that accurate assessment would lead to better (adequate?) placement, even (as is currently the case) MH (Terrell State Hospital currently has 2), even appropriate contract care. Underlying that assumption was Judge Justice's decision that juveniles warranted treatment (Circuit Court did not agree, but did not overturn, just sent it back for review); probable change in DOJ might look hard at a system that did not provide such care.
11:02, I agree with 11:27... if TYC goes off into the Sunset, state will still be responsible for the care (or containment) of delinquents... and, I would suggest, liable if they contract for services.

DAC said...

Who or what can we put in charge. It is clear the public doesnt much care what happens to these "juvenile delinquents". Warehouse them til they are old enough to go to real prison or the gurney and hope til then they keep the killing, drugs and theft in their own "neighborhood."

It boggles my mind that these kids have become throw aways to society. Not that some are not so badly damaged (sounds horribly liked the old machine thing from science fiction) that they may never get out of the cycle, but the right is content to believe that none deserve a chance.

I hear the problems, but what is the solution or a solution. Dont we need someone at first to shake up the agency (I know that I sound like I want a hero like Brubaker and maybe I do)

Anonymous said...

This report falls squarely on the shoulders of the Regional Director, Superintendent, and Assistant Superintendent. Humphrey is gone so please don't blame him for your inability to speak out against this. I hope Mr. Nedelkoff takes a very close look at the staff on the ground who choose to do nothing and demotes them to a job they are more suitable for, one that requires no backbone.

Anonymous said...

The new Conservator needs to take a long hard look at Wade Phillips. He is a nice guy but out of his area of expertise as the Deputy of Juvenile Corrections. Wade is an Attorney TYC hires from Dell computers and was the Deputy General Counsel. The Pope did not Stan so he was demoted and Wade was slide into this position. Wade has already made one very apparent blunder by naming Bartush as the acting Billy Humphrey. This is not a slam on Bartush either, just that he is not qualified for this post if the agency would like to move forward. The Mart I and II fiasco (isolation of youth)occurred under Wade's, Humphrey, and Bartush's watch. This will all be revealed after a full investigation occurs and you look at the checks an balances of each position and their area of responsibility. So far the Conservator has made the right moves, please do not allow an inexperienced lawyer to make decisions that will have a significant impact on the lives of youth and staff.

the Whispering Voice said...

I guess it must have been a coincidence that on the evening before the article came out in the Houston Chronicle practically all the students who had spent any length of time in security at Al Price were suddenly released to the general population. Due process, for both youth and staff, requires some degree of organization and planning. I guess those topics were left out of the 'administrator' manual for TYC.

rage said...

The new Conservator needs to take a long hard look at Wade Phillips.

I agree. His time coaching has passed anyway, and that would allow us to keep Jason Garett, who has already been offered the head coaching job at Baltimore. Don't let him go Jerry!

Besides, look what Wade did for T.O. Anyone who can reform T.O. can refore TYC!

Anonymous said...

Do I detect a note of humor coming from Rage? My, my!

Anonymous said...

Coaching requires a concept of X's and O's, not just winging it.

Anonymous said...

Wade worked for Dell; he knows his I's and O's (is that close enough for government?) :-)

Anonymous said...

How was Bartush chosen oven Walters for Billy's position?
No offense to Bartush but hasn't Walters already supervised half of the people in TYC at one point or another? Plus he knows how to follow policy and procedures so he can show some other people how it should be done.

Anonymous said...

Bartush is temporary, hopefully.

Anonymous said...

Good question about Bartush. Another perfect example of people being placed in positions that have no business being in them. The "Good Old Boy" system continues to be alive and well. You have to keep in mind that Bartush was a Caseworker six months before being promoted to a Program Specialist--then not long after that he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent and then of course to Superintendent. Then less than a year later he was promoted to Regional and now less than six months later he supervises the Regionals???? What the heck is going on here? Unfortunately, as in a divorce, the kids are the ones suffering when people continue to be placed in positions because of who they know. If I was a parent of a TYC youth, I would be furious and certainly be demanding answers. As stated earlier, there are emotionally disturbed youth in the system as well as Hard Core Criminals. 01-17 7:26 knows what they are talking about and I cannot believe more focus is not being placed on how to actually "rehabilitate" these youth. The "screw you" attitude and the "you can't do nothing to me" attitude, etc. that is being allowed is definitely not helping the youth or the staff. Another thing that blows my mind is that our Administrators keep saying "why are we so short-staffed?" DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How about the criteria to be an Administrator include the skill of actually knowing why TYC is so short-staffed, why the youth are totally out of control and why the majority of staff left at TYC have low morale? Then the ultimate test would be that they actually give a crap about staff and youth--what a concept. So if that's the new criteria, then Demetria you are out, Bartush you are out, Ayo you are out, Cook you are out, DeGerolomi you are out, Hawthorne you are out, Haider you are out, Phillips you are out--sorry I know there is only so much room on this Blog and not enough room to list them all. Gainesville had to send staff to help Crockett "this time" and Gainesville doesn't have enough staff as it is so they are working the JCO's unmercifully. When will the maddness stop????

Anonymous said...

Wade is perfectly qualified to run Corrections. After all he made his first visit to a state school two days before he was placed in charge of Corrections. In DaPope world that qualifies as a long history of juvenile corrections experience and makes him TYC's expert on corrections.

Anonymous said...

part of the solution is a strong executive director who has a vision for the future, not just maintaining a status quo (Harris), and the ability to effectively communicate that vision (clearly not the Pope on either count of having vision or ability to communicate clearly).

Another part of that vision is creating an environment where youth are treated with respect and are expected to treat others, including staff, with respect. Things are way too lose in this area. I don't agree with many peoples allowance for youth cursing others or staff.

