Monday, October 29, 2012

New administrators face same old problems: Déjà vu on TJJD youth prison violence

The Austin Statesman's Mike Ward reported on yet another disturbance at at Texas Juvenile Justice Department Facility, though this time his article focused more on structural issues than calling for the heads of administrators ("Melee at youth lockup underscore stubborn problems at youth agency," Oct. 26). The story opened:
On Oct. 8, groups of rock-throwing youths broke windows, climbed onto the roofs of dorms and had to be pepper-sprayed to be brought under control at the Gainesville State School after they gained access to two security control panels and unlocked doors at the juvenile facility.

The two-hour disturbance caused thousands of dollars in damage at the North Texas lockup but was reported to legislative leaders just three days ago, weeks after it occurred, sparking new questions about whether violence and gang-related troubles at Texas’ six youth correctional centers are even close to being fixed.

On Friday, facing new legislative pressure to curb such disruptions, officials with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department confirmed that they are bringing in a team from the adult prison system to help them beef up security systemwide. They said they also have hired a new security chief and are considering a policy change to group older youths together at one lockup to better control troublemakers.

“Obviously, what happened is not acceptable,” said Mike Griffiths, the agency’s executive director since August. “Our responsibility is safety and security. We are changing things for the better, but we can’t just flip a switch and say it’s fixed right now.”

Instead, legislative and agency leaders said, the episode highlights deeper problems: high staff turnover that has put less seasoned guards on the front lines much sooner than previously; difficulty retaining and hiring staffers because of talk among legislative leaders about further downsizing; and an older, more violent population of incarcerated youths who are harder to control.
TJJD chief Mike Griffiths pinned the troubles on inexperienced, ill-trained staff, noting that "much of the staff has worked there less than a year. He said it is hard to hire, train and retain employees when the agency faces possible further downsizing by the Legislature next spring." Grits has long believed staffing and structural issues underlie most of the common complaints about TJJD, particularly episodes like this one. Over the summer I'd written that such "safety issues are really symptoms masking a more fundamental, underlying disease: A frontline staff neither trained, experienced, nor numerous enough to manage facilities which were designed along adult models rather than for the specific needs of youth." None of that changed just because the agency has a new executive director.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

We believe that shortstaffing is at root of youth lockup violence. The staff must be blamed. We can't blame the inmates for what they do. They bangin.

Anonymous said...

The problem is not just short-staffing. The problem is too many juveniles in one location. Go back to 2005 and you will see there was a spike in youth violence. After 2007, when the agency started taking fewer youth but still had more facilities, fewer youth were held at each facility, and the violence went down. Then the agency was compared to a "junior high school" and the brillian minds at the capital decide to close more facilities, which resulted in...more youth in each facility and a spike in violence. There is a reason they say, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Until they are willing to put sufficient money into the system to rehabilitate the youth sent to the state, which are the ones the counties could not succeed with, success will not be seen.

rodsmith said...

That may be true 10:09 But once they start "bangin" they should not be surpised but should in fact expect those around them to start bangin THEM.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to make a comment if I may. TJJD's problem is not just "one problem" that can be corrected and then TJJD will run smoothly. It is more like the old saying "death from a thousand cuts". There are many problems that need to be resolved before TJJD can run smoothly. For example: TJJD is riddled with fraud in it's time keeping practices where people lie on their time sheets claiming they worked when in truth they didn't. It has experienced JCO6s who are dorm "supervisors" who never go to the dorms and certainly don't help train new JCOs nor do they help supervise the youth. Many case managers ignore information given to them by JCOs because they already "know" what's best for the youth. The youth don't receive appropriate consequences for their bad behavior. The youth training/education/treatment programs certainly aren't "individualized". There is a problem with drugs/tobacco products being brought onto the facilities. There is a lot of gang related problems but the JCOs receive absolutely no training in how to recognize gang signs, songs, etc. There are still some administrators who commit extortion against the incarcerated youth by buying them off in exchange for good behavior "come down off the roof and I'll buy you a hamburger and you won't have to go to security". The list is rather lengthy as you can well read but you get the gist of what I'm saying with the few examples I have used.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:39, a critique of shortstaffing doesn't "blame staff," but actually blames administrators and especially the Lege, which set the staffing levels and made all the structural decisions.

