Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Senate reconsidering TYC budget cuts

According to the Statesman, a proposed 40% budget cut proposed in the Texas Senate for the Youth Commission "appears to be derailing." Reported Mike Ward:

In recent days, the $430 million has re-emerged for inclusion in the Senate version of the budget. That reportedly is to include a pay raise for TYC correctional officers.

If adopted at a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee this afternoon, the funding stream would mean taxpayers will spend about $84,000 per year per kid rather than $99,000, according to two Senate number-crunchers.

But $84,000 is still much more than the county incarceration and treatment programs will cost, critics note. Agency supporters insist it is justified, and is less than before.

“I don’t like this at all,” said Senate Criminal Justice Commission Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, an outspoken critic of the agency’s spending and among the senators who have been working to cut the budget even more.

“What we’re getting ready to pay for is an expensive, overly bureaucratic agency that has way too many high-paid central office personnel than they need.”

Even if Senate Finance doesn't dismantle the agency through the budget, I hope they move forward with Sen. Whitmire's proposal to divert youth to counties using incentive-based grants.

In the short run, it's unclear how much cheaper diversion to counties would be. Under one estimate from Dallas, counties would be reimbursed $222 per day or $81,030 per year. Other counties, including Travis and a collection of probation departments from Southeast Texas, thought they could get the job done at $175 per day, or $63,875 per year, according to documents provided to this blog. (Of course, there would also be additional state costs for grant distribution, oversight, rule enforcement, etc..)

But I do think that, just as Sen. Whitmire and the Lege have done with the adult system, the state can and should still use grant-based incentives to change local juvie policy over time so that the number of TYC commitments declines - hopefully substantially. If TYC populations decline precipitously because of the diversion grants, two years from now the arguments for dramatically downsizing it will be much stronger.

I've never really bought into the notion that transforming the juvenile justice system would be cheaper in the short-run, though in the long run that will likely be true. But my skepticism about cost savings doesn't mean I oppose more local placements for offenders where adequate facilities exist. What's more, I think incentive-based grants have a proven track record in Texas' adult system and would work equally well in the juvie realm.

My hope is that, even if the Lege decides not to slice TYC's budget as deeply this year as Sen. Whitmire and others have proposed, the House and Senate go ahead and fund diversion-oriented juvie grants for counties, as suggested in the Sunset staff report, so the state can maintain or even expand on its recent successes at diverting juvenile offenders from state-run youth prisons.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kool Aide

Anonymous said...

I think TYC budget should be cut starting at the Admin level. I think the pilot programs floating around out there have merit but question if the counties will be able to control their judges and DA's. Just wish Sunset rec's would take place and abolish both, start over.

Anonymous said...

Someone in the legislature might have caught that the county $63,000number does not cover the monies paid by the local school district, which in Austin is about $10,000 per head. Also we still have not received an apple to apple comparison between TYC programs and what the counties are proposing.

Howard A. Hickman

Whitsfoe said...

GFB:

Why do you suppose that Dallas and Austin will be the pilot programs for this initiative as opposed to Harris County where our friend Whitmire comes from? We get more commitments from Harris County than any other county, so it'd only make sense that he'd want this piloted in his own back yard, unless of course, he has some doubts or he lacks the support from his own constituents. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Because Whitmire couldn't sell it to Harris County.

Anonymous said...

What is meant by incentive based grants? Surely they are not going to grant money based on whether a juvenile successful completes a program....

Anonymous said...

If only the right hand knew what the left hand was doing, we could have a real shot at fixing this thing. The agency's lack of communication is, and always has been, the root of all its evils.

DIRECTION....Please!!

Anonymous said...

Part of that high per kid cost is due to the very high cost of Mental Health Treatment Program kids, who are close to twice as expensive as kids in general pop. If the counties pass off the MHTP kids to TYC, while skimming off those kids who are cheaper to treat, TYC's per kid price will go up due to the artificial comparison.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Grits. This is already a done deal in the Senate. Whitmire was successful in his eviscerating TYC's budget.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the budget should be cut starting with the corporate fat cats in the Austin office. Just take a look at the greedy corporate executives that have caused the ecomic woes of today. Someone needs to watch these fat cats. They become greedy giving themselves money while the lower echelon peons suffer trying to makes ends meet pay check to pay check.