There are many solutions but they take time and money, something Texans and the legislature have routinely stated they are not interested in alotting to TYC youth.

Anonymous said...

Whoever decided to roll out this new treatment program by February 1 was an idiot. Few staff are trained, they haven't even secured the right to use the assessment tool which is at the core of stage assessment and treatment planning, few staff are trained in one part of the program and none will be trained in the other part because they canceled the training, and the program clearly did not take into account the needs or realities of DSO youth.

Anonymous said...

The new commissioner published his list of management principles with the e-mail he sent out this evening. Everyone should honor his request and take a few minutes to read them. This guy sounds like he not only has a vision, he has the skills set to bring the vision to life. But, it will take the willing cooperation of the rest of us, who say we are in it for the kids, to step up and help out. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

I agree Old Salty (ML) but if we are to move forward those that have been placed in positions by Humphrey, Pope, and Neal, need to be sent packing. Change can only occur when true leaders have a conviction of doing the right thing all the time not just when someone is watching. The field is in disarray based upon staff being placed in positions they are not qualified they just understood that if you say "Yes, Sir Boss" they would be moved up.

Anonymous said...

Walters for President!!!

Anonymous said...

My initials are not ML. (I'm going to have to go to the staff directory to see who the heck ML might be.) Old Salty

Anonymous said...

You are either ML or SD. You have given too much information and it has been narrowed down. I hope you are SD as much as I dislike SD, ML is just a ratty little troll.

Ex-TYC said...

1/21/2008 05:15:00 PM
I can vouch for Old Salty, he is not ML or SD. I know who he is, but I ain't telling. He is one of the very few good staff that TYC has left, and he is not a troll. Who the heck is ML and SD anyway?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your vote of confidence, ex-TYC, but there are many, many good employees still left in the agency. Most of them are out on the floor trying to help kids find a new direction in life. I think I have figured out who ML and SD are. I do not know Mike L at all, and I don't know Stan D very well, but what I have seen of him leads me to believe he is one of the good guys. BTW, most of the people who read this blog and who know me personally have figured out my identity.
Old Salty

ex-tyc said...

Yeah, but Pope probably doesn't know who you are. You don't want her to transfer you to Evins, that would be hell of a commute each day!

Anonymous said...

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/5471360.html

Kids in solitary: Texas Youth Commission shake-up fails to eliminate
punitive and inhumane measures against juveniles

On the same day last November that the Chronicle published an editorial
calling for speedy rebuilding of the scandal-scarred Texas Youth
Commission, the agency ombudsman sent an alarming memo to TYC acting
director Dimitria Pope.

A year after revelations of sexual abuse of inmates by reform school
guards and wardens led to ouster of the TYC board and management, it
seems the agency is slipping back into its bad habits. In the memo,
chief ombudsman Will Harrell alerted Pope to evidence that agency
employees were putting more young people in solitary confinement in
violation of TYC's policies and procedures.

Under the TYC's Behavior Management Program and its "Stop the Violence"
campaign, TYC supervisors have become increasingly reliant on sending
teens with behavioral problems to isolation cells without required due
process hearings or psychological evaluations. Even worse, according to
Harrell, some of the inmates at a correctional facility in Mart, east
of Waco, have been left in solitary for days and even weeks with scant
access to therapy, sanitary conditions and outside exercise.

The ombudsman cited a case in which a youth had been locked down for
eight days. He was allowed on only two occasions to go to classes and
was given outdoor recreation only once. "Conditions in security are
inadequate and unsanitary," Harrell wrote. "One cell has no light or
bed, yet a kid has been in the cell for over 24 hours." Records
obtained by the Chronicle indicate that since August, the number of
young people placed in isolation across the state rose from 52 to 82.

As Harrell reminded Pope, the settlement of a 1983 lawsuit brought
against the TYC bans the use of isolation as a mode of retaliation or
as a first-resort punishment against youth offenders. With only a few
exceptions, the agreement allows placement in solitary only as a last
resort and for a period not to exceed 24 hours. It also calls for the
student to be released from isolation as soon as he is under control
and not posing a danger to himself or others.

Harrell recommended that a TYC team audit the transfers of youths to
solitary and release those who do not meet the criteria or did not
receive due process and psychological exams. Until that happens, a
moratorium on isolation should go into effect. A thorough evaluation of
agency use of solitary confinement should be accompanied by
implementation of positive rather than punitive behavior mod programs.

In the two months since Harrell sent his memo, nothing has been done to
address the issues he raised. While Pope was unavailable for comment,
newly appointed TYC conservator Richard Nedelkoff indicated he had not
been told of Harrell's concerns and would analyze the situation and
come up with recommendations in 35 to 40 days.

Pope's failure to act in a timely fashion on the ombudsman's warning
indicates Nedelkoff needs to consider bringing in new leadership at the
agency as well making major policy changes. While the conservator
carries out his appraisal, the use of solitary confinement should be
halted until officials can guarantee it is being used in a responsible
and legal manner.


Brought to you by the HoustonChronicle.com

Anonymous said...

When the BMP was first put in place, it was intended as a last-resort intervention. It has become a dumping ground for kids the dorm caseworkers and dorm staff don't want to deal with. If the caseworkers in particular followed the requirements of the BMP, they would be putting in significant effort with the kids on the BMP. What actually happens, however, is the dorm caseworkers depend on the overworked security caseworkers to do the bulk of the work.

There used to be a requirement for the Youth Rights Specialists to do weekly audits of the BMP cases to ensure that the kids on BMP were getting the services required by policy. Perhaps that will be a requirement of the new Youth Rights Specialists.

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