Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cleaning house at TYC's Al Price unit in Beaumont

I've not discussed recent firings at TYC's Al Price unit because I don't know enough details to add anything substantive. But here's a piece from the Houston Chronicle ("TYC looks to remove officials from Jefferson County site," July 31) that provides at least basic information:

The Texas Youth Commission has begun termination proceedings against the top administrators of a Jefferson County facility after staff there used pepper spray while trying to regain control of dozens of unruly juvenile detainees earlier this month.

TYC spokesman Jim Hurley said those being replaced include the superintendent, assistant superintendent, security director, business manager, school principal and an assistant principal at TYC's Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Understaffing was a major factor in the events that led up to the pepper-spraying, said TYC ombudsman Will Harrell, who investigated the incident.

Well of course understaffing contributed to the incident - as far as I can tell, understaffing contributes to virtually every problem TYC faces! But is that really the fault of those administrators? Quien sabe? We don't have enough information about why they were fired to tell one way or another. But if understaffing is the problem, the Legislature and the central office are primarily to blame - it's not like facility directors decide how much JCOs get paid.

TYC employees should use this post as an open thread to discuss the Al Price firings, who's to blame for understaffing, policies on using pepper spray, and any other related topic.


Anonymous said...

If an investigation indicated the use of pepperspray was justified, why is the removal of the staff justified by the pepperspray incident? Why even mention it other than for media hype? Is this another attempt by the TDCJ administrators to urinate on our boots and tell us it's raining? The real reason is probably that we have found more TDCJ people and we need a place to put them.

Anonymous said...

according to the new use of force policy we are operating under I really dont see how the use of OC spray couldnt be justified unless it was just a blatent misuse? so what really happened? does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

What does a principal, asst. principal, the business manager, and some maintenance workers have to do with a pepperspray incident on a dorm? I agree with 12:18, it must be raining.

Anonymous said...

This is my last day of a thirteen year teaching gig at TYC. Things are bad and getting worse. TYC used to be a pretty safe place but the walls are crumbling. Good luck to those that ride out this storm. Adios.

Anonymous said...

12:25, Where is the new use of force policy you are operating under? Can you post it? It doesn't seem to be publicly available anywhere ....

Anonymous said...

The Texas Administrative Code provides guidelines for the use of force on these kids. I'm sure there are some internal policies that expand on the code. You read this information at:

RULE §97.23 Use of Force

Anonymous said...

The only change in the "Use of Force" policy is the progressive order in which interventions and force are used. As of today:

1. Non-verbal and verbal interventions
2. Mechanical restraint (handcuffs)
3. OC Spray (pepper spray)
4. Physical restraint

Previously, staff were instructed to use physical retraint (#4) (the Handle with Care technique) before progressing to #2 and #3.

Specific staff will be trained to carry and administer OC spray.

That being said, informing students about the new rules, training staff and supplying OC canisters to them will take some weeks. It's going to be a learning process for everyone, students and staff!

Anonymous said...

2:39, will that change in the order be reflected in the policy at some point?

Anonymous said...

The use of force policy has not been officially changed as of today's date. The General Administrative Procedure 97.23 was approved in 2006. A directive was sent via email outlining the use of physical restraint as a last resort. This has always been policy at TYC, although not always followed.

There were many reasons for the top administration at Al Price to get their walking papers. Not all of those reasons were related to the most recent incident of youth on the roof. A general lack of leadership, non-cooperative behavior, and non-functioning as a team were foremost on the list.

Anonymous said...

Nurit, if your reasons are true, why didn't Hurley say those were the reasons? Unless you're the Pope you do not know the reasons other than what is in the newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Nurit is right: it wasn't just kids getting on a roof. There were a gamet of issues from what we've learned, but I know Central Office was informed by Whitmires call and learning of this situation from Whitmire's office as opposed to the Superintendent herself was, uh, pretty tale-telling. The assistant had been trying to get out of there since the superintendent came over from CRTC. He should be moved and brought back. He wasn't the problem.

Just ask those fine collegues of mine at CRTC what they experienced from that Superintendent and maybe you'll get a picture of why she got what she obviously deserved. You just can't treat people like that man. The CO has been hearing about it for sometime, and the same holds true with the other managers, but I didn't get the scoop on the maintenance and the support people.

