Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mentally ill Tyler teen who murdered teacher lingering in legal limbo for incompetence

The mentally ill Tyler teen who killed his teacher at John Tyler High School remains in legal limbo, the Dallas News reports, because he's too sick to be declared competent to stand trial. The story by Lee Hancock ("Teen suspect in legal limbo more than a year after teacher's slaying," Dec. 26) opens:
In 14 months awaiting trial for killing his teacher, a 17-year-old named Byron has come to fear that someone is changing his body parts. He says the voices that told him to kill are saying that violence will heal him.

After a recent evaluation, court-appointed forensic psychologist Emily Fallis concluded that the schizophrenic teenager remains delusional and dangerous. The Fort Worth behavioral expert's report to a juvenile court, obtained by The Dallas Morning News, predicted a "low probability" that Byron could maintain the minimal level of competence required for trial.

So Byron's case remains unresolved more than a year after special education teacher Todd Henry collapsed in his Tyler classroom with a butcher knife in his chest. Byron's last name is not being used because The News does not identify juvenile offenders.

Earlier this year, The News obtained 7,000 pages of Byron's records from schools, mental health clinics and hospitals, and juvenile agencies. They detailed failure after failure in communication and care as Byron's turmoil worsened.

His case illustrates the difficulty in finding treatment and incarceration for severely mentally ill juvenile offenders in Texas, say the Smith County prosecutor and defense attorney involved in the case.
This sad case reinforces why it'd be folly for the Legislature to slash funding for mental health services. As the assistant district attorney handling the case for Smith County told the News, "If there had been proper treatment for a juvenile with these kinds of diseases, if there had been a long-term placement available for a poor kid like him, Todd Henry would still be alive."

31 comments:

Prison Doc said...

This is indeed a sad case, but the "folly" that the story illustrates is the concept that "but for proper treatment, this could have all been averted".

Just like all cancer can be treated, but not all cured or even put into remission, the same is true of mental health, especially schizophrenia. Many of those affected fail at all known treatment regimens, and it is just patently false to imply that if funding were available to treat poor persons with serious mental disease, we could all live happily ever after.

This is exactly the type of case that cries out for long term institutionalization--a valuable remedy that advocacy groups fight tooth and nail.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Prison Doc writes, "This is exactly the type of case that cries out for long term institutionalization"

True, and it's what he'll get whether or not there's a criminal conviction. But hindsight is 20/20. And like most social problems, institutionalization can only get you so far; you can't incarcerate your way out of the problem. More caseworkers, community supervision, etc. in the field would still be helpful: In this case the warning signs were there - even the murdered teacher saw them beforehand - but there weren't community supervision mechanisms in place to intervene before somebody got killed.

What I don't understand is why you blame the advocacy groups when it's the state that's been cutting state hospital beds and the advocacy groups who have been fighting for more? I think it's a mischaracterization to say advocacy groups fight institutionalization - a stereotype from the '70s culture war debates as opposed to a representation of the views expressed by front-line folks like Advocacy Inc. and others who work on these issues day to day.

Prison Doc said...

My respect for your opinion is such that I hate to disagree with you often, but I doubt that any amount of community supervision would have been helpful on a long term basis for this young man. The quality and mindset of mental health workers I see out here in the boondocks is such that I rarely see any good done.

I may have painted advocacy groups with a broad brush--my personal experience with Advocacy, Inc has been that they are reasonable when confronted with the facts--but certainly there are those who seek the release of institutionalized individuals prematurely or in contravention of reasonable medical judgement (also a rare commodity).

Anonymous said...

Prime example of TYC's ineffectivness.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"I doubt that any amount of community supervision would have been helpful on a long term basis for this young man"

Perhaps, but if more extensive supervision had existed, his weeks-long descent into homicidal madness might have been identified and this particular murder prevented through short-medium term incapacitation. (I'm not sure his prior record warranted permanent, long-term incapacitation, sans 20/20 hindsight). Part of the purpose for community supervision is to monitor such folks, even if occasional or even frequent decompensation is inevitable, in order to intervene when it does.

