Friday, March 12, 2010

Will ex-cop, federal marshal be good fit for TYC Ombudsman?

From Mike Ward at the Statesman:

John Moore, a retired U.S. marshal and state trooper, was appointed [Wednesday] to be the new independent ombudsman at the Texas Youth Commission. ...

Moore, a Denison resident, is retired after a 25-year career as a federal marshal, and served before that as a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and an officer in the Amarillo Police Department.

He also served in the U.S. Army, the Texas National Guard and the Texas State Guard. Moore holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Wayland Baptist University, according to Perry’s office.

As ombudsman, Moore will review and report on conditions in Youth Commission lockups to ensure that a myriad of abuse and operational issues that exploded in scandal in 2007 do not reoccur.

The three TYC Ombudsmen so far have come from extraordinarily different backgrounds. Former Texas ACLU Director Will Harrell couldn't get a Senate confirmation vote after criticizing policies he believed harmed youth. The ex-Dallas judge who replaced him wasn't on the job but just a few months before she was caught smuggling contraband onto the campuses, ostensibly to test security. Mr. Moore, as an ex-Amarillo cop, DPS trooper, and federal marshal, is coming from a very different place - more the background you'd expect for a hire as Inspector General than Ombudsman. His skill set could still be applicable; the question will be one of "want to": Will he or won't he?

The ombudsman function is quite different from that of a cop. According to SB 103 (2007) which established the office, "The office of independent ombudsman is a state agency established for the purpose of investigating, evaluating, and securing the rights of children committed to the commission, including a child released under supervision before final release." So the job is securing the "rights" of convicted felons, plus "investigating" and "evaluating" agency actions or policies that interfere with those rights. Will an ex-cop be the right fit for that task? Let's hope so. It's who the kids have got.

One thing I'd like to see from this new appointee: The last two Ombudsmen focused almost exclusively on what goes on inside TYC facilities, which is understandable given the sex scandals that spurred creation of the office. But the office is also charged with "investigating, evaluating and securing the rights of children ... under supervision [on parole] before final release," and much less work has been done on behalf of youth parolees, who are equally part of the Ombudsman's charge. In particular, there are too many gaps in ensuring free-world mental-health treatment and reintegrating TYC parolees back into the education system. Especially now that lengths of stay have shortened and there are fewer than half as many youth locked up in juvie prisons compared to just three years ago, focusing on parolees and reentry becomes an even more critical part of the job.

TYC is still recovering from upheavals of the last three years, and while progress has been made, some employees have become alienated and in too many quarters its staff exhibit an "every man for himself" mentality. What's more, there's a not-so-subtle backlash from some of TYC's front-line employees against many recent reforms. In that context, Mr. Moore is taking on a particularly important duty. TYC youth have no voice in the process and it's up to the Ombudsman to educate himself about their situation and provide one. I choose to hope for the best and wish Mr. Moore lots of luck in his new gig.

18 comments:

Whitsfoe said...

You know Scott, what really helped when Will was around was he actually took the time to get to know the people working with these kids, both front line and administrators, locally and in CO. It helped because it lowered the defenses of staff, who eventually opened up and told him what was going on and what's been wrong. Will sided with many TYC staff who resisted that TDCJ takeover which really was brave. Given that spirit of cooperation, and after TDCJ was booted out, everyone opened up and shared ideas. He came in at the "crazy" time, but Will had the ability to put people at ease and discuss change. Then what? No confirmation. What a shame.

Next came the Judge who came across hell bent on smearing someone. All the defenses came back up.

I only hope this new guys picks up where Will left off and take Wills approach of "happy staff make happy kids." Will was truly a great Ombudsman, and a champion of advocacy for kids. Lets hope the next guy takes that approach.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Grits. States the challenges well.

Hard to predict what will happen, but I share your hope for the best.

Here is a question: is the Ombudsman now a permanent position within TYC?

Bill B.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"is the Ombudsman now a permanent position within TYC?"

On paper, at least, it's actually its own separate agency by statute, part of SB 103 from 2007.

Anonymous said...

"In particular, there are too many gaps in ensuring free-world mental-health treatment and reintegrating TYC parolees back into the education system."