Anonymous said...

There is no "documented" change to the UofF policy. Just an email from B-Hump rearranging the continuum and another cancelling HWC training. No OC policy, no physical restraint policy, no nothing. Also no indication of when staff will be trained to use OC or what behavior management system will replace HWC. Perhaps these critical policy changes are contained in the "Plan" we haven't seen yet, the Blue Ribbon Panel Report that has yet to be published and disseminated, or the Conservator's reports that haven't been written yet.

Like Warren Zevon said..."you're s'pposed to sit on your ass and nod at stupid things. Man, that's hard to do. But if you don't they'll screw you and if you do they'll screw you too.

Anonymous said...

I met Will Harrell recently. I was prepared to dislike him. Of all the folks that have brought in, he is one who seems to know what he is talking about, listens to what others have to say, and seems to have his heart in the right place. I was surprised.

Anonymous said...

The Blue Ribbon Panel report is out and at the agency. They just won't show it to anyone.

Anonymous said...


Will is tha' deal. It surprised me as well.

Anonymous said...

What about Bronco Billy? Tall love? CRTC laughed :0

Anonymous said...


You seem to be near the inner circle so tell us-what's the word circulating about the contents of the Blue Ribbon Panel report? Also, how long has it been out and why isn't it being discussed?

Anonymous said...

Someone in power who really gives a sh*t should ask the kids at Al Price (and the 18 who were transferred to other facilities) why the administrators were let go. They have a very interesting tale to tell. They could be making it up, but after West Texas...nothing surprises me. Let's just say I was given information that I wasn't asking for and it shocked me. Just like Forest Gump..."that's all I've got to say about that."

Anonymous said...

TYC contractors faced closures, lawsuits in other states
Associated Press
Monday, July 30, 2007

DALLAS -- Private contractors used by the Texas Youth Commission to house juvenile inmates have lost numerous contracts and seen facilities closed in other states following allegations of neglect and physical and sexual abuse, according to a newspaper investigation.

The findings indicate additional problems for the troubled TYC, which is already undergoing sweeping reforms in the wake of a sex scandal in its state-run youth prisons and a possible coverup by agency officials.

According to a report published Sunday in The Dallas Morning News, companies running private juvenile facilities in Texas have faced lawsuits in other states and facilities have closed after investigators uncovered mismanagement and abuse of juvenile inmates.

"They are a much under-examined problem in the TYC system," said Scott Medlock, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Among the findings uncovered by the newspaper:

n GEO Group Inc., which runs Texas' largest private juvenile prison in Coke County, had facilities closed in two other states because of inadequate care of inmates and abuse allegations. The company also faced a 2000 lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department that was later settled.

n Associated Marine Institutes, which runs facilities in San Antonio and Los Fresnos, had an Arkansas contract canceled. Former employees had testified that juveniles in the nonprofit's youth camps were sometimes shackled, left naked on the ground in sleeping bags and given a plastic bucket to use as a toilet.

n Cornerstone Programs Corp., which manages a private juvenile prison in West Texas, closed one of its Montana facilities after state officials there cited the company for violations including neglect and failure to report child abuse.

About 450 juveniles inmates in Texas are housed by 13 private operators. The TYC spent $17 million last year doing business with private contractors.

Agency officials told the newspaper they were reviewing policies on contractors but could not comment about changes under consideration.

Contractors defended their operations.

AMI Executive Director Lisa Williams said her nonprofit has served more than 80,000 kids in nearly 40 years with "very few serious incidents." She called AMI's safety record "stellar."

Florida-based GEO, in written answers to the newspaper, wrote, "GEO is the seventh largest correctional system in the United States. Prisons are difficult environments on the best of days." The company went on to say it was "proud of its track record."

Cornerstone chief executive Joseph Newman said the company's Montana facility closed after the bad press from abuse cases filed against two high-ranking officials. He said the company was later cleared of abuse charges, but Montana officials said the state had no such records.

State laws generally prevent the TYC from accepting bids from contractors with troubled records, such as recently terminated contracts. But critics accuse the agency of letting contractors provide less background information than what should be required.

