Friday, March 30, 2007

Kimbrough: Shaquanda Cotton to go free

Reports the Chicago Tribune. More from AP and the Paris News. See Grits' earlier coverage. UPDATE: See the Chicago Tribune's post-release interview with Shaquanda.


Anonymous said...

Get ready folks - they are releasing them, probably 1,000 in the next few months. Be careful what you demand - it might come back to bite you in the butt! I can hear it now.....
4/1/08 - Assoc. Press Reports / juvenile crime up 25%, violent crime up 50%, "get them off the streets and out of our neighborhoods," cry the victims!

Anonymous said...

If I read one more article that says her stay was extended for having an extra pair of socks my head is going to explode. That is a Category 2 rule violation and you cannot get demoted in behavior phase for a single Cat 2. Jeesus h christ on a trailer hitch, would it kill people to do a little basic research on the agency's policies? She either committed a lot of other Cat 2s or there's a more serious Cat 1 no one is talking about or she didn't progress in Correctional Therapy phase (which seems more likely from the article talking about her refusing to admit to the crime that got her committed).

The sock thing is a red herring put out there purely for shock value. I'm not saying this kid should have ever been sent to TYC. And I'm not saying she shouldn't have been out sooner. I'm just saying that I have yet to read a single article in the last month and a half that didn't get at least one detail wrong. (I've lost count of the number of people who have been incorrectly identified as to their job title.) Is a little fact cheking too much to ask from journalists anymore?

Anonymous said...

If you are at all concerned about the state of affairs with TYC and the untruths and exaggerations that may lead to the release of thousands of youth not ready for release and the impact that may have on your community, the time to act is NOW! I propose a letter writing campaign to ensure the legislators know the facts and the risks. They were not interested in listening to the TYC people who went to the Capitol at their invitation, and anyone who works for TYC knows they haven't asked anyone there for input so they have actual knowledge before going forward. Maybe if TYC employees, family, friends, and concerned citizens SPEAK up now, they will listen. Let them know we VOTE and care about the safety of our communities and the successful rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

You can find your rep and senator on the internet and most email addresses are or

Employees, remember not to use state equipment or email addresses to send from.

I am sure most people know what they want to say in a letter, but to aid those who may not know as much about the situation, I am providing a brief outline of points you may want to touch on.

1. Sex abuse is not systemic or agency wide. 3 staff (2 at West Texas and 1 at Brownwood) are the only confirmed cases they have mentioned with actual sexual contact. Three out of 4700 is not systemic. The same goes with their attempt to say youth are not promoted in their phases for refusing to have sex. There is no evidence there has been anyone doing this other than the 2 at West Texas.
2. TYC is not covering anything up. The Chief of Staff sent written information to legislative aides in March of 2005 and Dwight Harris verbally told the Corrections Committee (Whitmire and Hinojosa were present at the time) about the situation on March 15, 2005 (you can watch it in the Senate archives). Whitmire's response: Waived Dwight off and told him he could "brief [them] about it later."
3. TYC is not extending anyone's stay for having an extra pair of socks. A stay can only be extended through a Level 2 hearing. What they keep calling extensions of stay are in reality "phase demotions." A youth must both complete his or her minimum length of stay AND complete the Resocialization program to be released. If they continue to misbehave and/or fail to accept responsibility for their committing offense (which was found by a court, not TYC), they are not rehabilitated and so are not released.
4. If youth who have not been rehabilitated are released, they will most likely reoffend. They will either be back at TYC through parole revocation hearings or will be in prison (the leg decided against building new prisons this session - releasing these youth who aren't ready to be released may prove that to be a poor decision).
5. TYC's Resocialization program is a nationally and internationally recognized SUCCESSFUL rehabilitation program. It is based on sound counseling principals and is recognized around the world as one of the very best rehabilitation programs. It should not be thrown out just because a few people misused it (by few, I mean 2).
6. If we do not provide rehabiliation to juvenile offenders, the recidivism rate (likelihood they will reoffend) goes way up. The crime rate will go up.
7. If there is no mechanism for removing youth who commit multiple offenders from the community, there will be no way to control such crimes in the local communities. To say youth who commit misdemeanors cannot be placed in a youth prison is to basically say there is no deterrant to committing such crimes. Additionally, youth who consistently engage in criminal behavior tend to not go to school - this may have consequences in funding for schools because of high absenteeism rates.
8. It is not wise for legislators to take the word of parents without investigation into the reliability and truth of their statements. Many of these parents have enabled their child's criminal behavior for a very long time and they tend to downplay the severity of their offenses and the responsibility the youth had in committing the offense.
9. TYC employees cannot be terminated without cause. It is disturbing to hear Whitmire, a senator and attorney, say "worry about the legalities later." The "legalities" involve paying taxpayer money to people who are wrongfully terminated - that is not something I, as a tax payer, want to happen.

