Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Will TYC-TJPC merger improve youth corrections?

One thing that was missing from the TYC-TJPC Sunset report (pdf) advocating a merger between the two agencies was any mention of shifting to a more progressive system with smaller facilities as pioneered in the Missouri model, which many experts including the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel have urged Texas to follow.

Instead, under the Sunset plan TYC will close a handful of rural units it's having trouble staffing anyway, but otherwise basically keep its same youth prison format.

I think when a lot of us first heard the suggestion, "Abolish TYC," we assumed it would mean a more radical shift away from the agency's large institution model. But the Sunset proposals do not suggest taking the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department in that direction anytime soon.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is improvement? Who is supposed to be the bigger problem? TJPC was dragged into this equation because a) they are a Juvenile Justice component that works, and b) because TYC did not appear to be voluntarily communicating. And to boot, TYC was judged as an agency by the alleged criminal behavior and alleged cover up by a minority of top managers. That is called throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If Mrs. Pope were still the agencies leader, I don't think TYC would be on the chopping block. But she is no longer there, and despite a very erudite and competent new leader as Exec. Comm., there is no desire to see if the Texas Youth Commission is really different from the moral failures of a few former managers. Somebody has got to pay. How come we don't treat the major banks and corporations the same way. They certainly failed morally as well as economically. And their punishment? Lots and lots of taxpayer money. Too bad TYC was not a bank or an AIG. Hey, maybe they should just try some new initials and apply for a bailout!

Anonymous said...

TYC was not labeled 'broken', simply by the sex scandal and cover-up. There was much more to it, the sex just brought the spotlight on TYC. Most everyone now would conclude that TYC was badly in need of overhaul, top to bottom. All the statistics even from TYC indicated the agency was not providing what it was intended to. Sex - just the tip, as they say. Once opened up for the public to see, every major program was ruptured with no goals or direction to correct any of the mess. Keep a couple of the institutions for the bad boys and girls and move the ones who can be rehabilitated into placements near their homes, for family support. Even though employees dislike it, youth still deserve proper treatment. The 'warehousing' needs to completely end.

Anonymous said...

If TJPC is as good as some of you seem to believe why in the hell are you being lumped into this, get real.

Anonymous said...

TJPC is a "pass through" organization, they are ill prepared to handle the youth that come to TYC we receive only the top three percent of the youth so they should be "treating" 97% of the youth that enter the JJS anyway. What happened?

Another issue is that how would we handle the merge/ Would everyone have to re - apply? Will TYC handle the institutions and TJPC handle parole and probation? That is what is supposed to happen - fire and relocate the idiots at the top - let us in the field run the facilities, work everyday with the kids and staff and you people atr the top can sit in your leather chairs and think up ways to ruin lives. People at the top need to be fired if things are not happening!!

I have been with the agency for 10+ years and NEVER seen a youth miss a dental, vision or psych appt. so how can people who have not worked with the kids in the field tell us rural facilities can't provide medical services and use that as one of many reason to shut us down?

People that exploit, abuse andneglect youth need to be dealt with swiftly and sent to jail - this did not happen because people at the top protected their buddies and the folks in the field pay the price.

You know why you guys can't keep faithful staff? The hipocracy at the top - who is watching the watchdogs is what I would like to know!!

dirty harry said...

I read the merge as a new way to employ another whole administrative level to oversee both agnecies. Oh yeah, just what we need.

And, although "11/18/2008 10:14:00 PM" says they have never seen seen a youth miss a dental, vision or psych appt, I have many times seen youth go through an entire incarceration stay without recieving ANY required special ed services at all.

Vox Populi said...

i suppose it's naive of me but this country has become numb to where we're headed with our children.
Prison.
It's so lizard-brained.
It makes me sad.
I'm glad that you care enough to cover it even though it seems dismal no matter what these two behemoths choose.
For me mergers always spell less accountability.

Anonymous said...

Bingo, Grits.

BB

Anonymous said...

I think the Sunset Commission is right on the money. I like the idea of abolishing TYC and TJPC and creating a seperate department that encompasses everything juvenile. Furthermore, I love the fact that it will be governed by a board that will include a chief from a local department.

Anonymous said...

TYC/TJPC are two different animals. Just like TDCJ/CSCD are. Look how that turned out! It will be hard for one Department to achieve two different goals. Leave the early intervention stage,TJPC/Local Departments, seperate from the juveniles who are more hard-core and need more intensive services. Keeping things as simple as possible is the key to juveniles getting early intervention services. NOT a bigger organization.

Anonymous said...

Grits, I'd also add to your post that the upcoming discussion of Sunset's proposal in the lege presents an opportunity for advocates of reform to show as clearly as possible how moving to smaller, regionally-located, more treatment-oriented facilities will save money in the long run.

Since cost savings are clearly the priority here, addressing that is a must. I hope representatives of the Blue Ribbon Panel are going to be able to speak directly to this in the next lege session.

