Friday, February 22, 2008

Nuther lawsuit vs. TYC filed alleging staff on youth brutality at Evins unit

As a legislative oversight committee grilled TYC administrators in Austin this afternoon, another civil rights suit was filed by a former inmate against the Evins unit in the Rio Grande Valley, which was already the subject of federal litigation and a recent Agreed Order. According to the Monitor ("Teen accuses Evins staff of abuse," Feb. 22):
A former teenage resident claims a staff member at the troubled detention center threw him to the ground and violently attacked him after a raucous group therapy session in July 2007.

The incident left 15-year-old Robert Romero Jr. with a dislocated hip, fractured pelvis and a ruptured artery in his thigh, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week against Evins and the Texas Youth Commission, which oversees the detention center.

“It takes quite a lot of make a grown man cry,” his father, Robert Romero Sr., said. “But after I saw my son, I broke down in tears.”
Though the boy turned out to be significantly injured, he sat in solitary confinement, undiagnosed, for a week before somebody helped him:
On July 17, the teen says a counselor accused him of disrupting a mandatory meeting where several inmates were present.

Romero, who claims he obeyed the staff member’s orders to settle down, was ordered out of the room.

The Evins employee then allegedly followed him out into a hallway, slammed him onto the ground and bent his legs into his back.

Romero “felt excruciating pain run through his leg accompanied by a loud popping noise,” the lawsuit states.

The incident left the teenager hospitalized and in need of continued medical care, said his mother, Graciela Garza Romero, who lives in Rockport outside of Corpus Christi. For several days afterward, Romero Jr. sat in separated security room with undiagnosed internal injuries.

“At the time, they kept telling me he was OK,” she said. “He wasn’t OK. He was sitting alone for a week with a fractured pelvis.”
This account seems to corroborate some of the recent allegations by the Ombudsman and others that TYC overuses solitary confinement and doesn't always attend to youths mental and physical health needs when they're locked up in isolation.

47 comments:

sunray's wench said...

This makes me feel sick. I've had a fractured hip and 2 replacements, so I cant just about imagine the pain that the boy (because at 17 that's what he still was, no matter if he was 6' 6" and 300lbs) went through for a whole week before his injuries were seen to. What behaviour could possibly justify this kind of assault? And how is this in any way setting a good example to kids who have in the majority seen enough violence themselves before they arrived in TYC, and showing them there are other ways of resolving a situation?

A Critical Observer said...

The late John Conrad once observed that a correctional facility - prison, jail, detention center, halfway house - ought to be "lawful, safe, industrious, and hopeful." The administration of the Texas Youth Commission should focus on bringing those qualities to reality.

Anonymous said...

What I'd give to have several Conrads at our agency now. I worked for that man, short period of time, but recall his integrity, his ethics and the way he took care of his employees not to mention the youth.

Anonymous said...

SOS (Same old stuff). Nothing has changed concerning health care for incarcerated offenders (juvenile and adult). I can hear the spin masters of managed health care now, "This was an isolated incident. . . .". I have listened to their hollow explanations so many, many times. I believe medical neglect this severe is not a routine incident, however, is far from isolated.

Where were all the TYC employees of this facility that care so much for the kids? Administrators making their daily rounds should have noted his condition ( I AM making an assumption that daily rounds are being made by all administrators).

I know taking medical "professionals" to task is not a career enhancer but I firmly believe a Superintendent/warden has a moral obligation to provide his wards proper medical care to the best of his ability.

One more comment and I will get out of here; If a supervisor is not making daily rounds of his facility, especially his Ad Seg/ Solitary/Behavior Management cellblocks/areas, he is a PPS (Very poor excuse for a supervisor)!

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Evins keeps coming up in these lawsuits. Whitmire had his 'fave four' to dog on yesterday, but I didn't hear hardly a thing about Evins...just a little discussion regarding oversight by the DOJ (which Whitmire seemed NOT to understand - why am I surprised). Do we just ignore Evins so we don't upset Chuy? Is that what it takes to get these sorry excuses for legislators to lay off?

I believe this is the reason this agency can't recover...the politicians can't make up their minds what they want and they can't leave anyone alone to do the job. Geez, I wish they'd all just find something else to entertain themselves. It's not about the kids with them and if any of you out there belive that it is, well I've got some nice ocean front real estate for sale out here in West Texas. Its all about THEM and their egos and personal vendettas and even what they had for breakfast that's not agreeing with them! They all make me physically ill!

Anonymous said...