Assistance from everyone is necessary if there is any chance of combatting the overreactionary response from the legislature that is heading toward doing so much more harm than good. There are many good people who work for TYC
who do not want to see it torn apart unjustly. TYC employees have not been included in anything that has been happening - in fact, there has not even been an official announcement within the agency that TYC is in conservatorship. The help of any citizen concerned about this situation is desperately needed right now.

Anonymous said...

But if the same people are involved in TYC as are with the Parole Board of TDCJ, then extending someone's stay for having an extra pair of socks, no matter what catagory of 'offence' it may be, seems perfectly plausible!

This girl should not have been there at all, and I would put my house (if I had one) on the fact that a whole lot of others shouldnt be there either.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't understand the complaint, or what a letter writing campaign would accomplish - they can't find people to be JCOs, so they're releasing the least dangerous kids, after individual reviews, to reduce the staff to inmate ratio to make things safer for everybody in the units, staff included.

I hear complaints about dangerous, overcrowded conditions, then now apparently complaints about the only available way to fix it. I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Having been with TYC for many years all of the above posts have merit. Usually the low level offender has committed many offenses which has caused a much higher dollar loss to their community than someone who committed a single robbery.

The comment about the Category 2 sock possession is stated correctly; it could not have been used to extend youth Cotton’s stay. Once again the Spin Doctors in Austin are lying to us in a way that produces outrage. As pointed out TYC did not commit youth Cotton to the youth prison system, the local court system did the dirty work.

I am one of the people who will have their right of due process of law violated by the state of Texas when I am fired due to a 35 year old felony conviction. I am beginning to think it might be in my best interest to be fired improperly. I have contacted several attorneys and all of them have told me this may be one of the biggest class actions cases in Texas costing the tax payers 35 to 100 million dollars. Get you calculator out and multiply $35,000 times 111. Next take that number (3,885,000) and multiply it by the number of years all 111 of us could have worked (God only knows). Let’s use 15 years as a rough guess for a total of $58,275,000 in lost wages. Now add the lost benefits, retirement value, and legal fees. I recently received a retirement statement that put the value of my retirement at over $250,000 over my life time. Are you tax payers starting to get the picture? But like the old saying goes – IF you play, you gotta pay! My lawyer advised me to stop this political letter writing and let the dumb legislators fire me so we can both make some money. He has visions a class action and the monumental legal fees.

Scott I don’t think this about dropping the number of youth down to bring the JCO to student ratio into an acceptable range. From what I have seen lately this is about privatization of TYC. Southwest Key formed a coalition with heavy political clout and I believe they are working behind the scenes to refill empty beds in their Texas facilities. I personally heard Senator Whitmire tell a witness we are not here to listen to what is good about TYC! His total intent is to unjustly make TYC look bad to justify a massive funding for Southwest Key beds. I think the lies are several levels deep.

I agree with the comment about school funding and the crime rate going up. Time will tell who is right.

Maybe my lawyer friend is right! Maybe I should stop writing the senators and representatives so I can go ahead and retire in financial comfort. No need to be concerned about the kids I work with, they will be set free for you to worry about or placed with Southwest Key.

My future looks so bright I have to wear sun glasses!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So what's the solution, folks? TYC staff ratios are 24-1 and need to be 12-1. The agency can't hire or keep JCOs because the facilities are all out in the boondocks and pay sucks. What other way is possible to reduce the ratios? Sure, massive pay hikes - the House just approved 6.5%, which is hardly massive - but I don't think that will do it. What would you suggest?

With all respect, there's ZERO need for Whitmire or anybody else to make TYC look bad. It's doing a great job of that on its own! Dwight Harris drove the ship aground then fled, leaving y'all stranded, surrounded by sharks. I don't blame TYC employees for being defensive. But some really bad stuff has happened - not just to kids but to staff - largely because of low staff-student ratios. I don't hear any solutions here, I just see the same old "tuff" scare rhetoric that if we release any of these kids crime will go through the roof. As though TYC, half of whose graduates go on to TDCJ, was some great solution!

Maybe Southwest Key deserves a chance, frankly. That wouldn't bother me. I have no vested interest in privatization, and I don't disrespect TYC staff, but neither do I think the folks in this broken institution automatically have all the answers, either. best,

Anonymous said...

The suggestion that somehow Southwest Key is behind this to make millions of dollars off contract beds is ridiculous. Yes, Southwest Key is a private contract provider. Yes, they spearheaded a coalition effort, perhaps with less than noble motivations. Yes, that coalition is at the heart of the current reform efforts.