Anonymous said...

Prison Doc, your right on track! There is no magic cure. This topic serves little value into confronting the real issue associated with the problem. Recognize what facilitated the problem from its previous state until today. The states taxpayers want the mentally ill off the streets, criminals in prisons yet funding is limited to nonexistent.

Anonymous said...

Because there is so much waste and mismanagement in the prison/youth lockup industry.

Anonymous said...

I monitor high risk juveniles daily and I can asure you that supervision in the community would not have prevented this incident. This individual had no business walking the street.

The criminal justice system of Texas did not fail this kid, it failed the community.

Anonymous said...

Didn't we just pay twice for this injustice? Remove yourself, or we will remove you. Change your panties.

Anonymous said...

About this Tyler teen charged with stabbing his teacher:

"He went to TYC in 2007 after stabbing his sister, his fourth knife attack since age 9. TYC records indicate Byron was among 19 juvenile offenders sent home in 2009 as too mentally ill to treat."

To those who have advocated that TYC even more drastically reduce its small numbers and release inmates, consider this. TYC institutions contain not only the dangerous mentally ill youth. TYC also contains many dangerous youth who are not mentally ill.

Some reformers, for humanitarian reasons, would like to see these dangerous youth returned to the community but they ignore the consequences, as well as the realities.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:12, all the same sky-will-fall arguments were made before TYC recently reduced its inmate population by 2/3, and yet juvenile crime (and crime overall) continued to decline. Reformers aren't ignoring your stance "for humanitarian reasons," they're ignoring it because it's unsubstantiated by facts on the ground.

This one incident is a tragedy, but it's not indicative of the typical youth released from TYC. There are some people who need to be locked up, but that fact doesn't imply that everyone needs to be locked up who is mentally ill, commits an offense, or both.

@2:46, I respect the work you do, but there were opportunities before this incident for more aggressive supervision to identify that the kid was going off the rails. There just weren't any options available besides shipping him back to TYC, where they simply weren't equipped to deal with him. As Prison Doc says, he needed institutionalization that just isn't available anymore.

Anonymous said...

TYC recently reduced its inmate population by 2/3 so we proved that 2/3's of them didn't need to be incarcerated. In two years we dropped the numbers from around 4,000 to about 1,400 or 1,500. Good, but not good enough.

I say that 90% of those in TYC didn't need to be locked up. I suggest 400 would be a good ending number for a state like Texas. If we went from 4000 to 1,400, why not keep dropping it down to 400?

Anonymous said...

Because TYC needs to justify its existence, corruption and abuse included. At tax payer expense. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

TYC just revoked a juvenile back to TYC because of of evading arrest. His grandparents did not want him. What else could they do? Social agencies are so full they won't touch a criminal justice kid.

Anonymous said...

You say TYC isn't "equipped to deal" with kids like these in the juvenile justice system. Shouldn't they be? Not all mentally ill juveniles commit crimes but those who do should be dealt with by the juvenile justice system as social service agencies(eg CPS) are the ones who are really not equipped to deal.
How is it such a large 'great' state hasn't figured out how to collaborate our mental health agency and juvenile justice systems(much less the adult justice system)?

TYC isn't THE problem. It's a result of a much bigger problem that's been going on for the last 30 years in our mental health agency not being effective or efficient in services. If there were more options for juvenile probation departments in the community, they wouldn't have felt their only option was to send kids to TYC. But wait, you say TYC isn't equipped to handle those types of kids.
Vicious cycle

austex1151 said...

I'm sorry, Prison Doc, but you seem to believe that all mentally ill persons are violent, thus perpetuating a vile stereotype. Having worked in correctional medicine myself, I know just how abysmal is the "care" of the mentally ill in our prisons. To suggest the mentally ill- 90% of which have schizophrenia- be incarcerated long term as a "solution"- whether in prisons as now or in institutions of another sort, is shockingly callous and lacking in compassion. It is also very costly.

