Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dallas/Houston reps vote to keep jails dangerous, unhealthy

Here are a few Texas criminal justice odds and ends Grits readers should be aware of:

Jail oversight bills die - Urban reps take anti-accountability stand
The two bills by Rep. Turner discussed here aimed at providing greater oversight at Texas jails in large counties were defeated on an unusual third reading vote, mostly by Dallas and Houston representatives who apparently like their failed, dangerous jails just the way they are. See the Dallas News coverage of yesterday's surprising reversal. Rep. Jim Jackson who himself formerly chaired the Commission on Jail Standards, led the charge to kill the reforms, calling any effort to put teeth in agency regs an "unfunded mandate."

Why am I not surprised that the fellow on whose regulatory watch the Dallas Jail went to hell now thinks everything is hunky dory?

To me this was a politically foolish move - henceforth every jail death, every staph infection, every mentally ill person lost for months in the system without a court hearing can (and should) be blamed at election time on members who voted against these bills. Turner said it exactly right, "How can you complain about the problems at TYC when you're protecting your own local jails on the same stuff? That's hypocrisy at its best." I'll certainly be watching closely to see what horrors could have been prevented by a more conscientious vote.

What the Dallas Jail scandal will look like in a couple of years
You'd think Texas legislators would have learned by now, but here's what happens when you ignore problems at correctional institutions. Analyzing the results of more open records research, the Dallas News says that at the Texas Youth Commission:
A chain of administrative failures, executive inattention and bureaucratic missteps brought TYC to this institutional collapse. State government records, legislative archives and interviews with current and former officials show a breakdown of authority at all levels.

TYC officials consistently exaggerated agency accomplishments while downplaying its considerable problems. Legislators repeatedly failed to press the issue. And Gov. Rick Perry's office paid little heed to numerous and repeated warnings.

Crimes at TYC still concealed from administrators
Speaking of TYC, apparently it's not just reporters and the public being kept in the dark about misconduct allegations at the troubled agency, but even administrative staff, reports the Houston Chronicle. The paper reported that, "TYC Conservator Jay Kimbrough said that gap shouldn't matter because criminal investigators are now protecting the youth." Yeah, right - why should the administrators need to know?! Jesus H. Christ, how many times do we have to make the same mistakes over and over? Security through obscurity is SOOOOO last century - transparency at TYC is the best way to keep kids safe.

Drilling down into prison dentistry
Read an interview with Pamela Myers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Dental Hygiene Coordinator. "After over 20 years, I am still behind the walls, barbed wire and fences, and it has been the most rewarding career I could have ever dreamed," Myers declared.

Dyslexia and Crime
I Speak of Dreams liked some of my writing on dyslexia and crime and linked to some additional resources.


Anonymous said...

Okay, Scott the comment below is not truthful!!!!!

TYC Conservator Jay Kimbrough said that gap shouldn't matter because criminal investigators are now protecting the youth."

1st and foremost law enforcement are not on campus 24/7, nor are the on campus all week.

So how can he make this comment. It doesn't matter? So if the TYC supervisors are not aware who will step in to protect the youth?

It's all about the headlines. Wait until the session is over and see how TYC looks like 2 years, four years down the road. I am sure TYC will be out of the headlines but the problems will be 10X worse than what we had this past year.

I'm just glad this doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "not aware"... many of us are "not aware" if our TYC facility will close today, tomorrow, next week, next year, or if it will undergo a total metamorphosis into a different agency altogether (such as TDCJ). The stress caused by knowing that you could wake up tomorrow to a total loss of income is nothing short of maddening ... ESPECIALLY when you are one of those “remote area facilities ” so frequently speculated by the media to be closed down.

What we DO know is that due to TYC’s downsizing, "some" of the facilities will close. What we DON'T know, but certainly should, is exactly which facilities will close, or when it will happen. With so many people's jobs at stake, a little forewarning from TYC seems like a well-deserved, common courtesy to its employees they profess to value. Why on earth should people who have dedicated their lives to the youth and to the agency's mission, deserve anything less than a simple forewarning to allow them time to prepare for their futures?