Chuy wants it both ways. He holds press conferences in the valley where he "confirms" that youths are being abused, and proclaims he is going to put a stop to it, then a few days later, he holds a press conference where he praises TYC employees, and states that TYC is "handcuffing" them and not allowing them to do their job in dealing with these "dangerous criminals". Which is it, Chuy?

Anonymous said...

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at the meeting with Whitmire after the meeting yesterday morning.

Whitmire is just speech making......He wants everyone to know he is knowledgeable on TYC matters and has some ideas on how to fix it.

I think he may be afraid the new conservator will get all the credit for turning TYC around!

Politics or not, I just want TYC to turn around and help children of Texas enough to make some small improvement in Texas public safety.

Anonymous said...

Yes 10:23 it may seem Evins is abusing kids but this incident occurred as the kid was defiant and was able to place his feet on the wall and threw everyone off balance. (It started as a standing PRT.) This how he got hurt. Theirs video on campus to prove this. It was until later that the parents were approach by lawyers to sue Evins or this incident.

As for retired 2004, you state very good comments and to answer a question you ask, "Administrators making their daily rounds should have noted his condition ( I AM making an assumption that daily rounds are being made by all administrators)." Administrator do not make there rounds like they should. Only when something happens. All they do is call up the youth in Admin. after the incident has occurred. Sometimes the next day, if a weekend, Monday.

Things will change though, we are glad that Ed. Martinez returned to continue what he had started. He listens to STAFF and youths as well.

Anonymous said...

Someone said a couple of days ago in this blog that JCO staff were stupid and either unable or unwilling to learn proper procedures to do their jos correctly. Never a more true statement for the majority at here at Evins. You can lead them to training, but that don't mean they'll implement it. Couple that with csw staff that cannot/will not communicate properly with youth and families and you have the doulbe whammy. I've worked with them all and sorry to say that Ed's not the answer here. Like the rest, he's back to only pad his retirement and make a few bucks. He'll live out back, soak it up, and in the end he won't truly invest in us. Nice guy but full of air like all of the others.

Anonymous said...

We just need to shut Evins down. That place has been, and always will be, a complete failure. Year after year after year, they always do something stupid out there which makes the entire agency look bad. Just shut that dump down. Nedlekoff shouldn't give a shit about Chuey or Pena. Screw them both.

Anonymous said...

The Medical department in TYC CO which is supposed to provide oversight of the UTMB contract care is waaaay too chummy with the UTMB folks. Perhaps that's because of a history of nursing folks moving from TYC medical dept to fat salaries with UTMB?

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if you can get transcirpts on the Interim seanate Committee on Criminal Justice meetings? I know you can watch the videos from last month and October, but I would like to be able to go back and read what they said not just listen.

Anonymous said...

Yep, agreed. Evins has no redeeming value to the State of Texas. Shut it down or give to Hidalgo County. Let the most corrupt and worthless region of state take care of their own business. Chuy may or may not be happy with that, but screw him. He's as worthless as the facility.

Anonymous said...

Now is the time for the Evins staff to voice their opinion. The Evins unit is like no other in the TYC system. Youth who are committed to TYC from that distric are kept close to home causing problems in more ways than one. Most youth in the facility know each other from the free. Some staff are related to youth in the facility causing more problems. And since the youth are that close to their home, some of the parents show up at the staffs houses to tell them to leave their child alone. This unit continues to have problems due to the above problems. And then there is Chuy, the unit sits in his distric and he claims to know very little of what goes on there. Get out of the office every once in a while and go see yourself. Give the staff some backing and make sure that the youth are kept safe while they are there.

Anonymous said...

5:07 unfortunately, they are not available (unless a private individual chooses to transcribe them and provide them).

Anonymous said...

Really, who cares?

Anonymous said...

A 43 percent JCO turnover rate in TYC? I noted that Whitmire also said that TDCJ was 4,000 correctional officers short, but that discussion would be for a different time.

I retired in 2004 and TDCJ was over 2,000 officers short (I do not know the TYC JCO"s figures). At the time, This was considered a crisis. Two legislative sessions later and the staff shortage has doubled in TDCJ and greatly increased in TYC. I don't think it takes a "Doctor Tony F." to determine what direction these agencies are headed for.

Closures and consolidation are the only practical solutions. I am not for consolidation but I can see the hand writing on the wall.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

The problem with medical care in TYC is UTMB. UTMB is not accountable for its actions. I tried to get stronger controls on UTMB but was told by Dimitria that we were not going to do it.