Does anyone have any idea what kind of sucesses any pilot program launched counties have? How much money is spent launching these program? How many juvies are actually sucessful after being in one of these programs? Are there stats somewhere? I'm new to this world of juvie corrections. After reading an article in a newspaper over this TYC budget, I decided delve in and become more informed.
The article mentioned this blog and one other as a source for informative topics and varying opinions.

Nubie

Anonymous said...

8:03--where do you get your info that MHTP is twice as high? What is that based on? Caseworkers have a few less on their caseload, but all else is the same, I think. 1:12 staff ratio, same Conextions program, why double the cost?

Anonymous said...

i have seen juvenile corrections at the county and at tyc. basically both are inadequate. i advise whitmire to take information for counseling professionals, and not the unlicensed professionals that are currently running the connections programs. they basically jump on any band wagon that helps them keep their jobs and their high salaries.

Anonymous said...

Its time to put juvenile justice in the counties. Time and mishaps, many, many, have proven TYC cannot control youth, much less provide any meaningful treatemnt. Wasted time for youth, family and the public. No one knows how much money has been wasted by TYC on wild programs that went nowhere, except to elevate some special employees status. Time to get real and start helping kids. Cover for poor employees is past administratots. Go lege /w/new and harsh policies.

Anonymous said...

Wow TYC might get some funding after all? Its a shame that all the professional ppl like myself are leaving!

Anonymous said...

The original problem was because of many of you 'professional people', as you label yourself. Perhaps if you had really been professional people, all this wouldn't have happened! Diplomas, alone, don't make good employees. AIG/TYC....same old same old......

Anonymous said...

Rite-on. Some of those Mexican issued diplomas, so frequent in TYC, are now worth what they were really worth when issued - NOTHING. Some of you used these to rob the state of any credibility it never had. Kick a kid - kiss a fake paycheck...too many in TYC played the game. Now go try to sleep tonight.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to compare TYC people/professionals with the failed business models - AIG/Etc., which ripped off large groups of Amercians investors. We..professioinal TYC employees, gave endless hours and heartless measures for the TYC youth we encountered. We turned may youth into the paths of future endavours of progress. Yes, some have faults, but we, the TYC professionals, are above reproach, for the most and earned our paragraphs in the history of the TYC experience of youth involvement.

Anonymous said...

Seems funny to me that if these kids were being so mistreated, why did so many of them purposely get in trouble when it was time to go home...scratching my head over that one.

Anonymous said...

There is not a single position in state government, at TYC or elsewhere, in which the pay rate is too high. Surely there are some employees who are not earning their pay, but the wage rate is not too high for the position, either at TYC's central office or at the JCO/case manager level. Want a good JCO? Provide a wage rate to compete succesfully with the oil patch or TDCJ or Wal-Mart. Want a good mental health professional or teacher? Pay enough to draw them to a facility in podunk where the students are among the very hardest to reach. Want good administrators in Austin?

You get what you pay for. For too long the prime directive at TYC and other state agencies has been to cut the budget every year by X%, no matter what. That approach results in less oversight, less resources for good treatment or good investigators or adequate training of staff. Out of necessity,for too long TYC has had to take an "any warm body" approach to JCO recruitment. I really doubt that the counties can do any better if one compares apples to apples.

Fund TYC like it has a really important job to do, and stop whining about folks at central office being paid too much. Do you really want the place run by folks who cannot compete for jobs that pay enough to live in Austin?

Where was Whitmire when his friend Pope was decorating her office while Bronco Billy ran amuck?

Nimby

dirty harry said...

Yes, there is still some dead wood at all personnel levels at TYC. But, it's been substantially reduced. And, there needs to be higher pay for some people. I know some professionals who do a great job in TYC who haven't had a raise in almost three years. They are just hanging on until they can retire with their hard-earned benefits, and go to a job that will pay them what they are worth. And, JCO's need higher pay. As it is for the most part, all TYC can attract for that position are people with a high school education who can't get a job with benefits doing anything else. You need good people skills to be a JCO. Most don't have this.

They had a youth suicide last week, and a JCO attacked and put in the hospital this week. How long does this have to go on before the good people in TYC are given the resources to do a good job?

