Monday, August 13, 2007

Pepper spray a desperate, wrong solution for TYC

Emily Ramshaw in in the Dallas Morning News on Saturday ("TYC considers wider use of pepper spray," Aug. 11) detailed the Texas Youth Commission's new trial policy of using pepper spray to subdue youth instead of physical restraints. Pepper spray proponents say it's safer than physical violence and will result in less injuries to youth and staff.

But to me, the debate constructed in Emily's article sets up a false choice: Pepper spray vs. physical force.

What about the solution of reducing inmate to staff ratios to the now statutorily required 12-1? They're currently at about 24-1.

Why not make youth prisons safer by staffing them properly? The unspoken answer: Because staff cost money, and by comparison pepper spray is cheap. It's obvious to me facilities must have an array of coercion options available to them depending on the situation, and there may be situations where pepper spray is a better alternative. But it's not a substitute for proper staffing, which is how it's being used here.

Plans to reduce the ratio by paroling more youth have been stymied, so hiring more staff is the only way to accomplish this pivotal safety goal. But TYC's budget was actually cut in anticipation of caseloads dropping, plus it's hard to hire staff who'd have to move to rural areas with the threat of facility closures looming and undecided.

Bottom line, TYC's managers are in a jam. It's a bind of the Legislature's making, but they're exacerbating the problems by proposing half-assed ideas like this one. In an editorial on a different topic that in some ways I found a little silly, the Austin Statesman's lede made a good point: "Those who have watched bureaucracies over time realize that when agencies assume the fetal position, someone usually gets crushed."

This time it's the kids who're being "crushed," or more accurately, pepper sprayed.


Anonymous said...

There have been multiple lawsuits around the country on the use of pepper spray. The literature reflects that the use of pepper spray in juveniles is not recommended. The current administration doesn't seem to be familiar with trends in juvenile justice and more important, don't seem interested in learning. Also, Hurley stated that only higher level staff will have the cannisters. What are the others to do? Will that create dangerous situations for kids and staff? What kind of training is being done for the staff? What systems are in place to ensure that kids with medical conditions like asthma or those with mental health problems are not sprayed? In situations where there is a staff shortage, the risk of the wrong kids being sprayed increases.

Another important issue is that the use of pepper spray was ordered by Ms. Pope through an "executive directive." Using executive directives by passes the Texas Register posting of a change in policy and thereby eliminates the opportunity for public comment. I do not know if they plan to publish the change the policy in the register or not, but the issuing of directives is the way that TDCJ does business. A lot of what TDCJ does is not in their policies but is in a series of directives. It is likely that the new administration is using this to prevent the changes from being reviewed by the advocates and the public. While I am concerned about the lack of transparency, I am also concerned that this administration is closing itself off from new ideas and solutions to problems that could help the kids and help the agency operate more effectively.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You know, the only positive thing you can say about this is at least they made a decision. That's more than on most things, where ideas get trotted out then retracted so often it's hard to keep track of what is still policy. I call it the "Yo-Yo effect" (as in, Yo, Yo, your agency's screwed up). ;)

So in that sense, I guess it might be better than nothing - it's the first new policy I've seen crafted around the goal of reducing injuries to staff and students, which I suppose is admirable. But not only are the questions you raised still unanswered, 7:59, we're still in the dark about what they're going to do about the big issues like chronic understaffing that make the agency a more dangerous place for students and employees.

TYC is like the medical patient who awakens on the operating table to find that the surgeon, in this case the Legislature, has left the building with your wound still opened up. The patient may try to slap on a few band aids and hope for the best, but the fault ultimately lies with the doctors and their unfinished task. I'm beginning to wonder if TYC can wait for the Sunset process. I HATE special sessions, but one might soon be necessary to finish what they started "fixing" TYC.

Anonymous said...

OC Spray vs a "take-down"; the latter being safer? No way!

Use of force or a "take-down" for those who like the "feel good" words, will normally result in some type of injury to at least one of the persons involved.

OC Spray is great for the "kids" who lack self control. Explain the consequences for failure to comply then apply the consequences. injury rates will be sharply reduced!

No "kid" will look like a gladiator with an orange stain on his chest, mucous flowing and tears being emitted from those eyes that just moments ago were very hostile looking.