But, the suggestion that this coalition has big political clout is laughable. If Southwest Key has so much "political clout" then why would dollars have ever been taken away from the contract placements -- which by the way were primarily used as buffers to help TYC manage its bloated population? Why wouldn't more have been done about the problems in TYC before the West Texas State School story broke in February?

There is certainly a good ol' boy network at work here, and some disgusting political posturing. But, get real: no non-profit contract service provider is ever going to have the money it takes to join that club. It would require Merck-sized money to do that.

Anonymous said...

Before you get too excited about starting a class action suit you might want to have your lawyer review the Texas Government Code section § 2104.023. CONSERVATORSHIP POWERS AND DUTIES. It essentially changes the agency from a "for cause" agency to an "at will" agency. In other words, the Conservator can terminate anyone he deems necessary. The language is ambiguous, but it does change the rules for TYC.

Anonymous said...

Here's the solution Grit: Counties need to quit using TYC as it's backdoor placement option. "When all else fails, send 'em to TYC." We're not an orphanage.

The Ledge needs to fund counties to take care of their own problems. Send us your true criminals, not your kids with MS disease who took ole granny's car for a ride and was charged with UUMV and sent to TYC so he could get treatment for the MS .That's just sick.

Don't send us your 10-14 year olds either. Instead, try the "board of education." I am personally sick of seeing these young kids in these facilities trying hard to be bad asses while learning from their older peer groups.

Oh, and for God's sake, quit sending us your pregnant girls. I have to protect that fetus and that girl?

The counties need to be funded to take care of their own. Just send us your jelling felons 15-18 and that's it. Our population will plummet.

And to the staff… don’t worry. Just go where the kids go. Someone has to take care of them because their parents obviously don’t want to. These are some of the sorriest parents I have ever seen. There should be serious sanctions brought upon these individuals who require the state to rear their children.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sounds like you and I are on the same page, to the last anon who wrote:

"The Ledge needs to fund counties to take care of their own problems. Send us your true criminals, not your kids with MS disease who took ole granny's car for a ride and was charged with UUMV and sent to TYC so he could get treatment for the MS .That's just sick.

Don't send us your 10-14 year olds either. Instead, try the "board of education." I am personally sick of seeing these young kids in these facilities trying hard to be bad asses while learning from their older peer groups.

Oh, and for God's sake, quit sending us your pregnant girls."

I'm right there with you - community based alternatives are much more widely available for kids than adults. To me the idea that a 10 year old is in TYC for anything short of homicide boggles the mind. We're criminalizing things that in my day were just part of being young and stupid, but not felonious. Somehow we need to return to the point where we're able to tell the difference.

Anonymous said...

Well, this teacher now feels vulnerable. After all, this idiot Kimbrough has just said it is open season on all of us school employees.

Assault on a school employee needs to have mandatory incarceration.

Anonymous said...

I guess I don't feel much like providing solutions given how often the agency has taken problems to the Lege in the past and been blown off. Requests for more money for staff, for more training, for more cameras...all blown off. And now, of course, those are among the solutions. *rolls eyes*

And do you think TYC had much choice in where the facilities got placed. They're in the boonies from a combination of NIMBY from the big cities and pure politicking on the part of elected officials from the smaller towns that want the money and jobs. One of the ugliest things I've ever seen was the TYC Board meeting where the final "decision" was made where to place the facility that ended up at Mart. Representatives from all these little towns and even a State Senator showed up to try to throw their weight around.

I know I'm rambing a bit...sorry. The agency has no one to blame but itself for not taking these specific allegations more seriously a lot sooner and if people really did redact info from reports their asses should be fired. But TYC also had no control over what the local DA did about the case.

The solutions you talk about...smaller facilities with fewer kids closer to urban areas...those would be good. But do you really think people in the urban areas won't protest putting the facilities near them? And where's the money going to come from? They certainly haven't shown a real willingness to fund youth lockups in the past. I guess I just figure as soon as this gets off the front page it'll be back to business as usual at the Lege. And that really pisses me off because philosophically I have been in favor of smaller facilities for years now but had no power or leverage to make that happen. The Lege does and I would be sad to see the opportunity slip by.

Anonymous said...

Grits- you asked for solutions? Here are some:

*Any violent offender (or habitual offender) age 17-21 who have not consistently maintained above a phase 2 needs to be moved to an adult facility. (that would move a large amount).

*Any student who has maintained a phase 4 for 4 months or longer should be moved to a halfway house or other program for independent living and community readjustment. If they are sex offenders or long term commits- they should be sent to 1 campus within TYC for education, mentoring and phasing into community programs.

*Non-violent youth with severe emotional disturbances need to be held for review with a psychiatry panel and a representative attorney or judge to review their commitment and determine alternative placements to better fit their mental needs. If TYC needs to use their funding to pay for the student, then they should. Contracts for placement can be made.