As to CO nursing staff being too close to UTMB, since I saw many of the TYC medical staff battles with UTMB over youth medical care, I find that hard to believe. If getting a UTMB job was the goal, they had a most bizarre method, something akin to hitting the job interviewer with a baseball bat.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

How are TYC employees ever going to learn to work together and support each other in moving forward when it's obvious there are whiny, scapegoating ignorants who blame one facility as being "worthless" or a lost cause, as though wherever they work or worked has a pristine record? Progression is impossible when people refuse to see room for improvement in their own lives, and that's easy to do when you choose to focus on others' mistakes as worse than your own.

People have known for years that Evins has had problems, and nobody outside the agency has tried to cover it up. The facts have also shown that it was employees from another facility who visited Evins and abused youth there, after the riots in 2004, and this resulted in heavy media coverage. And people who allowed it to happen eventually worked in the CO and had also worked at other facilities besides Evins previous to their CO positions.

And then you also have the abuses in West Texas, San Saba, Marlin, and every single facility around the state, not to mention halfway houses. McFadden Ranch seems to be rife with problems. Brookins worked at other facilities before moving to West Texas, none of them Evins. There are problems at EVERY facility, in one form or another.

One of the differences at Evins is that it's in a populated area with a somewhat involved press. You can't say the same thing for most TYC facilities. People pointing fingers at Evins should be less hypocritical, as they only have their disinterested presses, remote locations, and local DA's to thank for the lack of public information detailing their difficulties.

Furthermore, the ignorant and borderline bigoted comments on this site make TYC employees in general look bad, which is helpful to no one. TYC employees want and deserve respect from the public, and unfortunately, a vocal and bitter few often rant on here, making TYC sound dysfunctional. Think about the kind of image you're putting forth about your agency when you act like backbiting, gossipy cranks on this site. It's foolish to proclaim yourself better than others in your own agency when what you write is immature and ill-informed. Why would anyone believe you know what you're talking about when you write emotional, angry screeds that amount to nothing?

Anonymous said...

10:08 a.m., are you the keeper of the secrets at Evins? My, my!! If you all had handled your stuff, there would have been no need to send in help from other facilities! Would there? Talk about a cheap shot, sounds like you're grasping at straws there aren't there!

Anonymous said...

My 10:23 a.m. comment was meant for 10:09. My typo.

Anonymous said...

Not true, Evins is not hiding secrets. These same schools that help Evins and others as well. Evins brought them out in the media, that's all. 10:09 has a point. Remember, only two of all the staff suspended or fired from the 2004 incident were from Evins, and they were suspended and came back. Where were the others from?
End of story.

Anonymous said...

10:23, I'm just informed and can keep my facts straight. I'm hardly any "keeper of secrets." Besides, as far as transparency goes, Evins has received more coverage and public documentation than any other facility, except WTSS, maybe. They're probably on par.

If I'm a "keeper of secrets," I've done a pretty lousy job, haven't I? So what are you accusing me of again?

Anonymous said...

10:38 a.m. in all the years that Evins has been in trouble and Central Office has tried to set it on the right track, nothing has helped and no progress has been. I want you accept that fact plus the fact that it needs to shut down. The only reason you are still open is because of Hinojosa and the public official who the facility is named after, it's called politics. The program there is not working, admit that and shut it down. WTSS had one isolated incident that broke at an in-opportune time, which we had no control over, and it took the limelight off your facility for quite a while. Accusing you personally, nope, just the whole facility as a whole, it's prone and prime for incarcerated gang members who have families nearby to knock on employees homes and threaten them. I'm surprised they haven't been waiting for staff out in the parking lot. The area you work and live in is rife with corruption of public officals and constantly in the news over it.
Not a very safe haven for the rehabilitation of youth. Consider yourself lucky to have politics play in keeping you open, but for how much longer before someone sees the picture the rest of see! Be honest and tell me what you really think?? It's nothing personal against you, I don't know who you are. I'm sure you want to keep your job just the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

11:35, the "problems" you're describing with Evins will apply to any facility opened in a more urbanized area, yet this is what multiple experts and providers are saying needs to be done because remote facilities don't attract professional care providers, and families and youth can't see each other when they're hundreds of miles apart.

Also, juvenile detention centers and parole offices are focal points for delinquent youth where employees can be "ambushed." Should those be shut down, as well?

It's ironic that you say politics keeps Evins open when it's common knowledge that it was politics and attempts at saving money that got remote facilities sited and opened in the first place. Further, is South Texas just not supposed to have ANY TYC facilities, even though a high number of committed youth are Hispanic?

