Friday, March 02, 2007

Corrections Committee bills focus on TYC

With all the hoo ha this week surrounding sex scandals and coverups at the Texas Youth Commission, the resignation of TYC's executive director and the dispute between the Senate and the Governor over whether the agency should be placed under a conservator, it's worth mentioning several bills up on Monday in the House Corrections Committee related to TYC:
  • HB 427 by Madden: "Relating to the prosecution of certain crimes occurring in the Texas Youth Commission." This bill allows counties to request a special prosecutor in crimes committed at TYC.
  • HB 914 by Madden: "Relating to the establishment of an office of inspector general at the Texas Youth Commission." Under this legislation, a new inspector general's office will have licensed peace officer investigators to prosecute allegations of misconduct by TYC employees and at TYC facilities.
  • HB 1111 by Turner: "Relating to prohibiting medical, psychiatric, and other research on children committed to the Texas Youth Commission." Self explanatory.
  • HB 1814 by Macias: "Relating to implementation of a comprehensive character education and training pilot program at certain Texas Youth Commission facilities." The bill orders TYC to begin character education at two units modeled after a program I was previously unaware of called Character First!
Of these, the first three bills strike me as quite reasonable and necessary, while on Macias' HB 1814 I'd like to see an evidence-based analysis to show the program works for this population before Texas imposes it on youth at TYC. It appears from the Character First! website the curriculum was designed for regular schoolkids, not a carceral setting.

Of course, the main thing TYC needs is to either double the number of juvenile corrections officers (JCOs) or reduce the number of incarcerated kids. Tinkering with regulations and methods of prosecution are fine, but high JCO-child ratios, ridiculously high staff turnover levels and negligible training requirements are the biggest source of TYC's woes. Let's hope those items get addressed, too, before the session ends.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not often at TYC, though guards are prosecuted pretty often at TDCJ. That said, these sex-abuse allegations just broke last week, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some prosecutions before we're done. If HB 8 passes, we might even see a death penalty case or two out of it, though it appears that part of the bill is in trouble. I agree prosecutions are in order, but they also need reforms to make sure it can't happen again. best,

Anonymous said...

I just moved to Austin after 17 years in New York City and State criminal justice. Sounds like no one was watching TYC - an accountability crisis. I would bet they have other operational failures as well. When I worked on Rikers Island, we put in place an accountability management system called TEAMS that helped us get control of an out-of-control and dangerous mix of violence and poorly run operations. Check the link if you're interested and pass it on to anyone who might be looking for a management model for the TYC.

Anonymous said...

When is the Lege going to look at what happens inside TDCJ? There is more abuse there than anyone realizes. Guards who think because an Inmate is in prison think they have the right to ridicule, mentally and physically abuse them and destroy their dignity.

Waking Inmates up at 1:30 AM to check their ID's when they post them at the foot of their bunk and the guards can read them, some do actually read them but one woman at the Price Daniel Unit delights in waking people up knowing they have to get up at 3:00AM and drive a truck, should be fired! They do not have the right to dish out mental and physical abuse and then when an Inmate is so tired he does not wake up, she turns them in to the Lt. and wants a case filed against them. So, when is the Lege going to look into some of these complaints and clean house there also?

Anonymous said...

There are always two sides to every story! As a long term employee of TYC I have seen both sides of this story. Are youth physically and sexually abused; yes it has happened at TYC. Has TYC administration covered up sexual wrong doing: Yes they have. Should the people who committed the crimes and cover-up be prosecuted; yes!

Now let us look at the other side of the story. TYC houses the worst 3% of the youth offenders in the state of Texas. These are not the little children you know, they are very dangerous or extremely destructive young people I hope you never fall victim too.

Many violent offenders are gang members who have committed crimes that if handled as adults would have gotten them long prison terms. The low risk General Offender has done considerable property crimes causing major financial loss to the people of Texas.

These youth, for the most part are not little children, they are young adults capable doing serious bodily injury to another adult. TYC staff are being beaten and crippled on a regular basis and no one care about it! All attention is focused on the terrible staff who abuses the little children on a regular basis. Staff are confirmed for excessive force when they are fighting for their lives. If you don’t use the proper method of restraint you are confirmed for abuse. These people are fighting for their lives in the heat of battle. I wonder how many of the people criticizing the TYC staff could do a perfect restraint under the dangerous conditions TYC staff work under. TYC staff have been blinded and beaten on many occasions and nothing is done to the youth who beat them. Let’s make this an even playing field and transferee the youth who commit an attack on TYC staff, which results in serious injury, to the adult prison system. If this was done on a regular basis much of the violence in TYC would stop over night. An attack on TYC staff with serious injury is a First Degree Felony which carries up to a life term for adults so let’s enforce this law too.

Some of the little children in TYC are 17, 18, 19, and 20 years old. Many are second generation crack or meth babies who are violent with little provocation. There need to be major changes at TYC but lets not have such a major bias toward the youth. If only staff are criminally charged you will see a mass exodus of TYC staff regardless of what you pay them. I can only hope a bunch of people who have no hands on knowledge or experience will have all the wrong answers and make a bad system even worse.

The new acting Executive Director sent out an email threatening TYC staff he would review all of our employment and fire us if we do not meet his expectations. The threat was made after he told us how great he is! If the governor and legislature are not careful they will have to call out the National Guard to work TYC because most employees are very angry about the threatening email the new Executive Director sent to his employees. Once again the administration is corrupt and blames the lowly workers. TYC Administration is the cause of the sex scandals and the under staffing of TYC. The legislature carries some of the blame for the dangerous working conditions at TYC.

I am ashamed to let people know I work for TYC. I am ashamed not because I have physically or sexually abuse any of the youth at TYC, but because the damage the TYC Administration has done to all of our reputations.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Those of us who had no idea of what happened out there are now facing the fact that we may be "reorganized." I've been with them 22 years. Thanks Rick. And you too Elmer Fudd of Houston.... hunting "whabbits."