Without the OC Spray a JCO who has just been degraded by the "kid" and can now use force; excuse me, can now use a take-down, will of course be very gentle during the take-down. He will very gently take the "kid" to the concrete. Sure, just like your aveage human being that just got spit on or was assaulted!

What do you think the parents of these "kids" would rather have you do to gain compliance with their "child"?

The Reality in TYC: You do not have the staff to "kid" ratio to effectively provide an adequate rehabilitation program; you must do the best you can with what you have. You must first provide a safe, secure facility. "kids" not following the rules is the first step in "kids" running the facility. Stay safe out there.

GeorgeH said...

The Reality in TYC: You do not have the staff to "kid" ratio to effectively provide an adequate rehabilitation program

The reality is that most of these kids could not be rehabilitated by anything short of a lobotomy.
The state just needs to keep them confined and under control as economically as possible.

Anonymous said...

9:02, maybe if you use the word "kid" in quotation marks a few more times it would emphasize your point better. Howsaboutit?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

George, with comments like, "most of these kids could not be rehabilitated by anything short of a lobotomy," I hope you're not a TYC employee. Not only is it a mean-spirited statement, it's just not true. See here, e.g.. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

The attitude that "the state just needs to keep them confined and under control as economically as possible" is PRECISELY the kind of counterproductive nonsense thinking that made the agency such a mess in the first place. It's how we got underpaid guards, rural facilities and a 48% employee turnover ratio. I concur with 9:02 those working with kids should "stay safe." Your attitudes, when implemented as policy, make everyone less safe.

Anonymous said...

Please get off the rural facility crap, it seems to be the catch-all that has no substance.

Once again, you cannot build all the 100 bed facilities outside of your metropolitan areas.

If you were able to, the money is not feasible and you could not afford your rent, utilities, etc.

Sometime the best way to work effectively with a kid or adult is to get them out of their comfort zone.

Now if someone could show me a reliable study where facilities work better by larger cities rather than rural area's I would like to read it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'll get off the "rural facility crap" when TYC's employee turnover rate reduces to rational levels. People on this blog speak of 30-60 minute commutes to work! (Hell, a commuting TDCJ employee just died on the road after a double shift.) I don't need a study to tell me I wouldn't commute that far for the suggested pay, and I believe that's a big reason why TYC can't adequately staff existing facilities.

We may have to agree to disagree on this, but there's a need to shift to smaller, better-staffed facilities, wherever you put them. best,

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with locating facilities near/in larger cities is the 'not in my backyard' issue. Even people who believe in locating the facilites in cities will oppose the facilites being located in their neighborhood.

That's one of the reasons TYC facilites and Halfway Houses are located in smaller communities, or less desireable parts of towns.

TYC has had a very hard time finding locations for their Halfway Houses in Dallas and Houston, San Antonio, etc. because of this.

At least in smaller communities they are more likely to be welcomed for the jobs they provide.

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that Ms Pope has eliminated the TYC treatment program "resocialization" without a replacement program? Also, she has cancelled the contract with the vendor who provided physical restraint training. There is apparently no approved physical restraint system available to TYC employees. The only use of force method currently available is pepper spray.

Without a treatment program the kids are simply being warehoused with no hope of being rehabilitated. Also, without a treatment program, there is no way to measure when a youth is eligible for parole. Maybe this is the plan..I guess the youth just do time now.

Grits will you please ask Hurley to explain what a youth has to do in order to be eligible for parole status?

Anonymous said...

It is time that the people of this state stood up and called for the resignation of Ms. Pope, Mr. Owens and Mssrs. Whitmire, Hinojosa, and Madden.

This is sheer stupidity. Astyhma sufferers are automatically put at risk for death in the case of pepper spray use. In the past TYC internal memos contained listings of students who could not be pepper sprayed.

It is clear that treating youthful offenders is not a priority of this state, no more than treating mentally ill citizens is. This sort of situation comes from the same legislature that emasculated Child Protective Services and then offered no solution.

every off election year these jerks are at it again, trying to save money.

What is really important? Saving money, or saving human lives?

GeorgeH said...

"What is really important? Saving money, or saving human lives?"