It's ALSO ironic that you say South Texas is rife with corruption when small, rural towns, and large urban cities have their own forms of nepotism, corruption, and quid pro quo systems. Look at Ward County, Harris County, and any county in between, and you'll find some level of corruption. The question is, does any given system affect the TYC facility in any way? Ward County's DA sure screwed over WTSS, didn't he? And once again, Evins' problems are constantly investigated, reported, and brought to light. This is possible because of its location. Would you prefer all facilities remain in darkness, like WTSS? Just because nobody can or desires to see the problems doesn't mean they're not there.

Nobody is happy to see good, dedicated people lose their jobs. The reality is that we're now dealing with a system that was not built on a good foundation many years ago, and the cracks in the walls have become too big to ignore or explain away. Singling out the Evins facility as the problem child won't change the fact that remote facilities, as wonderful as their staff may be, are not easily accessible to families and care providers. What we should already be discussing is the purchasing and construction of smaller facilities where staff will be happier to work and where youth can operate in smaller groups. Maybe if WTSS retained only certain kinds of youth from West and Central Texas, and had a smaller population, it would have an important niche role, and the few providers who CAN go to WTSS would be able to devote enough time to individual youth.

I'm not a logistical or management genius by any stretch. I'm just reporting what I know as fact and I draw my own opinions.

Anonymous said...

Here is a fact we all know: Evins is under a DOJ investigation and no one else. Evins has been sued in federal court, and no one else. Enough said. Shut down Evins.

Anonymous said...

I agree, enough said about Evins.

Anonymous said...

Better yet, why not make Evins smaller and never use open bay dorms again? That way, youth from South Texas can still live near home, and there will be a large enough employee pool in the metro area to hire employees.

Or maybe that's not simplistic enough for some people.

Anonymous said...

Obviously not simplistic enough for 12:23. He/she is in denial.

Anonymous said...

Lets try to be realistic here folks, these facilities will never wind up in metro area's, period!!!
The money for these positions is so low the staff would have to commute from far rural area's to work there and these cities do want them, and the money will never be appropriated to build these facilities.
Even if the money was appropriated it would take years and years for this ever to come true and by then we will on another topic, can you say TDCJ.
I am also aware money was appropriated to build ONE of these facilities in the near future.

In all honesty these current facilities will work just fine as soon as you drop the populations of each and do away with the 96 bed dorms that were built at these sites over the past few years.

It is way to simplistic and that is why it will never happen, we have a tendency to elect some of the most ignorant people for office, and not just in Texas.

Anonymous said...

What's the deal with Victory Field, I was told Gwan Hawthrone, Wallace Brown, Ayo the Hun, and others would be there this week.

I guess collectily they can figure out how to turn the program around?

Anonymous said...

Joe B. Evins, the namesake for the Evins Regional Juvenile Center is documented as publicly stating,
"Coruption.. in Hidalgo County we not only tolerate coruption, we demand it". One sure fire way to get out of part of the DOJ lawsuit is tp close Evins. Any legislator with half a brain (excluding Chuy of course, having half a brain is prerequisite) can and should see this solution. Close that thing down.

Anonymous said...

To poster at 1:44, I wrote the 2 posts you're referring to. So what was your point? My suggestion is not simplistic enough for my own liking?

Anonymous said...

The problems at Evins are not primarilly problems with the staff. I have been to Evins several times for extended periods and found that there are many highly qualified and dedicated workers at all levels there. Evins, like many other state schools got too big. Evins has some of those imfamous, nefarious open bay dorms (which were pushed on TYC by Whitmire). Evins has a serious gang problem, especially, as has been pointed out above, since the gang members are in position to threaten family members of staff. Converting the 96 bay dorms, and lowering the capacity of Evins will go a long way to solving many of its problems. Giving local gang members only one chance at Evins might help as well. Have a simple rule - get involved in gang activity inside and you go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

1:55 p.m. Hawthorne, Brown, Ayo the Hun, scary isn't it? You can't make a good brain out of those three!! They were all promoted because they are "yes people", not on the basis of qualifications. They were Bronco Billy and Pope selections. Two were mentored by Chip Harrison and still keep in touch with him and have the same management approach, intimidation and hunger for power.

Anonymous said...

2/23/2008 10:39:00 AM said:
Yes 10:23 it may seem Evins is abusing kids but this incident occurred as the kid was defiant and was able to place his feet on the wall and threw everyone off balance. (It started as a standing PRT.) This how he got hurt. Theirs video on campus to prove this. It was until later that the parents were approach by lawyers to sue Evins or this incident.

