Friday, August 01, 2008

TYC tries to move forward, but history's anchor still drags down agency

A couple of stories in the Dallas News this morning will pique the interest of readers following the Texas Youth Commission drama.

How long for TYC conservatorship?
First off ("Texas Youth Commission will lose another top official," July 31), TYC is about to lose their 6th top official in two years when conservator Richard Nedelkoff leaves the agency:
Gov. Rick Perry is expected to name a new agency chief — either an executive commissioner, as Mr. Nedelkoff recommends, or a new conservator — this month. A spokesman in Mr. Perry’s office said the governor had not yet decided which position it should be or who should fill it. Mr. Nedelkoff said he’s not setting a timeline for leaving, but acknowledged it could be the end of August.
Nedelkoff had recommended to the Governor that conservatorship end yesterday on July 31 and a permanent Commissioner be hired. His predecessor as conservator, Ed Owens, also recommended ending conservatorship last year, but the agency clearly hadn't finished the required reforms. As evidenced by the report on education put out by the Ombudsman this week, there are still many problems to address.

That said, it's unclear to me, however, that a conservator would have any greater power to fix problems than would a permanent commissioner. I expect changes required by the Sunset Commission will have more impact on the direction of reforms than who's leading the agency or what is their title.

I spoke to Nedelkoff earlier this week and he told me that he'd not heard back from the Governor on the recommendation, but also said he'd not completed all the requisite tasks the report said must be finished before conservatorship could end. (The News reports Nedelkoff said those reforms are "days or hours" away from being finished.) He said he understood possible permanent replacements had been identified and interviews had already begun.

TYC topped national list for sexual assault in '05, '06
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department yesterday issued a report analyzing data (pdf) on sexual assaults in juvenile detention facilities that placed TYC at the top of the list nationally in confirmed incidents for 2005 and 2006 ("Texas juvenile prisons led nation in sexual violence," July 31):
A survey by the U.S. Department of Justice found that Texas juvenile prisons led the nation in incidents of sexual violence during 2005 and 2006.

The department's Bureau of Justice Statistics cautioned that the survey was "not designed to rank systems" but provides "an understanding of what corrections officials know [and] what information is recorded."

The survey was released Thursday. It said Texas reported 21 substantiated allegations of staff sexual misconduct with youths in 2005 and 2006. No other state reported more than nine.

Also, Texas reported 26 substantiated allegations of "youth on youth nonconsensual sexual acts." The next highest was Wisconsin, with nine.

Texas accounted for 29 percent of such substantiated allegations nationwide, though the state's share of youth incarcerated was only 11 percent of the national total.
A few long-timers at TYC have taken the position in comments on this blog that allegations of sexual assault at the agency were overblown by the media last year and didn't really happen despite all evidence to the contrary. If the mountains of media investigation didn't convince such folks, I doubt this information will either. But for the rest of us it's pretty clear confirmation that Texas DID have a sexual assault problem before entering conservatorship. I don't support everything that's been done since then in the name of cleaning up the mess, but these data put the lie to claims that there wasn't a problem with kids in custody being victimized, both by staff and other youth.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

The funery mass has begun. The pyre is built and it is only a matter of time.

TYC is dead.

No telling what monster the Lege will invent to replace it.

Anonymous said...

TYC will never recover.


There has been much more drama that we do not see in the newspapers.At McFadden, Our treatment manager was fired behind forgery charges, it would seem that he would forge signatures to case workers files. Its getting pretty bad here, we can't keep staff and we have no superintendent since ours was fired for that bleaching incident last summer that was all over this blog. Its just a mess.

Anonymous said...

The news report does not say if the government report applied only to TYC, or if it applied to all juvenile lock-ups in the state. That would be an important piece of information.

Anonymous said...

Don't know how much "moving forward" is happening. You know the old saying, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nedlkoff has seen that he just can't pull this off so he is trying to pin a gold medal to his brief service by saying that TYC has changed for the better, as he slithers away to the east and the sunsets on TYC in the west.