I have tried for 10 years to get help for a young man I know- through 4 terms in prison. Just when I finally get him seen by MHMR and he begins to adjust to meds, he commits some low level property crime, goes to prison, and they automatically stop his "unnecessary" psych meds (to cut costs). A year or so later he is back out, further in his hole of mental illness and even worse off than before. For the cost of these terms, he could have been given private medical care with a private treatment team! This is a stupid waste of money to further a "lock 'em up" mindset, to which Texas has been addicted for far too long.

Anonymous said...

12/26 said "Prime example of TYC's ineffectivness."

Are you suggesting that this youth was in TYC custody at some point?

Anonymous said...

Remember with the passage of Senate Bill 103, we HAVE to release the youth on their 'Minimum length of stay'. Where I work, this is SOMETIMES disasterous - like in this case.
Now adays, the youth arent learning anything, just 'doing my time'. And this attitude prevails. So I expect this kind of thing to happen more often.
Just look at the recidivism rates AFTER SB103 went into effect.

Anonymous said...

Yes this kid is a product of tyc and should be listed in Faces of tyc. The tyc released this offender on society because they couldn’t do anything for him. Still no one is talking about the racial epitaph this African American kid from New Orleans screamed before plunging his mommas butcher knife into this middle aged Anglo American Special Education teachers chest. Also no one seems to want to talk about all the racial problems at this school that Tyler ISD attempted to sweep under the carpet except for the students writing about it in open web forums. Jim Crow is alive in the shadows in this east Texas berg.

This is an example for if tyc was rolled up to TDCJ the kid could have been warehoused indefinitely and this Tyler teacher could have enjoyed Christmas with his family. The tyc is indirectly responsible for this man’s murder. As tyc specializes in deflecting responsibility for the insignificant to the most hideous, had tyc done its job this man would not have been murdered in this way. The tyc knew what they were dealing with in this kid and FAILED the community, this man and his family. How much longer are the tax payers of this state going to put up with such foolishness from these buffoons who call themselves managing the state’s juvenile justice system.

Sheldon

Anonymous said...

"Still no one is talking about the racial epitaph this African American kid from New Orleans screamed before plunging his mommas butcher knife into this middle aged Anglo American Special Education teachers chest."

Scott and the other liberals would never admit that this happens.

Charity said...

I have a child in TYC and I advocate for reform all the time but everything is not TYC's fault as so many of you like to claim. In a case like this we are all to blame because as a society we regularly fail to take care of our weakest, sickest, or violent members. As far as this particular boy's culpability I would say he has very little or none. He is insane and he is violent. We have no cures for him and no pill will make him sane. All that can be done, if he takes his meds, is temper his insanity. But for those kids who have no mental health issues everyone seems to forget when they are doing all their blaming that at some point we have to teach these kids they are the ones responsible for their lives and it is as much their fault as ours that they are where they are.

Instead of spending so much time blaming all these institutions (which are composed of your fellow human beings) why not spend more of your time trying to make a difference-work with these kids, join up with an advocacy group, blog, do something other than bitch and blame. It helps no one and help is supposed to be the point when it comes to kids in trouble.

Up Close & Personal said...

I worked at TYC-Corsicanna as a Mental Health Professional for several years.
The Corsicana Campus is designated to house the youth with mental disorders. Granted, they are lacking in Mental Health Professionals and highly trained staff, but they did have the option to send this youth to Terrell State Hospital where he would have received the proper treatment. CRTC has sent many youth to Terrell for stabilization and followed Terrell's recommendations on whether or not they should be released back to the community.
The State Hospitals (especially Rusk) are very familiar with dealing with Forensic Adult Patients. Rusk also is the home of the Skyview/Hodge TDCJ units which are the units designated for the incarcerated adults with mental disorders.
I think TYC & TDCJ & DSHS should work together with these populations. Let's pool some resources for our menatlly ill Texans!!! Vernon State Hospital is well equipped to deal with the manifestly dangerous and they also have a prison.

Anonymous said...

