Few criticized the move at the time, but in the next two years one heard increasing rumblings out of TYC - especially from the old-timers but also from then-Ombudsman Will Harrell - that this had been a mistake and that the move was sending lambs to the wolves, setting up those who were transferred for abuse or worse at the hands of older inmates. According to the Ombudsman, youth sent to TDCJ were "five times more likely to be sexually victimized, eight times more likely to commit suicide, and twice as likely to be attacked with a weapon or beaten by corrections officers,"
Which brings us to Joshua Barnes, the inmate who made a daring escape from the UTMB prison hospital in Galveston and was just caught Wednesday in Irving. Today is his 21st birthday and he's a TYC alum. I don't know why Barnes tried to escape, but looking at this photo taken at the prison hospital I think I can guess:
Yesterday I received an email about the case from a long-timer at TYC who writes:
I knew this kid. He was at Sheffield. This troubles me to no end to see him like this and making the news. He did really well in TYC but was one of those kids who needed our attention in the community. If they had not changed the law regarding aging out of TYC at 19 as opposed to 21, then I doubt this one would be looking at such a long prison term. This was a good kid. His parents gave up on him. His future is a shame. Take a look at TDCJ's Fugitive Watch web page. Take a look at this kid who looks like he was beat badly at TDCJ which is why he was at UTMB in Galveston. I think I'd run too if I took a beating that bad. He turns 21 years old tomorrow. This may not of happened if they didn't change that law in SB103. Take a look. Now, instead of a 35 year prison term, he's looking at adding 15-20 more years I'd bet.This escape has many folks questioning what went wrong, but it's quite possible that moving 19-20 year olds from TYC to adult prisons was a significant contributing factor that nobody's talking about.
We need to change the law and TYC should be able to work with these kids until age 21.
CLARIFICATION: Whoops! Larance Coleman, the policy director at the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, emails to say my contact at TYC gave me bad information. He writes:
Scott, major problem with your post, check the public conviction data at DPS, he was received in TYC in 2001, he was out on the street and arrested for an adult felony (possibly the same year he was released) on 10-13-2006. This would have made him 18 and if he was not a determine sentence youth TYC could have kept him until he was 21, since the new law was not passed until 2007. Although I do not know his TYC status, it appears that TYC made the release decision and as an adult he has committed one crime after the other, often days after his release from custody. Thanks.NUTHER UPDATE: And here's a response from the original emailer:
The kid was on TYC parole status at a foster care home when he absconded and burglarized some homes. He could have had his parole revoked and returned to TYC. Instead they put him in jail, and while there, it appears he escaped and was charged with that as well. It was his first time on parole. It's not like he had multiple TYC parole revocations. If that were the case, I'd feel different. If his crimes were not property crimes, and instead murder, rape and so forth, I'd feel different. The thing that bothers me is that I think we should have had another crack at rehabilitating him in a TYC program.So there's the crux of debate - over what happens to parole revocations for those convicted as juveniles. My apologies if the original post mischaracterized Barnes' TYC-related status.