In a remote area, new jobs will certainly be in short supply. And with little or no warning, there will undoubtedly be more people needing a job than there will be jobs available for them to find; so for many of us, it will mean uprooting our families-- without an income, without health insurance, or even clue of what the future holds for us. Don’t get me wrong…I am all for fixing a broken system, especially one as badly broken as ours...but keeping so many employees in the dark about the state of their employment seems cruel and heartless. The last TYC press release was two months ago (March 16th). They should be telling us more than they are because we deserve to know what's going on....HELLO???? POWERS THAT BE...are you there? Can you give us an update??? Can we at least have a clue?

I feel like a mushroom...kept in the dark and fed a lot of crap. The big difference is that mushrooms thrive in those conditions and human beings don't!

Anonymous said...

I hear you. It's just not right to be keeping you and those like you in the dark.

Some people are parading the issues of TYC like they have championed some cause by downsizing the village.

But it is absolutely and fundamentally wrong to keep employees in the dark and not allow them to prepare their futures. The only reason I can think of why they are doing this is to avoid a mass exodus when in fact the plans for closures and fluid at best.

They have a goal of wanting more community based programs, but what’s not clear is how much they’ve funded the counties to care for their own.

The two facilities that are immanent: San Saba and Marlin.

The remainder: it might be a slow and progressive process because if they didn’t fund the counties, and the judges blanket felon youth which I’m sure they will to get them placed, then the boys/girls have to go somewhere. When I say the situation is fluid, that’s what I mean…. Hang in there….

Anonymous said...

Thanks whitsfoe...I hear you too, and I am continually amazed at how this website offers TYC employees more useful information and words of encouragement than anything we are exposed to on the job.

"Fluid" is an excellent word to desribe the situation, so I will definitely hang in there; but since our facility is next in line after Marlin and San Saba in terms of how rapid our population is shrinking...I think its a good idea
to update my resume and check on other jobs while I'm hanging.

Thanks again whitsfoe!

Anonymous said...

I believe Jay Kimbrough is finally giving the media and the public a correct view of how he works. He grandstands for headlines while producing little or no positive change at TYC. He is not a creative or skilled leader. All Jay Kimbrough knows how to do is destroy things with a lot of show having no regard for the lives hanging in the balance. After all is said and done the children in TYC will be worse off in the future. Children handled as misdemeanor cases will be ramped up to felony grade to place them in TYC and contract placement will once again not live up to expectations.

Jay Kimbrough has one objective and one objective only; to protect Governor Perry at all costs. Jay Kimbrough does not care about the children in TYC, they are a means to an end for him. A member of the Legislature described Jay Kimbrough as a political operative working for Governor Perry when I asked him what he knew about Mr. Kimbrough.

When I alerted the Houston Chronicle to ask about the nature and final disposition of the complaints against the people fired for felony records Jay Kimbrough shut down the open records request. Jay Kimbrough knew he would be shown to have misled the news media in the way he had portrayed the complaints against people with felony histories. He tried to give media and the public the idea all of the complaints were for violence or sexual abuse which is not true! He did this to try to justify the firing of the people with felony records.

Under legislation passed this session many of the ex-TYC employees fired for having a felony in their past can now get jobs working in the Texas school system. Yes if you have not committed a crime against a child (Person under the age of 18) or have to register as a sex offender you can work for your local ISD but you cannot work with children convicted of felony crimes placed in TYC. Chalk this one up to Jay Kimbrough as another one of his over the top headline grabbing antics! It looks like the current price tag for firing the TYC employees with felony records is up to about $700,000 at this time. This figure does not include payouts for legal litigation and judgments which will continue for years to come.

Jay Kimbrough has been a success! He has done the job Governor Perry sent him to do. Too bad Governor Perry’s mission for Jay Kimbrough had nothing to do with what is best for the children in TYC. Jay Kimbrough is willing to standup and take the bullet for the Governor on this crisis. If nothing else Jay Kimbrough is loyal (or highly paid).

Anonymous said...

Wow 10:17...I couldn't have summed it up any better than that.n Good job.

Anonymous said...

TYC is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abuse and mistreatment of children, by people in positions of authority and empowerment.

Are you aware that there is an online petition to protect Texas children from abuse? If you aren't already a signatory, please see and give consideration to signing so that your voice may be heard.