Friday, December 01, 2017

What next after TJJD's Gainesville scandal?

In the wake of recent sex-abuse allegations at the Gainesville State School, the Dallas Morning News editorial board recommended closing Texas' five remaining youth prisons. But they didn't really address what should happen with the inmates there or how the juvenile-justice system should be structured in the aftermath of youth prison closures.

For more detailed thoughts on that, check out this GFB post from several days after the story broke anticipating that recommendation and also what might lie beyond.

In that vein, yesterday, four liberal groups called for the creation of a joint House-Senate legislative committee to create a plan to close Texas' remaining youth prisons and utilizing alternatives to secure lockups including TJJD halfway houses located closer to urban areas. Grits has no problem with the policies they're suggesting but am not certain a joint-legislative committee is the way to go. For starters, that would require that Dan Patrick and Joe Straus to both assent, and presently I doubt those men could agree on what to order for breakfast. Moreover, it feels to me like it's already fairly obvious what needs to be done.

After the Texas Youth Commission sex scandals put the agency into conservatorship in 2007, the Legislature commissioned a blue-ribbon panel to recommend how to transform the system. They suggested shifting to the "Missouri model" where youth offenders are housed in smaller facilities (fewer than 48 beds) closer to urban areas where more treatment and mental health services are available. That goal has been partially achieved, but the Gainesville episode shows that youth left in those few remaining large facilities are still at risk.

All this to say, the state has a long history here and most people involved understand in broad strokes what needs to be done. State leaders just need to muster the political will, and money, to finish the job.

MORE/TEASER: This week Grits interviewed Brandi Grissom-Swicegood on the Gainesville State School scandals for the December episode of our Reasonably Suspicious podcast. We discussed similarities and differences to the TYC episode and where state leaders may go from here. As veterans of the 2007 episode, we shared the same sense of deja vu, and exasperation, that such similar problems had recurred. And we talked about how to prevent such episodes in the future instead of merely document and prosecute them after the fact. Look for an excerpt of our conversation in the main Reasonably Suspicious podcast for December, then Grits will post the full interview online soon thereafter. Brandi just left her job as Austin Bureau Chief of the Dallas Morning News to pursue a career as a professional triathlete, and this was her last story. So it was fun to get to interview her on her way out as she reflected on her career reporting on the capitol, in addition to discussing all this juvenile justice stuff. Coming soon! (And thanks for doing that, Brandi, that was a lot of fun.)

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Closing the state schools doesn't make the problems go away. TJJD never did any serious vetting of applicants, added proper layers of staff supervision, and never received enough applicants for a good vetting process due to the low pay.

These problems were created by the previous Governor and state legislature who banked on an underfunded correctional system. Closing the state schools is like saying let's close the government, it doesn't solve the problem.

Steven Seys said...

Phil Zimbardo did a study in the 1970s called The Stanford Prison Project. Before you draw any conclusions about who to blame for the TJJD problems, read that study. I agree with Phil Zimbardo, it's not the people who are running these prisons for children that are to be ultimately blamed, it's the paradigm of mass incarceration of children.

Anonymous said...

Most of these youth in TJJD have a long history with the justice system, including being "treated " closer to home with outstandingly negative results. These felons have had multiple chances & multiple attempts at treatment & have failed. One of the problems that is never addressed is what these kids come from-families with criminal histories, lack of structure, chaotic lives filled with drugs, alcohol, abuse & crime. These are not "bad kids" they're felons with serious behavior problems & no support when they get out, since reunification with the group that got them in prison in the first place is where they are going to return. Please, no more bleeding heart liberal slant on this problem. Come work in a facility for a week-see how long you can take the abuse that these kids dish out.

Anonymous said...

So your perspective is that these are broken people and trying to help them is too hard?

It's not bleeding heartedness to recognise that's pusillanimous realism at it's worst.

If the offenders aren't showing any change, and the staff are miserable, and the management doesn't have any new solutions then it's time to effect a dramatic change.

Anonymous said...

Contrary to popular belief sex crimes aren't about sex at all, rather they are about having power and control over the victim.

No one in our society desires power and control over others than police officers and prison guards.

More than 62,000 have been convicted of child sex crimes just in the past 5-years alone. See the fully documented cases, all 62,000 of them: https://www.facebook.com/PoliceOfficersRapingKids/.

Anonymous said...

The counties are not being run any better, they are worse. You think they are paying their staff any more than the state, or they are hiring any more qualified applicants to supervisor the youth. You better take another look at the counties facilities. You might be surprised to find staff and sexual assaults occur in county lockup facilities.

Anonymous said...

The problem is easily identified and resolved. There are too many white- collar thugs in TJJD central office running the agency from Austin and too many blue-collar thugs in management and front-line position supervising kids in institutions. The only solution is to bring in an outside consulting firm that specializes in providing effective treatment services to delinquent youth. Then require all management and frontline employees to reapply and interview for their position. Have the consulting firm perform the interviews.