Certainly 1:00 is right that there is not just one problem.

rodsmith, I deleted your comment. I've asked you to stop suggesting shooting people in these comments as a policy recommendation in response to whatever happens to annoy you today. Please comply.

Anonymous said...

Of course it is one of many such unreported incidents/"minor disturbances". Too many layers in too many offices. Look at all of the PS (Program Supervisors)and DS (Dorm Supervisors)positions that are neatly tucked in between JCO VI's and the Assistant Superintendent. Talk about trimming the fat. That's a place to start! Hopefully, Mr. Griffiths will catch on to this quickly and realign positions and put staff in more contact with youth in the trenches and dealing with day to day real life serious incidents. Some get reported and many do not. If only Whitmire knew the real number of serious incidents/assaults and suicide attempts he would truly be appalled. We may be headed in the right direction but at this point it is too little too late. Hold on tight for what is to follow.....

Anonymous said...

The mega-lock-ups are not conducive to theraputic settings. Look at other states who regionalize facilities and operate in smaller settings, they show better results. Look at the locations of the facilities and you see East and West Texas are without. How can families obtain family counseling if they can't drive to where their child is? Sure, it will be costly to move into a regional setting but how can you put a price on a juvenile's head if it benefits them? Pay now or pay later is how we need to look at it. Cheaper as a juvenile or as a adult??

Anonymous said...

TJJD’s needs an intensive treatment program for youth that includes the following components. Youth need to be provided formal group therapy at least 5 times weekly conducted by highly qualified group leaders to address treatment issues. In addition, behavior groups have to be called as needed to address behavior problems as they occur. Students must be taught how to identify behavior patterns and thinking errors (cognitive distortions) that result in poor decisions and delinquent behavior. The development of empathy for other people has to be a major objective for youth. They have to be provided with appropriate problem solving skills. Social skills training and development is another useful tool for youth assigned to TJJD. Discipline and immediate consequences for misbehavior is one of the cornerstones for rehabilitation of delinquent youth, which hopefully will prevent the need for referral to the Adult Correctional System. Also, positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior is beneficial for all kids. Youth require meaningful educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities. We all must understand the importance of good nutrition and medical care for youth in TJJD. Staff has to be appropriately trained to deal with this difficult population. It is critical that families and volunteer services are involved in the youths programming. Appropriate supervision and support is needed from supervisors and administrators to help staff successfully accomplish the mission of our agency. The aforementioned were major therapeutic interventions when TYC/TJJD was recognized internationally for its programming in the juvenile justice field. For TJJD to be successful there must be a balance between discipline and treatment.

Anonymous said...

The new Director TJJD hired last week has already stepped down, this post is over all of the institutions. Never really met or know the guy but have heard good things about him after asking questions. I for one would like to know why he stepped down and resumed his old position as the Superintendent at Brownwood. The media should ask why, get answers, we have to move forward and not keep taking steps backwards, real leadership has to occur if we can survive.

Anonymous said...

What happened at Gainesville reminded me of a flash mob robbery (where groups of people arrange to burgle a store en masse in order to overwhelm security and staff).
Concerning flash mob robberies:“Of 129 retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation, nearly 95 percent said they were victimized by organized criminals in the past year and 85 percent said the problem has worsened over the past three years,”

Anonymous said...

Five years down the road and how many new agency administrators? Even the name change didn't take care of the problems. Way too many people/experts who have never spent a day with criminal kids making the decisions. I don't think there is even a uniform desired outcome among the players.