*Youth with medical infirmities that either hinder their ability to care for themselves, are in the later stages of health decline or the sentence (after review) appears to have been in place to provide care otherwise unavailable in the child's community- these students should be reviewed by a medical panel, the same type of panel review and then an agency rep to look at funding available to care for these youth at contract medical facilities.

*Youth ages 10-12 need to be reviewed in the same panel manner and considered for accredited residential treatment centers (if appropriate).

*EVERY STUDENT who has reached their minimum length of stay and has maintained a consistent (three or more months) phase of 3 or more should be released.

This should reduce some numbers.

As for TYC itself:
If there is any suggestion other than to computerize the adult and student grievance systems to an outside agency with no internal ties- then they are not interested in doing it right. The Paper system offers too many levels of corruption. Investigators, whether employed by TYC or TDCJ are not appropriate. They need to be employed by, answer to and trained by an agency other than who they work for or could be associated with (through Ed Owens).
These are my suggestions. Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

conservator of a state agency under this subchapter shall ensure
that the agency complies with state fiscal management policies.
(b) The conservator of a state agency under this subchapter,
(1) terminate the employment of any employee whose
conduct the conservator determines contributed to the condition
that caused the conservatorship;

1. complies with state fiscal management policies – Check the Gov. Code on employment of felons and you might be surprised the hoops he will need to clear to fire all of legally. In my case he will have a very hard time of getting the job done within the law.

2. terminate the employment of any employee whose conduct the conservator determines contributed to the condition – Kimbrough has to determine my personal conduct contributed to the sexual abuse hundreds of miles away in West Texas. He has to directly tie me to the criminal acts.

So in short, I have a solid case and will prevail in a legal action. I followed the law and the policy in place at the time I was hired and now comes a pack of headline grabbing politicians who feel they can take my job for doing my job as instructed by the administration they put in place. Rick Perry put Dwight Harris in charge of TYC and allowed him to run TYC into the ground so fire Rick Perry!

I might add in the 35 years since my conviction for a low level nonviolent felony I have had one minor traffic violation and it was dismissed so I guess I am a not much of a danger. If it makes you feel better to put me down for what I did as a youth then do it. Oh yes I was a youth like the ones you are so worried about now.

After some good discussion, I think Senator Whitmire was right when he said let the lawyers sort it out. Getting personally involved in this dog fight is not worth the wear and tear on my old crippled body. I did the absolute best I was allowed to do for the TYC youth I worked with. I wrote legislators about corruption in TYC who turned a deaf ear. I just realized how tired I am and how negatively working at TYC has effected me.

Scott you have a great blog! Keep up the good work because you are a sharp guy. I think your experience in the way things work in Austin is a plus for the people who take part in your blog. It has been valuable to me in this time of high stress and uncertainty. You are a true asset to your fellow man.

The blog contributors are a bunch great people too! You obviously care about what goes on in your state. Some people I agreed with, some people made me think about things and some people I disagreed with, which made for the perfect mix to bring about meaningful discussion from my point of view. Many politicians and their staff read this blog so you guys do have an impact on what goes on in Texas.

May the peace of God be with you and your families as you walk the path of life.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Cool, thanks to all - very helpful. Any other suggestions would definitely be appreciated.

And to the poor, vulnerable teacher, sorry, but there are many alternative punishments for what Ms. Cotton's worst critics call a "shove" before you get to 9 mos - 7 years in a youth prison, especially given what they're discovering about what's happening at some TYC facilities (another lawsuit filed yesterday, I saw, this time against the McLennan unit). As the Chicago Tribune points out, a white girl who intentionally burned down her family's house got probation from the same judge.

Anyway, TYC guards are paid much less than teachers and get only 80 hours training before going in the field. So your "vulnerability" makes me wonder, if you can't manage the kids with all the training it takes to become a teacher, what makes you think they can?

Anonymous said...

To 11:33 pm
To address your statements regarding:

1. Sex abuse is not systemic or agency wide. 3 staff (2 at West Texas and 1 at Brownwood) are the only confirmed cases they have mentioned with actual sexual contact. Three out of 4700 is not systemic. The same goes with their attempt to say youth are not promoted in their phases for refusing to have sex. There is no evidence there has been anyone doing this other than the 2 at West Texas.
Whatever drug you are on that makes you able to either lie through your teeth or unable to see the rest of the confirmed sexual abuse cases within TYC- please flush it. I will mention JUST ONE more I am aware of- and this is just ONE. How about Corsicana? Did you forget about the youth and staff case there?