Anonymous said...

The pilot programs are just that, pilot programs. They are intended to keep kids fron incarceration and do what the counties are supposed to do, rehabilitate kids. Granted, some need to go to a lockdown but many need guidance. I have read the Dallas, Travis, South East, North East and a Fort Bend County plan and they all have merit. For Mr. Hickman, until these plans were presented to the senate NO ONE ELSE was even attempting to do anything, including the executive directors of the TJPC and TYC. These plans were not solicited but were created by the authors on their own to try to solve issues with incarcerating kids and I applaud everyone who worked on them. I only wish my region had submitted something also.
The concepts are great and in the long run should help keep kids out of TYC. The Urban counties who already had resources available are probably going to send alot of kids anyhow based on the crimes. Medium and small counties, even though total numbers are small in comparison, had no resources and with this pilot money can bring treatment options to their communities. I hope my West Texas buddies can gel on this and submit for some money also.

whitsfoe said...

The ledge wants to tax snuff, cigarettes and strip bars to fund higher education for students entering the medical field to practice in rural areas, so they can tell you to quit smoking, dipping and to live a moral life.

I have one thing to add using this logic. We should legalize marijuana and tax it to fund TYC so we can tell those kids how smoking the leaf has really screwed up their lives.

Only in Texas folks.

Anonymous said...

This leaves me scratching my head. A JCO VI, with a GED or HS diploma, starts at the same salary a psychologist does with a Master's degree. Now, they want to give JCO's another pay raise.

Seems to me that corrections is more important that psycholgoical services.

Anonymous said...

Budgeting at the State level has always amazed me with their level of stupidity. A good example is with the current recommendation for reduced budgets at all State agencies, TJPC is recommending that such cuts comes from their funding that goes to local department, none from their own operating budget at TJPC.

Anonymous said...

And the circus is still in town! When will this madness stop? The Lege needs to make some decisions that will fix this mess. They need to merge, abolish, start over, or put some leaders in place they will support, pick one, and make it work. Geez, I can't believe we elected these people.

Anonymous said...

There has to be JCO staff, at all times, they run the place. Psychologists are not really needed in TYC, since they provide very little benefit to youth in general. This is recognized by most, hense...low pay for these positions of little importance.

Anonymous said...

Whitsfoe

There is a Bill for decriminalizing Marijuana HB 902 and an additional bill for medical marijuna HB 164 filed in the House. They went to commitee where if we know Texas politics they will stay. Write your represenative and let them know your openions.

Sorry if I'm off topic.

ham2mtr

Anonymous said...

It’s always entertaining to read tyc emps whining about pay. You people suck at doing your jobs, 87% recidivism rates. The tyc was supposed to be fixed in the 80’s and you people over the last 20 years have screwed it up more than before 1970. Trying to make tyc something it IS NOT, ie a place to rehabilitate children, is tyc’s biggest downfall. Lipstick on a turd.
Your culture is corrections, you dope kids up and call it mental health treatment, you are corrections people. Your paid Texas corrections people wedges. To expect you people not to be abusive and/or not molest children, to expect you people to act in an intelligent logical manor in your respective roles is pure foolishness. Think about it, if the ledge wanted tyc to be MORE than a simple Texas youth corrections agency, most of you people wouldn’t have a job at tyc. They would actually hire and pay professionals in juvenile rehabilitation, not morons for Texas style correction roles. What are you people thinking!!!!! Higher pay for what? Sick-um Senator Whitmire.

Don’t get me wrong, we need these disasters like what we call Texas pubic education to feed the prison prep school we call tyc to feed the prison system we call tdcj. We need these systems in place if nothing more than to provide employment for people who can’t get a job anywhere else. It’s the state sponsored welfare food chain.

Check your stats, Harris county has always had more commitments to tyc than any other county, and a very high majority of those Harris county commitments were black children from the wards. No surprise for the urban cowboy mentality.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

Grits, Any word on the Adult Probation Officers Raise???

Anonymous said...

Sheldon, that's a very racist statement in reference to Harris County, particularly considering that Harris County's population is close to a majority minority

Anonymous said...