You say this like it excuses the fact he sat for a week without medical attention. It doesn't matter if the kid was the biggest jackass in the world at the time of his restraint and caused the injury to himself. Injured youth are supposed to get immediate medical attention. If for no other reason (like having empathy for another human being that was in pain)you would think the staff in the security unit would want him seen as soon as possible to protect themselves. The student could have easily claimed his injuries happened while in security by one of their staff or on their watch since a medical assessment didn't occur immediately after the incident. What the heck were these people thinking?

Anonymous said...

Conservator put out his weekly communication with some plans. Unfortunately the words retention of professional staff are not found in any of his areas of concern. How foolish. All this talk about closing Corsicana is very bad. TYC needs this facility to remain stable and functioning properly. My oh my.

Anonymous said...

It used to be that after every use of force incident, the youth would be examined by medical personnel. This practice protected both youth and staff. That changed with the UTMB contract. Now the UTMB nurses refuse to examine a youth unless he is claiming injury. If the youth mouths off to the nurses, they leave without an examination. Great medical care. But - don't tell Whitmire - he said he does not want to hear it.

Anonymous said...

To 1:55 pm-troll-Victory Field is fine with acting Supt. while our commandant Brooks is having kidney tranplant...old news...go troll somewhere else

Anonymous said...

Victory Field wins the TYC prize for lack of supervision. There are tell-tale signs all over that campus where youth have valdalized, in areas they never should of been. The comment that VFCA mirrors Bronte is accurate. Ask Will about what he saw!

Anonymous said...

Is there a still a program where employees can call the Adjunt General's office and report fraud and waste?

Does any have the number?

Anonymous said...

10:13 The sad part about all this mess including Corsicana Closing is the trust of CO that Staff do not have. Does anyone really trust what they tell you these days?

Would you believe that your job is really safe if they say so after this past year? I certanily don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, graffiti at Victory. You might want to check into the tatoo situation here while you're at it. How in the hell can kids on the dorms continually give each other tatoos if there is any supervision at all much less a mop handle in the butt? Might want to check into that situation as well. Oh, I think that was covered up already. I believe the staff that let that one happen was "let go". In my opinion, they should have been locked up themselves to let a younger kid get sexually brutalized by a number of older kids and turn their head and let it happen. I don't believe that's a lot different that what happened at West Texas. Just different participants. If someone would just come here and actually sit and ask the staff, they'd find that there is more crap happening here than they would ever imagine. Of course, most staff won't tell anything other than the "nice" stuff because they fear their jobs. When/if they ever decide to close us like they've said for so long now, ask the staff then and you'll see just what has been covered up for so long. Youth having sex with staff in the cafeteria (JCO and cook), former staff having the same youth take the trash to the compactor for extended time periods, male staff sexually harrassing female staff, teachers showing up at places and times when they shouldn't be there, teachers giving credits like they were candy, others giving candy that's not authorized, 225's being thrown away wholesale, caseworkers and P.A's not doing their jobs but being sure they take their "extended" smoke breaks, staff bringing in contraband to youth and youth telling who and where they had it taped, etc. Graffiti, now that's a funny one.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

Have you heard anything about former TYC staff forming a consulting group to assist youth and their attorneys? I have a kid from San Antonio on my dorm saying his attorney told him that he may use them after getting his parents permission. Is this legal?

Anonymous said...

8:49,

I have not heard of a consulting group but as a general rule, it would be perfectly legal. One would only have to watch out for some potential ethical conflicts if one were a licensed professional but outside of that there would little if any conflicts.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Reality check, people.

The DOJ would be suing all TYC facilities if they could get access to information about what was going on in them. It's not because Evins is the worst; it is truly because of all the media attention and the fact that there are actually attorneys in the Valley that are willing to take these cases. DOJ needs a truckload of evidence that there are problems before they will actually take action.

It's important to understand that DOJ's standard of care is based on its findings across the nation and federal case law (including Morales v. Turman). Those of you that have worked in TYC since the 80s: Imagine TYC as the very best it can be. Imagine more than enough staff, enriching programming, a more attractive and functional physical plant, a culture where youth aren't fighting, gang activity isn't raging, and staff aren't in fear for their safety. That is the TYC the DOJ is looking for. Minimally, Texas must provide the latter three points. And the vehicles for doing that (according to the DOJ's original findings letter) involve adequate staffing ratios, improved rehabiltiation programs, and more staff training.

People from Gainesville & Victory Field: How exactly do you think that people from your geographical areas got appointed by House Speaker Craddick to the TYC Advisory Board? Do you think it was "corrupt politics" or just some kind of divine intervention? Hmm, I wonder if those folks will use their position on the Advisory Board to influence Nedelkoff not to close these facilities?

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