2. "TYC is not covering anything up..."
Response: Uh.. with just the statement you made with number one, I think it is pretty clear to say that, Yes, TYC does cover up.
Second, you keep flying off the path of what TYC is accused of covering up. It's not that you covered up the fact the abuse happened. It's the prior behavior of the staff involved and the failure to act to either prevent it from going further and then, after it all came out- the failure to remove them from the ability to harm more youth. THAT is the failure.

3. TYC is not extending anyone's stay for having an extra pair of socks.
Response: I have seen a student's phase denied because he had too many letters from home (went beyond the allowed number of personal items). I have seen it. Want to deny that too?

4. If youth who have not been rehabilitated are released, they will most likely reoffend.
Response: I agree. So how about we make TYC a place that can and will accomplish that. In this, I suggest people like you who either cannot see or are not willing to admit to the issues are not allowed to be a part of that process.

For numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8 of your post:
Response: See response for number 4

9. TYC employees cannot be terminated without cause.
Response: I can think of several staff off the top of my head that were fired without cause. Mind you, TYC came up with a "cause"- one that was manufactured by the "team players" to ensure those who would not participate in the cover ups or trying to expose them were fired as quickly as possible and or driven to resign.

"Assistance from everyone is necessary if there is any chance of combatting the overreactionary response from the legislature that is heading toward doing so much more harm than good."
"There are many good people who work for TYC who do not want to see it torn apart unjustly".
"The help of any citizen concerned about this situation is desperately needed right now".

Response: See answer to number 4

Anonymous said...

Grit, allow me to add one more category of kids we can do without: the emotionally disturbed.

It agonizes me to see these boys and girls with serious emotional disturbances being sent to TYC. When you take a close look at the commitments we receive, a vast majority of them are emotionally disturbed. Ok, we'll keep conduct disorders because this diagnosis is later described as antisocial personality disorder after age 17. We'll take those.

But we don't need those that are actively hallucinating, are psychotic or close to it. Mixing this population with the non-emotionally disturbed exacerbates the mental health of those who are truly emotionally disturbed. These are the ones who are often targeted by the gang bangers to carry out "orders."

I hope every district judge and elected official in this state is listening to what we're saying. I know I'm arguing myself out of a job, but I'd rather be unemployed with a clean conscious than employed with this knowledge. It's just the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

11:47 am, see 10:02 am posting. It's says something about that. Think that would work?

Anonymous said...

Hi folks. In addition to this great site, if you would like to see other info. on TYC, here is another one:

It talks about the new lawsuit at the Mart facility Grits mentioned. Also, very interesting info. on Mr. Perry's email procedures.

Anonymous said...

I checked out that blog! OMG!! Alfonso Royal- (the one that Ed Owens is answering to in the Governor's office) was being considered to replace Dwight Harris before this all blew up??? What the hell??? He is an accountant!! AND, by the looks of it- he has had knowledge of this whole TYC cover up and MORE since 2005 and the whole time this situation has been going on! HE IS THE ONE ED OWENS ANSWERS TO????
Oh God help us all.

tttt said...

I'm just wondering, is zero tolerance of kids being kids starting to really kick our asses?

Anonymous said...

Tjdo, there is already a zero tolerance crowd. It's those that say no one under 21 should have to go to juvy or prison for anything. They should be given a choice of what to do about their crimes. Oh, and the mother gets to determine which choices! Isn't that nice of them? They have zero tolerance for anyone that wants to feel safe in public.

Oh, and teachers, smeachers, they are worthless and we need to protect the violent (oops, that slipped) little darlings from them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@the last anon: You know, all the "little darlings," "little angels" stuff is a smarmy pile of crap - if I have zero tolerance for anything it's that. You don't offer any solutions, but you're happy to whine and complain. Staff are injured, too, because of overcrowding but you don't appear to care. Apparently this is all a big joke to you.

Meanwhile, Jay Kimbrough and Rick Perry (the ones solely responsible for the decision to release anybody) are a couple of softie liberals, to hear you tell it. What would you do in their stead, I wonder, besides spout snarky insults about people you don't know?

Anonymous said...

I love you Grits. Very well said.

Anonymous said...

"What would you do in their stead, I wonder, besides spout snarky insults about people you don't know?"

Actually I'll bet Rick Perry spouts snarky insults behind the scenes, don't you think? Jay Kimbrough, with his silver hair, Harley and Darth Vader tie, seems like he could be a little classier, maybe.

Could the Guv himself have taken to anonymously posting on blogs? Hmm. Is that you, Rick? :)

Anonymous said...

Dear 4:21 pm,
Thank you for your letter to Gov. Rick Perry. Unfortunately, he is unable to reply personally to your "hello" due to recruiting more friends for high level positions, deleting his emails and practicing diversionary speech techniques by holding up his keys and saying, "Hey look! Over here! Shiny things!"

Anonymous said...