Anonymous said...

The DMAIC method of government! I'd vote for that candidate.

Anonymous said...

About Gainesville Nov 30, 2017
"The current scandal surrounds the conviction of one male guard, Samuel Wright, and the arrest of three women at the facility in Gainesville, a rural area about 75 miles north of Dallas. Wright was sentenced to 10 years in prison this July for improper sexual activity with a youth in custody, according to the memo. The women were arrested within the past three months on allegations of having sexual relationships with committed minors.

A fourth female guard was investigated on similar allegations, but a grand jury declined to indict her."

"The number of state youth lockups has dwindled from 12 to 5 since then...."

Anonymous said...

To get the dirt on the scandal, Google this:

Sexual misconduct investigations target North Texas youth lockup
By Mike Ward Updated 5:38 pm, Tuesday, November 7, 2017 Chron

Anonymous said...

2007-2017 the problems still exist but the difference???????? NO COVER UP. OH say WHAAATTT>>>?? Yep. let's see here, the merger in 2011with TYC and TJPC morphing into TJJd with same old TYC chairman and most top TYC staff placed into positions of authority what do you expect????? Same ole TYC behavior. Old JCO's training new JCO's their old habits. needs a change from top down and hiring and training from a applicant pool after moving closed to major cities. Yes, I said it. SHut facilities down build closer to employee resources and shut down completely the knuckleheads to just 3G offenses over 15 years of age. Others stay in the communities with funding from the state for those knuckleheads.
Thank you for for your support. God Bless AMERICA!!!!!!

Mark M. said...

Okay, 9:32, because you believe all of these children, yes children, are from crimogenic families, it's okay for pedophiles to sexually assault or molest them? So, I guess you'd vote for the "let's give chomos a chance" party?

Anonymous said...

Yes, 12:32. Same old top TYC staff running things. We needs a change from the top down.

Anonymous said...

Please help Mart stop talking and come unannounced for a visit.

Adrian Moore said...

Go Upstream. The special legislative committees should first review Texas
A&M research in "Breaking Schools Rules" providing documentation that students with entry into the school disciplinary system also have high probability for entry into the Texas juvenile justice system. Aggressive and abusive youth can be easily spotted and referred by principals for participation in evidence based crime and delinquency prevention programs. Intervention programs can be easily tailored into the disciplinary system and are welcomed by school authorities and parents. School based delinquency and crime prevention programs offer an excellent return on investment and can teach essential life skills training far more effectively than prosecution, adjudication and incarceration -- as evidenced by the Austin based Council on At-Risk Youth. The Texas Legislature can effectively establish an infrastructure to "close the pipeline to prison" by realligning priorities to focus on school based crime and delinquency prevention--- before the crime.

William Bush said...

Unfortunately, these types of facilities have proven immune to meaningful rehabilitation over the past 100+ years. I'm sad to see this happening again, but Texas needs to finish the job of abolishing such facilities and shifting to locally run, community-based programs.

- Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

The final nail in the coffin of the untenable raise the age legislation.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there a proposal many years ago to combine TYC/Juvenile under Health & Human Services? There are many local non-profit HHSC funded programs that serve youth with very high success rates. Is there also a significant number of juvenile offenders who are victims in open child abuse cases? Maybe combining several agencies under one roof would reduce duplication of government services and improve outcomes at the same time?

Anonymous said...

Good idea.

Anonymous said...

Actually, no one in top management remains from 2007...the original "scandal"..at least at the agency. Heck, even the Governor is new. However, the same senator (Whitmire) is in charge of this mess and the same reporter (Ward) is covering it. Maybe its time for a change in the legislative management. How many hundreds of millions has Whitmore dumped into a failed effort to fix the problem. Where's that story Mike? The problem is much more complex than the politcal/media machine would like people to believe.

Anonymous said...

Here’s another tip; the OIO division supposedly working for the Governor’s office but everyone knows they work directly for Whitmire.... division is not diverse, a bunch of white people finding problems more often when black administrators are in charge. They openly exaggerate and lie at Whitmire’s instruction and there is no accountability. Two are old TYC Superintendents! In the OIO office? sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse! Who is going to investigate the lack of credibility and integrity in that office?

Anonymous said...

The media is reporting the Texas Governor has ordered the DPS/Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of abuse of youth at all TJJD facilities. While the Rangers are investigating, they should inquire in to the poorly operated treatment and educational programs. The factors that are leading to an extremely high staff turnover rate need investigating.

Anonymous said...

They should investigate why Senator John Whitmire continues to under-fund the agency and play politics with this situation.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the creation of TJJD and regionalization supposed to be the solution "the problem" a few years ago?