Anonymous said...

The end of the shrub era is approaching and all his cronies are hiding, vanishing, or just covering themselves in their own filth.

Needelkoff is joining the retreating.

Anonymous said...

This analysis is a problem because of the definitions in the DOJ survey and the ability to identify abuse. TYC in 2005 and 2006 had one of the best systems to identify abuse unlike the other states. Also TYC decided to use the broader meaning of the DOJ definitions for abuse while most other states ignored the DOJ definitions or connived to seem less abusive than they actually are. States with bad tracking systems show lower numbers because they do not have any data. States with good tracking systems report more cases but that does not necessarily mean that there is more abuse just that they have better information.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Yep, I'm one of the long-time TYC staffers who believe the media reports about sexual abuse are overblown. I never said none of the reports were true; I have said most of them were not or were sensationalized in the media. Those that have been confirmed ("substantiated") are relatively few.

Mr. Hickman is correct when he mentions the definitions used. The terminology can be confusing. I've never thought of sexual harassment as "sexual violence," but the BJS does as of 2004. So, a staff member writes a suggestive letter to a youth, and he's guilty of "sexual violence." Am I just being a ninny?

I can't compare the propensity to report among states, but I think Howard is in a position to do so. I still say TYC has taken a bad rap.

Now, I'm going to take cover while I read the report thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

You know - all this boils down to an integrity issue - I feel that we have staff ready to leave, still employed but not working - too many negative attitudes - and the biggest issue is that we all know who they are but no one does a damn thing about these employees. If it were feasible,I would go from campus to campus and pick the best of the best and start all over - let the subpar, negative, inept staff pump gas - but stay away from our youth. You know who you are - please leave!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Are these raw numbers? I mean, not downplaying anything, but Texas had one of the largest populations of juvenile offenders incarcerated in the united states, if not the biggest during that time span. Thus, Texas had to employ a very large workforce to deal with it. We can fit about five states in this state. So, are these numbers more reflective of the size and population of this state? And I agree with Howard. You gonna tell me Louisana was up front with their numbers? Get real. New York? California? Please. And if you did a little more research, you'd find that the vast majority of incidents involving sexual activity with a JCO or a cook and a kid were women hooking up with boys. They couldn't find a cowboy in their community so they fell prey to the inner city street kid who needed some game. It wasn't like a bunch of men performing oral sex on kids such as what happened at the WTSS. But the media, ACLU and Ledge all want you to think that. It's really kinda funny seeing how misinformed the media really is. But just for grins, why not poll TYC employees and verify what I'm saying. They'll tell you.

Anonymous said...

Never read so much crap on a forum in quite awhile.

"The other states cheat so our numbers aren't so bad."

"Writing suggestive letters to our minors isn't so bad."

"Women staff scoring with minors isn't so bad."

What the heck is wrong with you people? If you work for the TYC it's quite obvious, based on just your comments, that TYC is screwed up and you clowns just don't get it.

The protectors aren't supposed to become the predators. If this crap went on in some of the middle class public school districts, there would be a bunch of indictments - and it sounds like some of the commenters are the ones that need to be in front of the grand jury doing the indictments.

Anonymous said...

Why do you guys keep beating a dead horse (TYC)? It is over people, TYC cannot be fixed.

Anonymous said...

3:04, the comments at the beginning of your post are yours, and no one else's. No one here said or implied those things.

Look, the title of the report is "Sexual Violence Reported..." This is self-reporting, so its accuracy depends on consistency among facilities and states.

For instance, do we know whether TYC reports of inappropriate letter-writing were regarded by BJS as sexual harassment, even if only one incident of letter-writing was confirmed? Would such behavior even be reported by all facilities in all states?

From the first page: "The administrative records surveys were not designed to rank systems or facilities." Yet, the headline was "TYC topped national list for sexual assault in '05, '06." This is the sort of slanted reporting that I object to.

deputylastrites said...

It is not surprising to me that Texas has the most cases of sexual abuse in a state wide juvenile corrections agency. Unfortunately I believe the inferences made are somewhat misleading.