Saving money.
The post GFB referred me to earlier gave no indication of a correlation between any improvement in conditions and a lower recidivism rate. Some seem to have the self discipline to turn themselves around, and that self discipline allows them to have successful marriages, jobs, military careers. I saw no evidence that it is the marriage, job, military that enables them to stay straight rather than the other way around.

Since no amount of money or manpower is going to reduce the recidivism rate, why waste it? One of the purposes of incarceration is punishment.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how to respond to the likes of Georgeh, so I won't. I will respond to the rural vs urban arguments, however. The problem with the rural institutions is not so much that they are in rural areas, it is that they got too big. For just one example, before they added a 96 bed open-bay dorm, and stuffed it with 120+ kids, Crockett had the lowest lost-time injury rate in the state, and very low staff turn-over. Since that wonderful addition, injury rate and staff turn-over are through the roof. In Crockett, they overextended the employment base. In Mart, Marlin and Corsicana they also overextended the employment base, because all three of those institutions draw from the same geographical area - that area around Waco.

On the other hand, re the comment that the poster made about "not in my neighborhood." That is absolutely true. There used to be a halfway house in Houston. When it closed, local Harris County politicians rejected every proposed site for a replacement, yet when TYC proposed building it in Nacodoches County, a certain powerful Harris County politician nixed it. One less halfway house.

TYC has tried to have urban-based institutions. They were Hamilton and Al Price. (Heck, Mart is only a 15 min drive from Waco.) 'Nuff said.

Grits, you raise a lot of great points, but you really need to get a new mantra on this one. Old Salty.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Mart is a 15 minute drive from Waco, and is short, what, 200 employees? I don't think that's the only reason they can't hire staff, but I think it contributes.

And y'all, keep in mind that I defend TYC as an institution when I think it's important, because they're not to blame for everything, the Lege caused a lot of this. But I probably believe the agency is more profoundly screwed up than some, and I wouldn't mind seeing less appropriate facilities close or reduce populations. I generally support a shift to newer, small facilities sited closer to towns with a significant employee base. They'll still have to raise pay more than they did, but I just can't believe, e.g., that the lengthy drive to work at Pyote or Victory Field doesn't contribute to the difficulty in attracting quality staff there. Call me crazy.

As for George H - Your argument is that since doing nothing but punishing and abusing kids didn't do anything to help recidivism, there's no reason to try to do anything different. What I take from that study is that focusing on reintegration into a structured environment is more important to safety than punishment, not that incarceration is simply a black hole that deserves endless funding no matter how ineffective. best,

Anonymous said...

My suspicion is that George H might be a former psycholigist with a PH.D who worked both at Marlin and Mart (on the AMP unit.) How he obtained a PhD I will never know since he was clearly ineffectual and incompetent when it came to working with youth in a correctional setting. He is the clearest cut example that I can think of that higher education does not equate to competency or ability. From what I know he was listed at both facilities as ineligible for rehire.

Given his experience I am not suprised that he has a lock em up and throw away the key attitude since there was never a student he ever met that he wasn't intimidated by.

Could be wrong but he was a George H. and this George H. sounds alot like him!

Anonymous said...

Old Salty at 3:15 is correct about the facilities, it has nothing to do with rural but everything to do with size (I guess size does matter).

In a perfect world you would see smaller facilities and a 12 to 1 youth staff ratio. In Texas you will continue to see 18 to 1 or 20 to 1 ratio's based upon the amount of youth there trying to cram into them.

Leave the existing facilities alone and spread the youth out where ratio's of 12 to 1 could actually happen. But, honestly this would never happen in TYC because it makes sense.

Anonymous said...

From 9:02 to 9:22,

I didn't want to hurt anyone's feeling by calling them a "juvenile delinquent", "violator ofthelaw", "rapist", "murderer", "thief", "robber", "arsonist", well I think I made my point.

These juveniles must be placed in facilities that are properly staffed and in proper (smaller)populations if there is any hope of rehabilitating them. It is hard to fight a fire with only one fireman and a garden hose.

Anonymous said...

Seems George H would not hire a Fireman, he would give the kid a garden hose but fail to turn on the water!

Justice is about public safety. Punishment and Rehabiliation are tatics that need to be used in a balanced way to achieve public safety.

Anonymous said...