I don’t want to sound “soft” or anything….. but….I have mixed feelings about these soon to be released kids. On one hand, I'll be glad to see them go because they have done their time and then some, but on the other hand, I look at the environment that they are going back to. I'd say we have many that would rather go somewhere else other than where they came from (i.e. abusive homes). I’m not kidding when I say we have kids that act out in the institutions because they don’t want to go home.

For those that fall in that category, it'd be nice to have their input as to if they want to return to that environment. Then, there will be those whose parents don't want them home or that their victim is in the home (these are normally sex offenders). What are we going to do, release them to the Salvation Army or other homeless shelters? The thought of doing that makes me sick. I hope the agency sinks some serious bucks into independent living programs, but even at that, you're still going to have some that aren't old enough to enter that program. The counties had better brace themselves. I‘d also hope the state has a plan to support these counties; otherwise, the counties will send them right back to us. What a social dilemma. The Texas Youth Commission will never be the same. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing.

And Scott, I want to commend you for this blog site. It’s a tremendous relief knowing that we have a forum to vent our frustrations and concerns, and you’ve been pretty fair about the postings as evidenced by presenting both sides. We should hook up and write a book about this whole situation. I have the material, you have the writing skills…. A best seller in the making…. We would make a mint. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

To 5:05 pm-
I liked and agreed with everything you said- until your final sentence.
I agree, you and Grits should possibly hook up and write a book. But, instead of using the information regarding the abuse, neglect and disregard of students and staff within the TYC system to "make a mint" for yourself, how about you donate that money to open up more halfway houses you spoke of.

Anonymous said...

I have no interest in profiting from this scandal. I'm just as poor as Grits: we eat, live, and think Grits daily. Sometimes, we eat hotdogs. Got any mustard?

Anonymous said...

Rest assured, as soon as (if she isn't there already) Miss Cotton's feet hit the city limits of Paris, TX, she is going to be under unbelievable 24 hour/7 day a week scrutiny. Don't think that the Judge (who is most assuredly pissed) hasn't informed every law enforcement agency officer, court representative or nosy neighbor to watch her every breath. If Miss Cotton even farts without saying excuse me (which will undoubtedly be twisted into a felony offense), she'll be gone. She may not have a chance as someone once said- but it goes both ways.

Anonymous said...

I too have mixed feelings - Let’s examine where we are going.....

1.) TYC is releasing non-violent offenders. This means that it does not discern if this was their 1st crime or their 15th. There is a big difference between someone who pushed a teachers aid and someone whom has stolen 6 cars over the last 3 years, sold drugs to feed his brothers and sisters, and got in a gang fight that was classified as a simple assault knowing that he was the OG (high rank) of the gang and was ordering others to do the dirty stuff. See, TYC was at the mercy of the counties and the courts. TYC gets kids from impoverished counties that have no services and/or resources and from major metroplex's that have services that the youth have been through and blown repeatedly. On the way out of TYC, there is not going to be a look at who is from where and what the circumstances were that got them adjudicated. The courts and counties made that decision before they went there. So, general offenders are being released that complete their 9 mo. minimum length of stay and only completed phase 1 of the resoc. program and go without a major incident for 30 days.(most do that during their 1st 30 days of placement it is simple memorization work) What were they doing the other 8 months they were there? See, the gang OG can then run their game for 8 months and then get it together with no problem the last 30 days to be free to go out to the community and do it again. The kid that pushed the teacher may have social skill issues and developmental delays that need treatment and prevent their ability to meet the standards, but they are much less likely to prey on others. There is no way for TYC to win in this situation. They really want fewer youth, but the staff doesn’t want their name on some of them they are being told to send out. Also, realize that these youth are going to go onto already oversized Parole Officer caseloads. If they have no homes to go to and they are 17 and older they will go to shelters. If they are under 17, TYC will call CPS and tell them they are being released and the day to come get them. I hope the shelters and CPS are getting emergency funding to deal with what is coming.

Resolution - You have to realize by now that there are good employees w/in TYC. Mr. Kimsbrough needs to find some of them and get the real scoop of the choices he is making. He is impacting a no doubt troubled system that needs fixing, but he has no idea what he is doing. I believe that his arrogance will prevent him from seeing this, but someone really needs to alert the public and let them know what is happening. Maybe the people he is grandstanding for will help him to wake-up. There must be a more comprehensive review of who is being sent to the streets.