Anonymous said...

aSo TJJD's Administration delaying the report to the Leg for weeks is similar to Obama's delaying what happened in Benghazi for a week? Let's form a Legislative inquisition like they did in D.C. It will have about the same result.

You can change TJJD Administration or even Presidential Administrations without getting any real different results.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, at the county level we dump kids on TJJD that we don't want to handle and it becomes their problem. Without a detention center I have to contract with others to hold our kids which can be costly. My frequent flyers that don't or can't conform to theraputic settings have to go somewhere and the state facilities won't cost my department-county anything.Thus, they end up with the worse behavior issues of the state, put them together and it's like mixing a bunch of volatile items together, something will eventually explode.

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Gainesville was initially built in 1917 for at risk White/Latino teenage girls. The additions over the decades up until the 80’s when the fence was built due to the closing and transfer of boys from the Gatesville facility were conducive to the therapeutic treatment of at risk White/Latino teenage girls. I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Gainesville facility was designed after current adult models. Its design is cottage style dormitories on a school campus.

In my opinion Gainesville is one of the better run schools and produces a higher overall success rate in its inmate population. I believe it has to do with the dedicated staff. Understand that this statement is relative like comparing color, texture and size of turds in a punchbowl.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Griffiths, please keep in mind but I am sure you already know this. You have 3 positions officed in Central Office that were at one time Superintendents in the field. There is a reason they are in CO and it has little to do with abilities. If that was the case do really believe they would be in CO? Listen and take advice at your own peril but agendas are rampant at this point.

Anonymous said...

Well, for the riot a few weeks ago, youth taking over certain dorms and runing around campus on roofs etc. on their own agenda. The campus today threw a fall fest as a reward?

Anonymous said...

And snow cones, pizza, trips to Walmart, game tournaments and more!

rodsmith said...

hmm where did i say shoot em. I think what i said was after you got them off the roof. Take em out back and beat the shit out of them....

and since you didn't like the way the last part went. how about this translation.

"You are in a prison...may be a kiddie prison..but STILL a prison and last time i looked people who try and ESCAPE those prisons can and are SHOT while trying to escape..." sometimes even when NOT actualy trying to escape."

that better?

sorry grits but if you go get a dictionary and look up human you will find legall and scientificlly humans are ANIMALS. animals who are wild and uncontrolable and who hurt others that prove they cannot be taught to behave are PUT DOWN no so much to punish them...but to protect the hurd.

Anonymous said...

wow. small trips and exposure to real world events for young people who we are trying to rehabilitate so that they can be productive in the real world. How tragic?

Anonymous said...

Yeee Haaa Stroud is back,,,,

Anonymous said...

cricket sounds......

Anonymous said...

Stroud, wasn't she at the girl facility in Brownwood? Believe she quit and never had any experience working with boys, just girls. Really makes you wonder what direction were heading in. Does anyone have any clue in Austin or is this just a crap shoot and hope they screw up. I have come to the conclusion that our new leadership has been put in place so we will fail. These decisions he has made are leading us down a path where we are screwed.

Anonymous said...

Gainesville are short 107 JCO's. These supervisors have turned into bullies towards staff. They tried to make you work over because you don't have a life outside the gate. Maybe this is why we are short of JCO's. You made the crisis not us. STOP THE BULL LI ING AND YOU STAY TO WORK THE SHIFT YOURSELF!

Anonymous said...

Very strange practice by the county probation departments, "auctioning" treatment slots for their youth to pay for conventions.

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/crime-law/juvenile-treatment-slots-auctioned-as-fundraiser-f/nSwYF/

Anonymous said...

Look folks stop posting issues regarding the facilities, Mike Griffiths is really not concerned. We know our facility is closing in Corsicana and he is unwilling to tell us but would rather we stick around and see. We need to start leaving in mass and let him figure out how to un this facility, I am sure with all of his county experience he will figure out what to do with these mental health youth.

Anonymous said...