If the TYC finds violations in its privately run prisons, the agency has the authority to fine contractors but has never done so in 33 years of outsourcing, officials said.

"If it comes to that, we'd just stop the contract," said Paula Morelock, who recently retired after 17 years as the agency's contract care coordinator.

Legislative reforms passed in the wake of the TYC sex abuse scandal largely overlooked private contractors and focused instead on agency-run prisons.

Radical reforms to the agency erupted into one of the major issues of the last legislative session after the disclosure of the alleged abuse. Since the scandal broke, several top officials have resigned and the agency was put under conservatorship. © 2007 Abilene Reporter-News

Anonymous said...

Has anyone visited TYC Website on the Internet? It has posted a Texas Register site and a TBPC Site. If you go to the TBPC site it is showing where they are asking for bids to contract alot of stuff out. I don't understand what they are doing here and I could not find anything on teh Texas Register that reffered to TYC.
Could you point us in the right direction on how to use the Texas Register to find TYC and explain what you think is going on now with this TBPC site? What does all of this mean?

Anonymous said...

It looks like all the stuff on the TBPC site is from 2006? Is this just pretend transparency or what?

Anonymous said...

The information on contracts on the TBPC is very interesting. It looks like rather than hire staff to do educational diagnostics, counseling, psychological evals., etc., that they are going to contract for those services. This could mean that staff are going to be without jobs. This move also signals a major departure from a program model. What the agency will have are people coming in to provide specific services that are not necessarily knowledgeable or integrated into the treatment program. How they will ensure continuity within the program will be a challenge. It will provide a lot of independent practitioners with a potential goldmine. I wonder what the budget is for these services?

The other items include contracting with a child placement agency. I wonder what that is about? It could be for time periods after residential placement within TYC or it could mean that some kids will be placed in alternative settings as part of the commitment. These questions need to be asked.

For the aftercare contracts, these are the same as previously as TYC has always contracted with private providers to provide community based aftercare services.

Most important, is that the direction the agency is taking is unclear and so not very "transparent".

Anonymous said...

What's really interesting is that they are advertising for sevices to be provided at John Shero and at Marlin. Such competence!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that these are current contracts, thus the mention of John Schero and Marlin.

Grits, can you get a yay or nay from Hurley about whether these are actually current?

Anonymous said...

For 9:33 AM I posted a similar, albeit not as calm, on the string about Ayres House. Might be interesting to see any differences readers/commenters take with slightly different leads.
In any case, as you noted, this may mean loss of TYC jobs. But also keep in mind that this is summer enrollment time for benefits for state employees. Consider 2 big ones that can be affected by sudden loss of employment: child care and medical savings plan are generally seen as benefits, since they save on income taxes for people who don't do itemized tax returns...EXCEPT, even if you lose your job, you owe the monthly withholding for the rest of the year. In the case of the medical, it may not mean much, since you just lost your insurance as well as the income; likewise, moving in with the inlaws may make you the babysitter. It would be nice if TYCjr told staff so we could avoid getting screwed even after we are forced out.

Anonymous said...

I don't exactly understand all these claims of a lack of agency transparency.

It is perfectly clear. DaPope is going to do what she wants and how she wants. If you are an employee and ask questions she doesn't like she will fire you. If you are not an employee and ask these questions she will denegrate you. Like she has stated about Grits. If you do have power and ask her a question she will BS you.

I also don't understand where ya'll see 2006 on the TBPC site link that Grits posted. I see a whole lot of danger in these and they have a 8-31-2007 date at the end of them.

I think the contractor request for solid waste removal is to provide contained quiet disposal of the bodies and lost careers created at central office and bury them in a cornfield before the next elections.

This is a crystal clear picture to me, with a simple answer: Cream floats but so does shit. You guess what's at the top of this agency right now.

One thing I learned last year while working on my septic tank is that sooner or later the floating crap will sink and then it has to be manually extricated. The problem is the crap leaves it's scent on all the water it touches as it travels to the bottom.