Pepper Spray is not effective as a first or second tool that JCOs should be utilizing when trying to maintain control and security. JCOs are reaching for the spray first. Verbal Judo is not being used, and quite often the JCOs tell the youth to stop and then they spray. Many youth that are not involved are being cross-contaminated during the incidents. JCOs are given a brief training and then given the canister to use as they see fit. The Agency is not providing adequate training and quite often JCOs, teachers, and even Administrators that have not been trained are possessing and using the spray. The youth are not being decontaminated promptly nor effectively. Youth with mental illness and physical conditions are being sprayed. The DMN needs to go sit at some of the facilities (i.e. Mart, Crockett, Al Price, to name a few) and interview some of the employees and parents. Better yet, request copies of the surveillance tapes of incidents when OC was used, and then write a better and more accurate article.

Handle With Care when used alone as the only tool is also not a safe method in maintaining security and control. However, when used with Verbal Judo, in a therapeutic environment, it is definitely safer than OC. OC should be used for riotous conditions and after other interventions have failed. Certainly there was and will continue to be injuries to staff and youth when physical restraint is used, but folks, this is not a daycare, it is TYC. The number and nature of injuries from physical restraint would in the long run be less than the number and nature of injuries associated with the continual use of OC as the first resort. Look at the numbers, most facilities in the past 6 months have gone up in the categories of youth injuries, youth on youth assaults, and youth on staff assaults.

The facilities were given directives several weeks ago to use OC, and in so many words were told to give the youth one command and if he/she fails to comply immediately, then spray. If a youth does not become seriously injured by being sprayed, which I believe will happen very soon, then eventually the youth will become used to the OC's effects. What will TYC do then?

Anonymous said...

What happens when the spray gets in the wrong hands, like say-- a pissed off youth? What will WE do then? Too many cans will surely cause trouble like that eventually.

Grits, do you or someone else out there have any idea why the McLennan I facility only has 8 youth? That is what the population report says on the TYC website. Are they closing, remodeling, or rethinking? What is going on there and what is the future plan at McLennan? Also, why are there still 206 kids at Marlin? Aren't they shutting down on August 31st?

Anonymous said...

Facilities are best built in larger urban areas because of the availability of more resources for needed programs. Rural facilities are there only for the local economy. NIMBY is not as big a concern as in earlier years. It makes no sense to put facilities in rural areas.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that I ever saw an "executive directive" in all the time I was with TYC. I have seen administrative directives giving interpretation to TYC policies but I never saw one of those administrative directives that directly violated a written TYC policy. The "executive directive" in this case is totally different fron past TYC practice in that it dictates something that is in direct conflict with the written GAP. There is no provision in GAP or the statutes that authorizes any directive by the executive director to violate GAP. The appropriate procedure authorized by law is for the conservator to amend GAP under the emergency rule provisions and implement the new policy. The correct procedure could have been done in the same amount of time as this "executive directive."

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hickman, you may have already addressed this and I missed it, but what is the legality of the new TYC CO team appointing and hiring all these folks from TDCJ to TYC with little or no experience, and not having to go through the normal TYC hiring procedures? Can this be done because the Agency is under Conservatorship?

Anonymous said...

Also, Mr. Hickman, would you be kind enough to give me your legal opinion on the Lege making us "at will" employees overnight and stripping away our property rights in our jobs?

Anonymous said...

McLennan I is down to only a few youth in preparation for Marlin youth to be transferred there prior to August 31. I don;t know the exact date.

Anonymous said...

On the change to at will employment and the hiring of lessor qualified applicants, I would never have advised a client to take the actions that were taken.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

I don't understand any of it. Why is it I can come on my dorm and my boys jump. I don't need any peperspray, I need their attention. Not a bunch of nonsence. Don't bring that shit on my unit central office. I'll spray you back.

Why is it the boys that show respect and discourage the new ones from jacking me? I have their respect, and in turn, they have mine.

It's all about these guys knowing you're a strong willed, no nonsence individual, but are willing to recognize and catch some of them being good when they deserve it. Throw 'em a scrap of positive, but not in front of everyone. Man simple shit like that is what you new guys haven't learned, and just for laughs sake, I schooled your PDA idiots who tried to come consult with me. My group has pride, and thus they run themselves making my job much easier. Trust me, they don't want to jack with my peer culture. Don't bring that pepper spray my way central office. I can handle them without that nonsence. - Ham

Anonymous said...