"very racist statement", ok thats funny. Racist against whom Harris county, urban cowboys, or tyc. If your talking about Harris county sending more kids to tyc with a majority being black kids, that's not racist, check the stats. I think its Harris county justice that may be racist. Again check the stats. Now if I'm racist because I loath tyc or have a fear of red nicks, well; you got me on that one.
me racest, thats funny, ha ha.
Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

Sheldon what does the c/s stand for, wait let me guess C_ _ _- S_ _ _ _ _!!! Go whine somewhere else

Anonymous said...

c/s con sofas dictionary says it means with respect. I think its from the TYC language or state talk as it was called in Sheldon's day. Its part of the Gatesville culture of counting like the saggy pants. I think we officially call it Ebonics today. Read Bill Bush's paper about how the elected officials were warned in 1971 that the prison culture of the old reform school could spread into the free if unchecked. Been to the big city lately?

Sheldon what does c/s really mean? I used to see it scratched on the walls around Giddings.

Anonymous said...

Why pilot a program in Travis County when they damned near stopped commitments to TYC a couple of years ago? Now they are to be rewarded with millions (Whitmires proposal) when they now commit a handful of kids? Why not pilot programs in Harris County which commits 20% plus of all kids to TYC yearly? Savings gained by institutional closings at TYC should be spread around the state to all counties who commit 30 or 40 or more per year.

Anonymous said...

To the person who asked how the MHTP could cost so much more - it is not just the additional caseworkers, it is the extra psychologists, the psychiatrists, nurses and the huge cost of psychotropic medications. Add to that the cost of the stabilization unit for the kids who need one-to-one supervision.

Whitsfoe said...

I asked the same. Why is our fiend John wanting to pilot this program in other districts besides his own where the FACT REMAINS, we receive almost twice the commitments from Harris county as we do from Dallas and Travis combined? Those numbers may have changed somewhat since I last looked, but the last post raises a really good question. Why not pilot this diversion program in HARRIS COUNTY as opposed to Dallas/Austin? Those two counties don't measure up to HALF the commitments sent to TYC.

See, he's up to his old games again. I still think John Whitmire looks, acts, and talks like Elmer Fudd - and even though he still looks like him, I think Whitmire is starting to act like him - irrational, without logic, and quit honestly without his Pope.

I am sick of him so the "Elmer rule" is off. He's now Elmer again. I tried to keep it respectful, but he made it impossible.

It's on now John. Count on it.

You knew my dad... "Boggie." He didn't like you either.

dirty harry said...

Anonymous 3/25/2009 11:40:00 AM said:
"There has to be JCO staff, at all times, they run the place. Psychologists are not really needed in TYC, since they provide very little benefit to youth in general. This is recognized by most, hense...low pay for these positions of little importance."

This certainly hasn't been recognized by me, and I've been a special ed advocate for 16 years. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a well-paid JCO staff. But, whether you think psychologists provide benefit or not, they are a REQUIREMENT under the law for the TYC population that may require them. Now, you can spend time and money trying to avoid hiring good psychologists, or you can choose to hire people who know what they are doing. I realize that TYC is famous for hiring people in education that don't have a clue as to what they are doing. At this moment, they have an acting special ed director in Austin that is going to cause TYC some serious damage in an ongoing lawsuit brought by Advocacy, Inc. However, I can't help but feel that if TYC started paying their professionals as professionals, they might be able to draw from a more qualified pool of potential employees.

Anonymous said...

New employee motto for TYC

"Run off all you can, and Brow beat the rest"

Sure wish someone could figure out what is best for TYC! Its a sad place to be for kids and staff.

Anonymous said...

9:38, adding to your comment: One thing TYC got absolutely savaged for in the Morales ruling was the lack of adequate psychological services.

They were basically using part-time psychologists who visited the facilities once a week or every two weeks. And some of them were retired psychologists doing it for extra money.

In fact, one of them was a relative of a prominent legislator, and was receiving a fairly large salary for part-time work.

Admittedly a long time ago but surely we really don't want to return to those days right?

BB

Gritsforbreakfast said...

As so frequently happens, one (now deleted) commenter - who can't seem to be able to figure out how to work the capslock or avoid calling people names - has ruined the fun for everybody and I'm shutting this string down. Play nice or comment somewhere else.

I don't have time to mess with comment moderation, so when folks get out of hand, this is how we're going to handle it.