I agree that Texas leading all other states in the sexual abuse of children in a state correctional institution. I think what the media is failing to mention is that most sexual abuse cases come from other youths incarcerated in TYC.

Yes, the left wing media hailed the abolition of the Aggression Management Program as a triumph. Unfortunately what they missed is that now that kids can't be locked in their cells during the day time or meal times there is a smorgasbord of crime to be had. Oh yes, now sexual predators cannot be separated from the general population. Now teachers cannot kick students out for masturbating in class. Yes, now aggressive youths steal food from weaker kids. Sometimes the weaker kids commit minor assaults or break rules so that they can go to "security" (TYC's joke of a jail within a jail) for a night or so. I have often heard from smaller youths, "At least they can't take my food in security." Also it has now become standard practice to distract or outright attack correctional staff in order to steal food or attack other youths due to the fact that correctional officers are severely restrained on what kind of force they can use. In one kids words, "I can do what I want, because if they touch me all I have to do is call the hotline and they are either transferred or fired." Most of the officers now working in TYC only have a few months of experience.

Yes liberals have done a great job in protecting our youth. Thank God for them....

Please someone tell me if I got it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Another problem with terminology: This report uses the terms "Substantiated," "Unsubstantiated," and "Unfounded." What does "unsubstantiated" mean -- that it could go either way? For this reporting period (and I think still), TYC's alleged mistreatment database used the terms "Confirmed" and "Not Confirmed." Once in a blue moon, an investigator ended a report with an "inconclusive" finding, but the database entry was still "Not Confirmed."

Notice no "unsubstantiated" investigations were reported by TYC. Ohio, Maryland, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma had numbers in that column in double digits.

Anonymous said...

deputylastrites,

Thank you for showing a more accurate picture.

The public does not yet have a true complete picture of what has been going on at TYC.

It sounds positive to hear some posters say TYC is dead and over with, but I do not see evidence of that.

These studies and surveys really do nothing to illuminate. The governor and the state legislators seem to be masters at sweeping this TYC situation under the rug.

dirty harry said...

TYC isn't even close to breathing its last breath. There are currently some good people at all levels that have been pulled from the muck, and are currently trying to put things into shape. I just don't know if they will have the time or resources to succeed. One thing is for sure, as long as they allow corrections to run the education side, it won't succeed. However, a few key people are starting to figure this out.

Anonymous said...

Deputylastrites, this report does NOT prove that "Texas has the most cases of sexual abuse in a state wide juvenile corrections agency." It only proves that TYC responded to the survey! The surveyors themselves said they didn't set out to prove any such thing about any specific juvenile correctional system. Did you read any of the report at all, or just the DMN's headline?

Anonymous said...

Dirty Harry,

Keep giving those rescue breaths and chest compressions, you will not be able to last much longer. TYC should and will be dismantled. There are a couple of good ones left at each level in TYC, unfortunately, they are ruled by the power hungry, incompetent managers that have sealed the Agency's demise.

dirty harry said...

8/03/2008 12:09:00 PM said:
"Keep giving those rescue breaths and chest compressions, you will not be able to last much longer.
TYC should and will be dismantled. There are a couple of good ones left at each level in TYC, unfortunately, they are ruled by the power hungry, incompetent managers that have sealed the Agency's demise."

TYC will still be there in some form or fashion. Federal law states that these youth will have to be educated, and Texas education code says that upon commiting certain violations of the law, they cannot be allowed in a general education setting. It may go through some sort of metamorphasis, but TYC will live. The fear I have is that it will be put under the direct management of TEA, which will be just as bad or worse than what it is now.

Anonymous said...

TYC will not survive Sunset. It will be reorganized, placed under another State Agency, or handed over to the counties. So, you are sadly mistaken, TYC will not "live". Yes, someting will be done with the juveniles that commit serious crimes, but it won't be committing them to TYC. Keep wishing and hold out hope, and in the end, slap yourself in the face for not getting out before the fall of TYC.