BB

Anonymous said...

TJPC doesn't have any contact with any kids, they just deal with with the counties who deal with the kids. Hell there only about 70 employees in that agency, 95% of kids never even see a tyc institution.

Anonymous said...

Bill,

The problem with the cost savings approach is that it ignores the fact that all one tends to get with less cost is less treatment, less education, less food, clothing and shelter, and less qualified employees. If cost is the overall objective the answer is shut down everything or just lock them in a bare cell and give them baloney sandwiches until they turn 18; one would save mega millions. Approaching the problem with cutting costs as the overriding ground rule is only going to produce even more of an inferior product than now exists. The approach should be this is what needs to be done and it is going to cost more but it is the right thing in the long term. You can either pay for it now or pay a lot more in taxes and other societal costs in the future.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

You get what you pay for. For years, the prime directive from downtown to all state agencies was to cut costs by x% each year, no matter what else. So the state got what it paid for at TYC. Not a bunch of crooks, but rather a bunch of well intentioned managers, some of marginal competence, some not, without the resources to do things right. And a couple of sickos who hopefully would never have been hired if TYC had invested in developing best practices. Which takes money. And competence. Which takes money to hire.

It seems to me that if cost savings is still going to be the prime directive, it really isn't going to matter whether juvenile services are starved of adequate resources through a Missouri model or a mega facility model or through the counties. It takes money to develop good training and staff development and selection practices, and then it takes time for the fruits of those reforms to take effect. I think TYC is heading in the right direction in those regards, but it takes time. And money.

I am all for saving tax money, and if it makes economic sense to combine TYC with TJPC, so be it, but we need to fund juvenile justice and rehabilitation like we actually mean for it to succeed at its difficult mission.

Anonymous said...

As long as their are 'professionals' aka. Don B. at WTSS, who doesn't provide youth treatment, as alleged; why should there be in any improvement in this area for youth. If he damned that institution to closure, why should like 'prpfessionals' be even evaluated in the new TYC? If a proven misleader to the public, why count his double failures?

Anonymous said...

Focus people, we need to be talking about Lydia, Bayes, Hollis and/or Crockett. You folks are way off topic!!!!

Anonymous said...

Howard,

I fully agree with everything you wrote. Indeed, the "baloney sandwich" camp has had its moments in juvie justice history far too often.

But, the reality, as you know far better than I, is that any reform program must offer long term savings to have a snowball's chance.

BB

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the one thing overlooked by so many.
We work with youth that have mental problems of various degrees.
Why do we not get trainging on understanding things like bipolar diorder, add and such?
I believe this kind of training would help much more than asking what they were thinking when they exhibited the problem behavior.

Anonymous said...

Bi-polar disorder, ADD, and such are treated with medications and cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is helping a person understand why they do what they do so they can correct it. The agency is trying to help you learn to become cognitive therapists. It would be ideal if we could just hire therapists as direct care workers, but that will never happen. I do know that when our therapists do try to train on the issues you've mentioned, most JCO's eyes glaze over.

Anonymous said...

Training security staff or case managers to provide assistance (we cannot call this treatment of course) to those with mental health problems is NOT the way to go! I heard the same lame excuse, (We cannot hire qualified mental health professionals; this is better than doing nothing), many, many times in the past.

I must predict that the TYC-TJPC merger will be similar to the TDC-all adult criminal justice agencies merger (now TDCJ). More positions created at Headquarters/Central Office for political "payoffs" and/or good old boys and girls that are not the least bit qualified for the positions.

This merger will also allow several more years of providing the excuse, "this is a new initiative; it takes time to implement. Implementation will happen after the study is completed."(sound familiar TYC folks?).

This will also be the new dumping grounds to get rid of some people in the other agencies without terminating them. And last but certainly not to be overlooked; Funding will be required to start up this agency, office space, facilities, yes, yes, yes! money, money, money!
I seem to be getting carried away. And life continues.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

If I was re-designing any system, I might actually take people that worked in the system and knew how it functioned.

You reference the Blue Ribbon panel but I don't see one person on that list that actually works in juvenile justice.

Anonymous said...

The agency now referred to as TYC has a culture with a 120+ year history of verbal, mental, physical, and sexual abuse on the most vulnerable children in Texas. Change the culture and you change TYC. On the other hand, you cant help people who don't want to be helped.
Sheldon tyc#47333

Anonymous said...

Thank you 8:54...
"Keep a couple of the institutions for the bad boys and girls and move the ones who can be rehabilitated into placements near their homes, for family support. Even though employees dislike it, youth still deserve proper treatment. The 'warehousing' needs to completely end."

I really like the idea of determining the ones who can be rehabilitated and moving them near their homes. Families can provide support of the kind that is os most importance and cannot be provided by any TYC employee, no matter how trained and professional they are. Also, I believe families can watchdog what goes on at these local facilities and maybe do a much better job of preventing what happened at TYC. That is an extremely valuable free public service provided by the public who continually is unserved by the public servants.