2. I really wish that people would separate the issues of child abuse in TYC and system reform. There is child abuse in TYC - no doubt. I want all those suckers locked up and anyone that condoned it to get accessory charges. The system reform is needed in many ways....
-independent oversight of investigations and complaints. I believe that the system that was in place got to big too quick and despite efforts to address the issues, there was no real vision in executive mgmt. to deal with it. They just took existing positions and gave them more duties. You know that there is no way to do quality work when there is more work than what a reasonable person can get accomplished. These people who managed the system on a local level couldn't spend the time doing it in a quality way. Furthermore, if they have to spend a significant amount of time in the grievance system, how are they ever to do the preventative management and make the place a good place to be? Impossible. There needs to be an independent authority to deal with grievances (staff and youth) and investigations (administrative and criminal). Let the local staff get back to managing the facility instead of investigating it.
-legal calling the shots instead of advising and executive mgmt. making decision. See, Mr. Harris' downfall was in his confidence to do the right thing. He always let the lawyers make the decisions. We all know that lawyers don't manage agencies, they advise. Especially lawyers that were put in place during the morales v. turman period. You could see the TYC staff give exec. mgmt feedback and not be listened to because they were trying to avoid upsetting anyone and being sued. Hell, now look who is upset. They should have had the guts to make the right decision and then let the lawyers help in presenting the cases as to why it was right.
-resocialization. It is not a bad system, but it was way too complicated and Caseworker intensive. Once again, TYC staff attempted to let them know that, but the rehabilitation department didn't hear it. How could they, most of them have never worked at an institution? There needs to be a simpler case mangement system put in place with a more defined role. The resocalization program needs to be separated from the disciplinary program. And once again, someone needs to listen to the good staff that have been doing this for years to find out how to go about it.
-too many Central Office staff that don't know what is going on out in the field. Regionalize it and get them out there working instead of sitting in the castle telling others what to do.
-training is not just the 80 hours that is reported, it is much longer, it is just the wrong kind of training. TYC has been training people from book work to keep them out of law suits. They need real OJT, but they do not have the staff to support this system. Once again - get the Central Office staff out in the field. There is no reason they all have to live in Austin.
- Too Few Supervisors with too much paperwork. On the dorms that are having the most problems, they are open bay style dorms. It is like taking 24 kids and putting them in a gymnasium with 1 staff all the time. There would be problems with well adjusted kids - just imagine what it is like with the ones at TYC. When the lege. built and funded those dorms after a TDCJ model, they decided that they needed 75% less staff and 50% less supervisors to run them. They thought that they didn't need it because the style of dorm afforded the staff to be able to see all the kids all the time. On the other hand it gave the kids no place to separate themselves when they needed time alone to calm down. It gave the kids no way to get away from the noise (they echo), nor the ability to feel safe when they were asleep. 1 staff cannot prevent a kid from getting to you to kick your axx if you made him mad the day before. TYC has plans for how to reconfigure those dorms - Has anyone asked to see that?

3.) The lege. has got to get counties to be able to afford prevention services with the youth in the counties and only send kids to TYC that really need to go. The problem is that it cannot come quick enough to deal with the youth that are hitting the street this month.

Resolution - I urge you all to go out and talk with the county CRCG committee's. There needs to be a statewide investment in receiving these kids back. If, not - they will reoffend and end up back at TYC on parole revocations and we will do this again in a few months. It will completely disable the system and be a revolving door with no real intervention.

There are no good answers, but things are starting to move quickly at TYC - The communities and neighborhoods really need to be prepared. This is a difficult, multifaceted problem that needs local community leadership to step up to the plate. They better start now.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, Grits -- how many felonies does this little FELON have to commit before she deserves jail time. I see at least two -- assault with bodily injury and assault upon a public servant. Would three be sufficient? Four? Or do you truly believe that assault on school employees simply goes with the job and that no punishment should be meted out -- especially if the FELON in question is black?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ anon 7:37: Read the other commenters here to discover what a constructive comment looks like. You keep coming back with bile and spurious accusations, but no solutions.

As for Cotton's race, that's your hangup, not mine. I don't hear you crying, e.g., because the white arsonist who got probation from the same judge isn't in TYC, though she poses a greater danger. Would you care at all if Shaquanda weren't black? I wonder - you seem particularly adamant.

Anonymous said...

To 7:37 pm-
I'm not Grits but I have a comment for you.
I love how you use all the big words like "FELON" and felony and assault with bodily injury, and assault of a public servant, yadda yadda yadda. Ohhh, they are all very big and scary words. Words that make me envision big scary people trying to rape me or break into my house and stab me or trying to beat up a police officer or take his gun. VERY SCARY.
Oh wait, again, let's refresh. We're talking about a 14 year old girl who after being pushed first, pushed a hall monitor who tried to stop her on the way to the nurses' office so she could take her medication. OH MY GOSH! I HAVE TO STOP TYPING NOW! THAT HORRIBLE LITTLE GIRL TERRIFIES ME! I'M GOING TO HAVE NIGHTMARES. I'M LOCKING MY DOORS NOW.
Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