Up close and amp, finally someone mentioned Terrell State hospital !
That is where these individuals need to be . TYC does not have the ability ( personnel as well as housing) to treat them. In the last 6 years I have watched Terrell being demolished, buildings that were still in perfect shape turned into rubble. What was once a 2000 bed "hospital" for the criminally insane is being destroyed. I have asked Legislators to look into this and other locations to put in place facilities that deal with the problem. No one is interested, locking them up makes them worse , whether it be TYC or TDCJ . Someone please put this before the Legislature, my one voice is not enough. Please remember, your tax dollars are paying for this "insanity"!

Helga Dill,Boardmember,TXCURE

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:15, Sheldon's point was that "Jim Crow is alive" and well in Tyler, which happens to be my hometown. That's EXACTLY what liberals say! You're either confused, ignorant or both.

Also, a search online finds no mention of the racial epithet by the youth that I supposedly ignored. If it wasn't publicly reported, I can't comment on it; I wasn't there. Please provide a link for that, especially any student forums discussing the incident you may be aware of.

Anonymous said...

Helga, if you really care, take them home with you.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that you don't really know your hometown?

Anonymous said...

The commit I made was “Jim Crow is alive in the *shadows* in this east Texas berg”. In the shadows is where old Jim hides in Texas. Negropillia has made the white supremacy way of life in Texas hid in the shadows. Sort of like not being able to smoke in public.
Initially when the story broke about the Tyler teen, in its news paper in the commits section the kids were talking about how the kid made the racial slur “ die you white mf”. I remembered showing that to a black friend of mine whom I thought would appreciate that because he hates white people. Shortly after that we looked for it again because we had a bet. He said that “Obama” would take it down within a week and I said it would stay up because Tyler does not care about what captain save-a-schvatza has to say. At that time many of my black friends made commits along with people in the media that led me to believe our President has earned the super hero title of captain save-a- schvatza among the black community. Now I teas my black friends that he turned white on them. I still don’t think our President took that down but in a town like Tyler, I can see where you wouldn’t want that information to get out. The article was there but the commit section was turned off. Censored by the paper I suspect.
So what I was writing about in my previous commit was initially there was chatter in the comments about the racial slur and the poor race relations at that school in particular and Tyler in general, but now you can’t find anything on it. I conceded that my racist friend was correct and I bought him lunch. Btw, I call him my racist friend but he tells me black people aren’t racist because how they feel about white people is all true.

Charity, sorry about your child in tyc, I hope everything works out and that your child goes on to live a successful and rewarding life in spite of having to go through what ever got him sent to tyc and the tyc experience.

Anonymous 12/29/2010 11:46 am The same can be said about tyc staff who “say” they care about the kids. Oh wait the pedophile potential is way too high for that. No you tyc staff, don’t be taking kids home with you.

Anonymous 12/29/2010 2:20 am According to the book I read about negopillia most white people are totally unaware or ignore racism with the thinking that if you don’t acknowledge it, then it doesn’t exist. That has worked well for tyc. Kids are much more for real and don’t think about what they say, especially in anonymous postings. This is why I would trust a kid who complains against a tyc emp over the tyc emp defending themselves to cover up impropriety’s. The tyc manglement has shown for 120 years they would rather report their expectations not their realities.
Sheldon

Helga Dill said...

Anonymous 11:46 AM , for your information I am President of the Rose Garden in Temple and we house 70+ mentally ill individuals that are released from prison. I devote time, money and food deliveries as well as clothing I collect. We are a non-profit organization and would love donations any time. So you see, that is almost like taking them home .
I also received the Henry B. Gonzales Human Rights award for 2009 for the work I do. I hope that is sufficient for you .
Helga Dill

Anonymous said...

Sheldon, I cant believe you say the things you do. Just because its true don’t make it right to say. I also know about that web site with the pictures and testimony that you plan on making public. I have reported it to my superiors. You may cost the tax payers a lot of money when the state has to defend against it but TYC will survive.

Anonymous said...

That is the problem...TYC should not survive. This illegitimate monstor needs to die.

Anonymous said...

Ah the web site, I’m assuming you are referring to the site PedophilesOftyc, a spoof on the faces of tyc site.