Our new CO will sink. But, they have all ready tainted us with their shit attitude and mangement practices. I'm hoping I'm getting out soon enough so I don't have to enjoy their odor forever.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about Whitmire calling CO on Al Price. But does anyone really know why so many were fired? I'm with the commenter that asked what does the maintenance dept, purchaser and business manager have to do with an incident of pepper spraying? It almost sounds like something illegal went on there? What else could justify the firing of so many? Someone correct me if I'm driving down the wrong road?

Anonymous said...

ASK THE KIDS!!!! I've worked at TYC long enough to know that they know everything about everything that goes on at the facilities. They are crimminals working the system, so what else do they have to do? Honestly, I'm not saying they won't tell a story full of lies or half truths, but if you ask enough of them, one at a time, an element of truth will shine through.

Anonymous said...

I think I had some similar questions regarding Al Price... I was told it was the local sheriff that called DaPope (or is it D'Pope?, but then see Whitmire's name pop up for a second time. In any case, who called Whitmire, the waitress at the bar in Austin that wouldn't serve him so he got her fired?

Anon 10:38, may you be blessed for your insightfulness and the reminder to anon 12:18 who started this string; it's not the urine that does the damage, it's the increase feculant material at the core.
(10:38, I believe the reference to 2006 is the VERY small print at the bottom of each listing which may be when information was first posted, but I agree, the current date scares the shit out of me... hope it doesn't head for your septic tank. My paranoid ideation suggests the use of 2006 wording allows central office to claim same old same old. Central Office needs a better spin doctor than Hurley... he should have noted that moving the shit to the cornfield is accurate; it's D'Pope's plan for combining recycling with biofuel creation; today TYC, tomorrow the world...

Anonymous said...

10:38....I'm pretty sure I know you and you know me. I've got to comment on this one...TYC and your septic tank experience...what a creative analogy! I guess all sh*tty operations are somewhat similar.

Anonymous said...

Hey, hey, hey, there is no way you could possibly know me because:


By the way, 2:54, you owe my septic system an apology. It may smell like CO, but it works like field staff.

The next paragragh describes, in general, my relationship with my septic. Substitute the words "field staff" every time you see the words "my septic" and you will see what I mean.

My septic takes all manner of noxious crap from a central location. My septic is seldom thought of or supplied extra resources no matter what kind of waste product it is given to fix. My septic gets no respect. My septic takes the blame when it gives me back even 1/100th the crap I give it. However, unlike our CO, I appreciate my septic and know just how hard it works. In fact, when I get off of here, I'm going to my throne and send a memo of appreciation to my septic.

On another note. A poster here has made very good points about people being negative towards each other and about the hidden messages and unfounded allegations in some posts.

CO knows who we are and that Few Underlings Can Keep Peer On Peer Escalations out of these stressful times. They also know that if they can keep us at each others throats then we won't see what they are doing.

Several posters have also stated how they wish CO was reading these blogs so they could come to their rescue. They are reading them and the chaos created is making them happy! Do not expect them to change. It's like tryng to teach a pig to sing. It won't work, and all you'll do is waste your time and irritate the pig!

I'll stop my rant for now because I feel that septic memo coming on.

Piece out!

Anonymous said...

Dear Hoping:

I hope everything comes out alright.
Don't strain yourself delivering that memo.

Victorious said...

Well just put "VICTORIOUS" by my name and make the check out to pay to the order of "CASH".
Feb.12, 2008 will forever go down in the history books at the Al Price unit. It was a major lost in a criminal case in the courts of Jefferson County, Texas. In other words I beat the State of Texas in a criminal court case in Jefferson County. TYC had all of these enemies stacked up against me and they couldn't do nothing, I mean nothing except hold their heads in shame. They all looked like a punch of snakes they just slither around on the bottom of the earth. They know now it's their time to pay up and be held accountable for all of their wrong doings and false accusations, and they know now that their heads are on the platter. It's all over for me, but the law suits are just beginning for them. I sure hope that Governor Perry has enough in that savings account for me. Like I said just make the check out to the order of CASH!!!
Don't give up on your dreams or beliefs and fight for what is rightfully yours. GOD BLESS

Unknown said...

I met Will Harrell recently. I was prepared to dislike him. Of all the folks that have brought in, Good

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