Staff recieve up to 4 weeks of training in the acamedy at Corsicana and at their facility. TJJD hires their own staff, so this is easy for anyone to make this claim. The staff who sit in their offices and make up these treatments programs is where the blame should fall.
What will the new leadership do in regards to conextions? Why is it that staff will not confront youth when they act out? The staff know they cannot do their jobs because if they hold a youth accountable leadership will just buy off then youth and make the security refrral go away and the youth know this.We need real change not just lip service this has gone on for quite some time and nothing has changed.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that staff will not confront youth when they act out?

This is the legacy of Rebecca Cox Thomas. Her program allows the youth to do what they want.

Tiffany Tillema said...

I am having the opposite problem. My child is in corsicana and he has been an angel for the last 8 months! It very hard i'm sure when everyone around you (including some staff) are getting away with just about everything.
When we go visit they tell us they don't understand how he was thrown into the system and how he does not belong in TJJD. He has never been written up and has never acted out in either of the two TJJD facilities nor in the detention center the three months before that.
He plead guilty out of fear as they threatened him with a adult 40 year sentance and a plea was 9 to 12 months even without evidence the attorney said to plea so he did.
He is finding it difficult to recieve his connextions steps even with excellent behavior,participation, and grades. He was told the reason was that it wouldn't look good to let him get his steps so quickly. So now my sons 9-12 month sentance will end up costing him 18-24! Even though the kids around him are getting out and they get pepper sprayed every week!
Why can't they let kids that obviously do not belong finish their sentances with ankle monitors its cheaper and safer!
Oh and since bieng at corsicana I have yet to have participated in a MDM ! They ALWAYS seem to "forget" to call me!

Anonymous said...

Well we have good news for you, our Superintendent has taken another job and we will be closing soon. Even though her job was posted and they will try to find someone, anybody who is worth a crap will not come here. The writing has been on the wall for four years about us closing, so with that said your son will wind up at another facility and will start all over again. Those 9 to 12 months will become 12 to 24 months for sure. Good luck and ask hard questions and maybe they will give you a straight answer.

Anonymous said...

Seriously 8:10? You work there and don't know to refer her to the office of the independent ombudsman? The number to the OIO is on the TJJD website 7:46. It is their job to look into these things - and they are separate from TJJD.

Tiffany Tillema said...

Oh belive me! Questions are being asked and calls have been made! I have gotten some satisfaction. I stay on thier rears all the time. Hoping he goes to a contract facility soon. And then home where he needs to be.

Tiffany Tillema said...

You think I should go ahead and call? I've been following the steps that are outlined in my packet. Should I skip to the ombudsman?

Anonymous said...

Yes you should! They are very helpful!

rodsmith said...

well Tiffany if your son was sentenced by a judge to 9 to 12 months and you have that on paper.

Just wait till 12 months and 1 day then show up with a sheriff and an arrest warrant for kidnapping under color of authority.

They legally have no right to keep him past that 12 month point.

IF your willing to call them on it.

Anonymous said...

Well I saw where the Corsicana Superintendent and Assistant positions were open. Why would anyone take these posts when everybody knows this facility is shutting down. The staff will begin to jump ship and whomever you get to run this facility will have hell to get staff to show up. The majority will be burning their sick leave and coverage will jeopardize the safety of the youth and staff. But there will be those out there who will apply and not for the right reasons and it will be a worse mess. Well it keeps getting better and better, before you know it TJJD will be TDCJ.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused on how the papers report from budget and other sources that there will be further closings, and instead of working to make your facility one that is in top condition both staff wise and program wise, you create conditions to put a target on it for possible closure.
And then blame new leadership for the screw-ups that keep happening..... In your place of employment !

Anonymous said...

Well new leadership has to fight to keep these facilities open and not pander to the politicians. New leadership has to call a press conference and state there will be no facilities closing. But I have not seen that yet!