Anonymous said...

TYC lawsuit challenging status of at will employment of current employees hired before lune 2007 coming........watch your local legal blog for more to come

Anonymous said...

any and all forms of abuse are wrong.

that said, i looked at the report and next to Florida (who with over 6000 youth reported no incidents of sexual abuse-please), Texas has the most youth. The ratio of cases per youth is not the worst in Texas. Far from it. Look at Ohio and Wisconsin!

Grits you know better than this.

Anonymous said...

Oh it's all doom and gloom huh 8:04? You don't offer anything productive here so just slime on scumbag.

Anonymous said...

Truth hurts, huh, 10:01. Do all the name calling you want to do. It's fairly indicative of what's left in TYC, you must be a Central Office Executive.

Anonymous said...

8:41 remember that if you comment on McFadden you may cause all the comments on the thread to be wiped out!

Anonymous said...

Here is an excerpt of an email sent out by Nedelkoff this past Friday:

As you are aware, the TYC Reform Plan, released earlier this month, sets a benchmark of around July 31st for me to recommend to the Governor to end conservatorship. When you are managing a reform effort as large as the one we are undertaking, it is very hard to predict the exact timing of events. We still have tasks and projects in our reform plan that are not yet completed, which means I am not yet prepared to recommend to the Governor that the agency is ready to operate again on its own. My job as conservator is not finished until we have provided the state leadership, Legislature, and the public with the material we have promised – several key documents, plans, and policy changes. We continue to work diligently to achieve these benchmarks and produce results, but until such time as those obligations are fulfilled, I am not comfortable recommending the conservatorship be ended.

Does he know if he's coming or going?

Anonymous said...

5:32

Why is that? McFadden comments are not allowed on grits?

Anonymous said...

Me thinks 5:32 is trying to start something.

Past McFadden commenters have been almost irrational and overly attacking of dissenters in the past. Like to person who called anyone who would differ form his point of view "Hetrick" (??spelling).

The comments not only derailed much of the debate it annoyed and turned many people off to the stings they were written on.

If GRITS censored it was only because some of the comments became so derogratory and offensive and without any merit he was forced to come in and referee. This is his blog afterall and we should all attempt to play nice in the sandbox.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't trying to cause any problems, I was the original McFadden poster, and I just wanted people to know that everything that had been reported on here did end up being true in the end. People in high places were terminated.Making us wonder what the state of our facility was or if TYC would be abolished all together and that is why we are short 15 staff members.

Anonymous said...

9:02,

Do tell more? Who is the attorney filing the case? When will it be filed? Please give mor information.

Anonymous said...

On the first page of the report, (after the sentence that says the survey was "not designed to rank systems or facilities"), it talks about the National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC), another survey BJS is completing that relies on reports given directly from victimized youth. They will use reports given by youth anonymously via a computer-assisted self-interview. The paragraph ends, "When NSYC is completed by yearend 2008, these methodologies are expected to provide the data needed to permit reliable facility-level comparisons." Comparisons of what -- how many youth in each facility were willing to anonymously give details about instances of abuse -- whether true or not? I anxiously await the publication of that report.

Anonymous said...

TYC needs to be abolished at some level. These "halfway houses" need closed down. They are providing nothing in the way of rehabilitaion and are maintained with unqualified staff who don't seem concerned with anything but their next paycheck! If the McFadden poster is correct and they are down 15 employees, I have a question? Who is watching the students?!?

Anonymous said...

http://www.statesman.com/hp
/content/editorial/stories/08/07/0807tyc_edit.html

Anonymous said...

Hey 6:15 - sounds like Whitmire is talking out of both sides of his mouth - again. I remember you guys agreed to try the Missouri model of a smaller facility in the urban areas and thus were granted that 25m. to do it. Now that you guys set forth the plan, and old Whitmire freaks.