To 7:29 pm,
I commend you for the thought, time and effort you put into this- and for the mere fact you even care.
I have offered solutions myself and have many more. I just don't know if anyone is listening.
I heard Senator Whitmore say to Ed Owens- just tell the legislature what you want and what you need. No limits on money, just tell them and they will make it happen.
Well Senator(s), I hope you read this blog. There have been a lot of gripes, whines and other things, but there has also been many solutions offered too. I hope you are listening (reading). We're not done yet either.
Here's one of mine to you. If you really want solutions from people who have worked it, been in it and know how it runs, make a specific place- a website, a mail drop, something- where people can send you their ideas. You have your Senate email, but too much comes through there and you don't read it- your aides do. You or some other person who really is interested in hearing what will work needs to actually make it available for us to tell you. If you really want to know, make it happen.
What could it hurt? You could actually get accused of listening.

Anonymous said...

I honestly believe after reading all this that the majority of you are elected officials,because this is exactly what they have been doing for 2 months now. If you have not figured this out by now this is grandstanding at its best. Let Ms. Cotton out of TYC, I agree that she should have never been at TYC but TYC did not place her in the system. Why did Jay pick this case over all the others knowing that this was all over the news (every state). Stating for the news that at least 4000 youth would be considered for release, PLEASE!!! The Legislators had to have their open hearing so anybody and everybody would e allowed to speak their peace and now that this has been done we closed another chapter on righting the ship. As soon as the session is over this will be over, but the choices being made will take there effect for many years. TYC needs leaders, not what they have had in the past and not what they have now. What about Mr. Ed Owens is his past clean, was he involved in anything that would tarnish his ability to lead an agency that is currently in turmoil. Is this the reason Jay was named the Conservator?? I think we can all agree that TYC became the agency it is now based upon poor decisions by the Legislators (under funding-open bay dorms, overcrowding, poor leadership). GRITS you stated two weeks ago a report would be forthcoming about the SAMMY issue and Mr. Owens, what happened to this story?

Anonymous said...

11:51 pm-
I have been posting a LOT on this board recently- and I can assure you, I am far from an elected official. I wish to hell I was, because heads would be rolling and the changes in TYC that SHOULD have been done by now WOULD be done.
I agree with everything that you said about the agency, past and present. ED OWENS SHOULD NOT BE THERE. Jay Kimbrough has no business in the TYC business. I am just (if not more) disgusted with what is going on than you are.
This site is one of the few places we can voice that. And, if there are actually any elected officials on this site that can do anything- I agree, stop grandstanding and sounding good for the cameras. Get off your ass and DO IT because it needs to be done- RIGHT AND NOW.

Anonymous said...

The purpose of a letter writing campaign is to let legislators know we expect reasoned and thoughtful decisions to be made.

Yes, there has been sexual abuse and yes, TYC has made mistakes - I never said they didn't.

My point is, the legislators and others need to take time to understand the system (such as, what is an extension of stay vs. a phase demotion) and evaluate what does and does not work. To date, I have not heard of anyone currently in charge asking questions about how things work - if you have heard them asking, please, let us know. I for one would have more confidence in the reform process if I at least knew that was happening at this stage.

They need to develop a thoughtful plan to address and hopefully correct recognized problems. They need to consider all, including unintended consequences, of changes before proposing and attempting to implement them. Although this may take more time than they are willing to wait, that is what we as citizens deserve from our elected officials.

Anonymous said...

Do you think they are listening? Heck, they ought to cut and paste these comments into the rehabilitation plan. I can tell that there are some pretty bright and experienced juvenile justice professionals on this site. I just wonder if anyone in the ledge is looking at these comments. wow...

Anonymous said...

It keeps cutting if off. Last try.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Here's the link you're trying to post.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oh, and I'm not sure what's going on with the Ed Owens/Buentello story. I heard through the grapevine two different reporters were poking around, but never saw anything. I will say that after an email exchange with someone who disputed Owens' involvement, their criticisms of that Grits post didn't hold up and I'm convinced there's a story there to be told, whenever the MSM gets around to it. I don't have the resources to do it right on the blog.

My wife thinks part of the reason it hasn't been covered is "blog envy," that the MSM don't want to be seen following a story first scooped on a blog. I hope they don't have that attitude - I write about a LOT of stuff that isn't covered in the MSM until it becomes a crisis. best,

Anonymous said...

well if you ask me "from experience" im in tyc right now for risisting arrest and i think it is really unfair but i got 2 do 9 months in here if i wanna see my family again PLEASE IM BEGGING YOU I DO NOT DESERVE THIS TYC IS OUT OF THERE MINDS IM WITH THE ONE'S 100% THAT TYC NEEDS 2 SEND THE ONES WHO ARE REALLY COMMITTING CRIMES LIKE KILLING OR HURTING SOMEONE!