Let's not forget the fact that parolees have no supervsion once they are released from TYC. In fact, we have juveniles that prefer TYC over secure placement because once they are paroled from TYC, supervision ends.

Anonymous said...

Just another government slug who can't get a job in the real work and secures an appointment thru good-ole-boy contacts.
Us Marshal=Camp Counselor? WTF?

Charity said...

We can only hope he will do a good job yet I can not help but be skeptical because his background is in adult incarceration which has nothing to do with rehabilitation. Then again, does TYC really have anything to do with rehabilitation?

There will never be another Will Whitsfoe...only in a perfect world....

Anonymous said...

Only in a perfect world, well that would be the new TYC, have you not spoke to staff at these facilities they will tell you. TYC staff come to work with a smile on their face and are willing to change, and change, and change, and change

Charity said...

I am going to assume you are going for sarcasm 8:59....I don't see shiny happy staff running all around TYC nor have I seen change, change, change, and change. All I see is a TYC that is more politically correct. There are still no assessments, treatments are still below par or non-existent, and once the kids are 19 TYC is more than happy to wash their hands of them.

Atticus said...

Good post, Scott. Unfortunately, just about everything you say could also apply to TDCJ, CSCD, TBPP, and, probably, MHMR, in our state. Many, many problems and too few politicians willing to tackle them realistically. But, that's why we keep on trying, ain't it? Good luck! And if you happen to be in Dallas @ Louie's on N. Henderson on St. Paddy's Day, I'll buy you a plate of the best corned beef & cabbage you've ever tasted!

Anonymous said...

TYC has nothing to do with rehabilitation. It hasen't for several years. Mr Omsbuds is not needed in TYC.....the agency needs to be closed.

Anonymous said...

The new Ombudsman should take a close look at the youth under the age of 17 who continually assault their peers and staff at these Institutions. What are the consequences for these youth, nothing at all, but you must take into consideration the redirect program which by all accounts has no impact on these young men and women. When these younger juveniles are directed by their older peers to physically assault staff or peers nothing happens to them and this should get a long hard look.
This is a very well known practice but the local upper managements hands are tied because the policy makers and those who know everything but really know nothing from Austin create programs like redirect where these youth are allowed to spend up to 45 days talking to like peers about what they did and their plans for the next assault.
A lot has changed in TYC but in the same breathe a lot has not changed. If you really would like to keep youth and staff safe create a program where these assaultive youth are removed from populations where they can continually victimize others, have consequences that are relevant and understanding that their actions were wrong.
I guess I can can keep dreaming that one day real change will occur and consequences have meaning, rather that the same old

Anonymous said...

You have had some significent real, good changes in TYC and yet you continue to complain about everything. You can't have your cake and eat it too! Eat the cake or leave the agency.

Anonymous said...

what changes? the recidivism rate is still sky high- staff are overworked and treated like dirt- the injury rate is going up- come work on a dorm if you want to know what's really going on in TYC-- education is out of federal compliance, the list goes on and on.

Anonymous said...

Cry, cry, cry. Will it ever end? We need to stop pouring our hard earned money into this cry-baby agency that provides nothing to the state. After all the trouble that you have caused over the past few years, why...why do we even listen to the constant crying?

Anonymous said...

Helluva great choice, Mr. Governor! So, did you meet this guy at a biker rally, took a likin to him, and thought he would make a great TYC Ombudsman? Mr. Governor, you are freakin joke, the sad thing is you will probably be re-elected cause the good ole boy network is alive and well in the great State of Texas.

P.S. Don't let them Texas Boys find out that you are really a closet homo.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the new Ombudsman may want to see why a Teacher at Brownwood was almost strangled and no local Law authorities knew about it? Makes me sick an no im not a TYC Employee but I do live next to Ron Jackson Day Care...Its a Shame!( A whole lot goes on behind those gates that never gets filed on, They told us that TYC would be transparent ??)

Anonymous said...

The kids and staff would have been much better off if they would have appointed the deputy ombudsman. She watched out for the kids and the staff and she had strong ethics.

Anonymous said...

She is also part of the TYC game'. You want help now but refused to step up back when it first got started. You are also part of the mess that is TYC - so jump on board and shut up about what you helped create. You bought the bed now sleep in it and stop yelling about your co-worker misfits.