You TYC folks need to understand that ole' John has big ole' ears that hears what he wants to hear, but has a terrible memory. Go back and look at the Joint Select when Dwight Harris was your ED, and notice how Harris agreed to build such a facility. Now John wants to get pissy about it. Do you think John would be having these issues if his lova' of anotha' cola' were your ED? Hell no, we all know that, so just sit tight because politics are what they are, sometimes meaningful but often times bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to pursue a mental health warrant for John Whitmire.

I remember that Missouri model discussion as well. I guarantee John doesn't. He's starting to show sings of Alzheimer disease. And it hasn't gotten any better.

There has to be some kind of law that removes mentally ill persons from serving in his capacity regardless of votes.

If any of you make referrals for this disorder, please refer John to HCMHMR.

Anonymous said...

We could set him up an appointment TYC MD Psych's. They would love to have a one on one with him I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Whoever treated Whinehouse needs a shot @ Whitmire. He's that complicated.

Anonymous said...

While Whitmire has alot to say, I don't think Texans are ready to take responsibility for these youth in their own counties. The issue will turn on him if he suggests anything other than mini TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

I love John Whitmire, he is freakin awesome. I must agree, that anything short of abolishing TYC will be a travesty to Texas tax payers.

P.S. John Whitmire for Governor!! Let's keep Austin fucked up.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that we have a change over in administration every 6-8 months so nobody ever gets a handle on what's going on at TYC. Oh, that's what we have now?
Never mind.

Anonymous said...

What is going on with James D. Smith, Deputy Commissioner
Residential & Parole Services? He says "I am also pleased to announce that Ayo Omoniyi has been appointed to.... "
This is not the first scary decision he has made. He's pleased to be re-cycling the same old insiders and thus promoting the same old culture. These decisions seem to have been designed to say, "Nothing really happened at TYC, at least nothing that we are going to bother to learn about."

Cubby said...

TYC has become a haven for over paid, self-styled, obnoxious megalomaniacs like Mr. Smith who have an over-inflated opinion of themselves and their abilities. He is rude, arrogant, and from what I've seen, not the juvenile corrections superstar he tells everyone he is. He epitomozes everything that is still wrong with TYC. What has changed with his and his cronies arrival? Has the new treatment program been developed yet? No. Have all those Kimbrough, Owens and Pope "silos" been torn down? No. Are staff and youth safer? No. Are staff treated any differently than when Da Pope and the Humpster were running the show? No. (But these new guys at least smile before they screw you.) Better communication with the field? No. (Now we send letters announcing facility closings instead of doing it face to face.) And now these geniuses want to build 8 new halfway houses and they can't fill the beds in the ones they have. Oh, and let's not forget the garish raises they reward themselves with while line staff scrape by on poverty wages and Lonestar cards. And regionalization...there's an absolute joke. It was supposed to make getting support easier...sorry Richie another in the series of your grand illusions. I don't doubt that you want out of this nightmare. More than a little damaging to the reputation and the ego, I'd guess. I'll close with a song sung to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song...

F - U - C
K - E - D
A - G - A
I- N!!!!!

Anonymous said...

There is a total lack of effective leadership at the top. They keep adding folks up there in Austin, and responsiveness to the field continues to deteriorate. One addition from out of state who seems to know what he is doing is that guy they got from Louisianna - Michel. But, of course they screwed that one up as well, because they promised him things they could not deliver on, so they had to give him an inflated salary to make it up to him.

The sad thing is that all these incompetents that Pope hired are still with us. Meanwhile, we still don't have a treatment program, because of the incredibly stupid program that Pope spent a small fortune on.

Anonymous said...

What's with Georgia's state-operated facilities, where 12 investigations from 2005 and 2006 are still ongoing? 12 out of a total of 32 allegations is about 30%! Two or three years should be long enough to determine whether something as egregious as sexual abuse is going on.

Maybe Georgia considers allegations ongoing until there is some sort of resolution in a criminal court. This is another way in which states' varying approaches to reporting mistreatment makes this report useless for purposes of ranking.

19 of Georgia's cases are listed as "unsubstantiated," whatever that means.