Anonymous said...

aaxPAW6i was an employee at tyc until i was riffed in 2007. the lack of support from my co-workers was appaling. you basically learn who your friends are and who your friends aren't. i know that it is likely that many of my "trusted" co-workers are still there. i don't know since all contact was cut off by them. my idea is that they have no character or integrity since they cut off contact with me. so how in the world the treatment (connections) that they developed and try to teach (or impose) on others has any value. actually it has taken a long time, but i am actually glad to be away from all those people for the last 5+ years. they were all false and phoney.

Anonymous said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Anonymous said...

What can anyone tell me about Tersa Stroud?

Anonymous said...

Lol! I was just thinking about the "come off the roof" comment. My son said the other day a kid was on the roof (it was still warm at the time). The JCO was trying to get him down and so used the old bribe "come down and i'll let you have this ice cold coke". The kid eventually came down when he got thirsty enough and the officer told him he would get the coke as soon as he was in security. When he got there he left the kid with secrity, closed the gate and drank the coke in front of the kid! So much for bribes!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a "Blue Bell" tactic at Crockett. If you come off the roof i will give you some ice cream, in this case the youth was given ice cream, and then a lot of youth did this. Old Blue Bell Williams started a trend.

Anonymous said...

okay I was told this weekend that Ms Stroud the new director for institutions was a superintendens at the brownwood facility before she quit. What is up with this new central office?? They named Mr. Adamki into this position and he turned it down, he is from brownwood. Then austin names the director of probation, he is the chief probation officer in brownwood. Lacking some vision here or what, last time I checked brownwood holds girls the rest hold boys.

Anonymous said...

Line staff are not to blame! We do our jobs but when the higher ups (Hawthorne, Berry, Hudspeth, and so on) give the youth snow cones and birthday parties, it is difficult to do our jobs! We call for a assistance and the AM ODS tells security to ignore us because she doesnt want the referrals showing up on her watch. Incident reports are not being picked up and youth who cause disruptions or assault staff and/or other youth are com in back to the dorms with no consequences. Gainesville needs and administrative change!

Anonymous said...

AMEN!

Anonymous said...

Gainesville has 127 openings for JCO's, they have no answers to the problems that exist there!

Anonymous said...

10:00 pm you dont know what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Oh really, check the Texas Workforce Commission, I guess they are lying!

Anonymous said...

Anyone know if two more facilities will be shut down? Which ones, and when?

Anonymous said...

That is realativley easy, Corsicana and then a toss up between Evins and Brownwood.
Evins based upon the fact it has been a disaster from day one. Brownwood because they house the girl population of around 120 and the facility is a 380 bed facility. It is unfortunate that more facilities will be closed but this is just the hard truth based upon politics. Now employees like us will not be told this by our leadership based upon the fact they want these facilities fully staffed until that decision is made. But staff from these facilities should at least start looking for other employment just to be safe.

Anonymous said...

I work at Corsicana and also am nervous about rumors it is closing down. We have a new Superintendent now, Mr. Garcia, and he is looking into positive re-enforcemnt of good behaviors and consequences for bad behaviors. These teen boys are developmentally delayed due to their up bringing and need to be treated like toddlers. When they do soemthing good- PRAISE and PRAISE. When they do something not good-CONSEQUENCE immedicate and appropriate. When boys see thier peers getting APPROPRIATE positive re-enforcement, then the others will fall in line. There does need to be more family involvement and it is hard when the boys are from some far of places and money is tight for tranportation costs. The family is offered Skyscape and phone contact-they just need to take advantage of it. You would be surprised to hear parents say "contact me when they are fixed". It is sad. Corsicana is working hard with this new leadership and it is turning around.

Anonymous said...

Corsicana is being shut down. So are the halfway house's. So far Beto House is confirmed and Aryes house (pending) shut down by September 1.

Corsicana may get an extension but they will be shut down eventually and soon.

Anonymous said...

Yes Beto House was notified on july 19th that it would be shut down. So it is confirmed.