Wednesday, October 01, 2008

TYC caseload projections questioned

Sen. John Whitmire opened this morning's hearing on the Texas Youth Commission by grilling Legislative Budget Board analyst Michelle Connolly over their projections earlier this year predicting growth in TYC inmate populations over the next few years. Connolly explained that because the average length of stay at TYC remains around 13-14 months, a steady intake rate (they estimated TYC will receive 2,090 new inmates per year) will inevitably cause the number of incarcerated youth to increaes, all else remaining equal.

As became clear during the discussion, actions by the Legislature next year in the TYC Sunset bill or changes in agency policy could significantly alter long-term projections. However, Connolly's explanation of their methodology convinced me LBB wasn't just blowing smoke when they predicted near-term increases in TYC caseloads.

I agree completely with the Senator that with juvenile crime declining and probation caseloads stagnant, it's an odd phenomenon that youth prison caseloads continue to rise. If the Lege intends to seriously consider shifting some or all TYC functions downstream to counties, they're going to need to figure out a way to crack that nut.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope you write a piece on the Ombudsman's response to his obvious inaccurate report. He sounded the alarm on a database issue but made it sound like nothing was investigated? My streaming broke up so I couldn't hear the explanation of all this.

Anonymous said...

Grits: Counties are already having trouble finding alternate placements (instead of committing to TYC)just like TDCJ is having trouble with private vendors.

Where we, back a couple of years ago, placed kids with relative ease, waiting lists now exist at the "good" programs.

Plato

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that although juvenile crime overall is down, felony referrals have not decreased. If that is the case, the number of TYC referrals should remain constant or even possibly increase.

The overall decrease in crime would have no impact if felony referrals stays the same.

Anonymous said...

Plato

There are very few compainies willing to contract with TYC to take these very difficult cases. It's a matter or high risk and low reward.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"There are very few compainies willing to contract with TYC to take these very difficult cases"

This is kind of true of private prisons generally, adult and juvie - they tend to cherrypick the cheapest, lowest risk offenders. That's actually part of why I wrote this.

Anonymous said...

Scott,

One of the effects of eliminating misdemeanor commitments is that there are more felony commitments being made per juvenile arrest rates as a result that there were a lot of plea bargaining going on reducing felony charges to misdemeanors. The incentive is now to come up with felony charges so that youth can be sent from the counties to the state, so the counties will spend less.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

grits: It was not my experience when I was with privates that we "cherry picked" who we'd take. We were in the bidness of filling beds and making $. The first load of TYC kids we got, we later found out, came from TYC institutional security wards. They were multiple revokees who were so troubled, the Supt's just wanted to get rid of them. Went through about 50 days of Hell before TYC came and took back about a third of them. That was some years ago so not sure what it's like today. I will say though that Jay Lindgren, then the ops guy did an investigation and later told me that about 80% of them should never been sent to the private facility I directed.

Plato

Anonymous said...

Howard hit the nail on the head. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Indeed. Sometimes reforms get out of hand and actually cause more problems. What if they didn't stop accepting misdemeanants but still supplied all the resources to the counties to prevent TYC commitments. Do you think that would have worked better. It is the same thing that happened with lowering the age to 19, which by the way is the opposite of national trends, now more youth being certified as adults. We all know from a recent report from the OJJDP how effective that is.

Whitsfoe said...

With respect to all, I just wanted to point out a few things with regard to where we're at now, and how things have changed for the better.

No one would have heard these alarms of cases that went unheard of and/or were only minutely considered as a civil rights violation in the past 5 years, even after a "careful review" by Central Office Personnel. It doesn't matter that they were glanced over, or eye-balled at all.

It doesn't matter to anyone of us in Old TYC that today, that alarm was addressed as being somewhat false.

The fact is it rang and got attention.

Could we say that in 2004? Sad enough, the answer is no.

What matters to all of us is that the damn alarm went off.

It rang, and it got attention, and folks, considering the past, that is evidence of reform. In the past, these allegations were spoken of in denial and in very dark places, and often dismissed.

Not today.

Today, these recent allegations were made very public, and that's a big change from the past.

This agency has now proved itself capable of opening the doors to let the world see. And I'm proud of that. Own up to your mistakes as you work through reform, and get to know one another a little better. Turner, Madden, and even Whitmire were singing that tune today, though they seemed pissed.

Also, it's apparent TYC has big wobbly baby legs right now as it reforms. Again, considering the past, those were some huge baby steps today. They're trying to walk again. I see a bunch of worried stakeholders trying to catch the baby. Those babies are gonna fall every now and then, but let them learn to walk again. Then criticize their new momma after she's addressed these stumbles!

Today may have seemed victorious for one side or another, but the fact is, it's evidence of reform and thus a victory for all. And I'm glad to be a part of it. - Whitsfoe