As for the "bad" boys and girls, they deserve to be given the best "treatment" possible and deserve not to be warehoused. From my studies so far, there really is no effective treatment for certain "pesonality disorders" and other mental conditions. If they can be educated and if they can be made to work productively and reap the fruits of their labor, to some limited extent within the institution, that would be the best that can be done for them and it is not very good at all.

I do not think anyone is served well by not telling the truth about the prognosis for some of these "kids". They are not really "vulnerable" or "treatable". They must be protected from abuse,they must not be allowed to abuse others, and they must not be used by personnel to abuse other boys and girls.

Anonymous said...

I agree, also. Some of these ideas concur with comments from "Raped by the State"., which perhaps you also read. I also noted that Mr Hinojosa referred many times to these hot subjects fom the book. As servants of the public, I feel we must provide the best treatment possible to our youth, bad or good.

Anonymous said...

11/20/2008 07:26:00 AM,
We are early into the new plan and the kids have already figured out what to say to get you to go away.
If they dont want treatment and use the system to their advantage nothing will change.
You can't let them off by telling you what you want to hear, you have to really make them understand their behavior and with the training I have had from tyc I would not know how to do that, I have done my own research to find ways to get them to open up and really talk about their behavior.

Anonymous said...

Bill,

Any "reform" that costs less money is not going to result in reform. The problem is that the true legislative purpose is really to push the costs of juvenile justice to the counties and school districts, ignoring the fact that the counties and school districts are going to have less money as a result of the housing downturn and the economic recession so juvenile justice will only get worse.

I believe that going down the cost cutting road is not only factually deceptive but truly a waste of time because two years from now we are going to be in worse shape than we are now. The end result is than we are going to end up spending even less money on a system that truly needs significant investment to reform it and the politicos are going to say if we had only been told we would have spent more money "for the children." I never cease to be amazed by the short term memory loss of the cost cutting reformers.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Well said, Howard!

Anonymous said...

Well, lets see - we could 1) leave things as they have been, throw some money at TYC but not really enough to fix anything and end up having more DOJ and Federal court involvement; 2) we could do a real paradigm shift and provide the leadership and funds to keep kids closer to home in smaller facilities with real rehabilitation services (whether run by TYC or the counties); or 3) we could keep kids closer to home in smaller facilities operated by the counties yet NOT provide them funding to operate effective programs. The real beauty of #3 is that by reducing the large TYC target and scattering the resulting problems across dozen to hundreds of counties, DOJ and the Federal courts will have a much harder time "messing with Texas." So which alternative do you see our illustrious leadership opting for?? Shifting it to the counties may be the only way to avoid paying for decent programs and get away with it longer.

diogenes said...

11/20 2:52

Your ideas cut both ways. The question is: do we gain more by following your suggestions, or lose more?

Many youths are in TYC because they have failed multiple times to comply with treatment and rehabilitative efforts at home. Granted, some counties don't have much available, but it is very rare for me to receive a youth who has not been through multiple programs and failed.

Regarding families, many youths are here because their families are criminals as well. When home evaluations have to be conducted based on "who in your family isn't locked up right now?", our only real hope for their success is that they are old enough to qualify for an independent living program. Rough guessing based on the youths I've had, about 10% had parents/families who did everything the could and the youth went out of their way to have problems, about 25% have parents/families who tried their best but really had no idea what they were doing, and the rest have families that are riddled with criminal activity. Who gets involved? It's hit or miss. I've had some of the first group fly all the way out from Houston to visit a nephew to encourage him to do the right thing. Conversely, I've seen parents come in and yell at us that it's our fault her son stole a pen from staff because we had pens on campus. Sometimes the hardest part of helping a youth is getting the family out of their denial about their son's behavior and/or get them to stop enabling or even encouraging the behavior.

The point being, the families who would make great watchdogs pretty much do so anyway. For the rest, all I can say is there is a reason why the youth was ordered by a judge into the "care and custody of the TYC".

As Mr. Hickman points out, regardless of how we go about fixing things, it can't be done on the cheap if we want to do it right. I'll add that there comes a point when people need to shut up, step back, and let the changes have an opportunity to be operationalized. One of the main problems we've had the past few years is that every time we turned around, someone new came in with the flavor of the month program telling us to toss out all the training we had just completed on the previous flavor. Just when we think we're finally getting "the real" program, lather rinse repeat something else comes along and we start over. As the old story goes, you can't build a house by taking advice from everyone who passes by on the road.

Anonymous said...

11:20
You are incorrect. Research shows correctional intensive treatment programs, dialectic behavior therapy, multi systems therapy, and other modes of therapy are effective in dealing with the most difficult youth. Your "research review" is lacking...

Unfortunately, no one in Texas cares to spend enough money, to establish the right environments, for effective treatment. Its all about the money. Just like the TYC-TJPC merger. Just to link it back to the post.

Anonymous said...

Answer:No

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