I hear you Ham Head! And you're 100% correct. Wish there were more common sense people like you working TYC. also wish I could have seen you school the PDA trainers. Tell us what happened. They came here and All they know is to be sure the boys remmember a script and do it over and over until they're like little monkeys. Waste of time and money. Like you say, if you give them some positive and treat them like humans, you won't have much problems to begin with!

Anonymous said...

Well, Well, Well

All you guys and galls are showing just why the people from TDCJ can do the job better than us. You people just need to embrace change and get back to "taking care of business" The whining does nothing but show that we couldn't get along with each other much less with the children in our care. I believe that POPE and company are atleast sticking together,and you as a STATE EMPLOYEE owe to the people of TEXAS (your employer) to do your job better and stop crying all the time. Embrace change and lets move on.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but f- you Dwight.

Anonymous said...

The comment about over extending the employment base rings true to an extent. But I would call it a vacant employment base. Our employment base is in Iraq and down on the border. Once the staff that use to come to us when the left the military are able to do so again, we will have honorable, desciplened staff that have self control. Think back about how many veterans come to TYC because it is driveable from the base they just retired from or don't want to go back to where ever and stay in Texas. We see very few veterans these days and we have a lot of staff on military leave.

Kids will be kids and anytime they get the chance to rock the house, they will. Most of the time, the meer notice of staff walking in with the cans, stops all nonsense and they go to bed..most of this activity happens in the evening when they have had nothing to do after chow and before bed.

Anonymous said...

Where was PDA schooled?
D. Davis; L. Wilson and company walk around like they can come to any campus and change the world.

Have you heard the latest, these guys are now training specialist. Davis has to work now and train the staff in the new three hundred hours courses. I believe he will retire again after some sort of surgery.

Also, the new criteria for Directors of Security. No degree anymore.
Just some insight info.

Anonymous said...

Ham Head, I'm sure you are an excellent staff, but the problem is you have failed to pass on your skills to the remainder of the staff. Whatever you do to command respect from the students has not been passed on to the nearly 500 staff that are now on workmen's comp. due to restraint situations. Our agency is only as good as our weakest staff, and if you can command respect for yourself, and not for your co-workers and administrators then you actually may be more of the problem than the solution. For the record, I'm not from central office.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, one more time, the urban locations of TYC facilities is doomed to failure. This has been demonstrated by Hamilton, Evins and Al Price. and to a lesser extent by McLennan. These facilities have all been located close to urban centers and were total failures.

The state's unwillingness to adequately staff facilities with adequately trained and adequately paid professionals will always bring in the reff-raff that work as staff in the urban areas.

In Hamilton the college students that were hired in were so terrified of the "youth" they were working with they knuckled under to every demand. In Beaumont and Edinburgh the gang members who work in the institutions and rn interferrance for the youth represent the same gangs that they kids do.

Moving TYC facilities to urban areas is another disaster waiting to happen.

As to TDCJ people being more qualified to handle TYC. Why is the pope now firing some of her own cronies?

Anonymous said...

Ham Head: I do not work for TYC. If I did I would certainly want to take a long, hard look at one of my employees who posted with the name "Ham Head", "talked" like a hood rat or ex-con, and threatened the central admin with pepper spray.

Do you not realize who reads "Grits" Blog? Stay safe out there and get with the program!

Anonymous said...

8:14 Which cronies has the Pope fired?

Anonymous said...

Ham Head, don't listen to these fools. You are right on! It takes old fashioned respect and relationships to run a safe and secure dorm. I loved your posts! Keep it up.

not-so-common-sense said...

For 08/13/07 3:45pm, no one named "George H" ever worked on the AMP, not a psychologist or otherwise. For 08/13/07 5:50pm, Mart I still has the AMP unit until it moves to Mart II; that's why there are only 8 kids assigned.

For those who state TYC is taking a "trial period" by using pepper spray, this is not our first go-round so it's not new, it's BACK!! It worked back then but was interrupted to revert back to physical force and we see where that's landed us, with multiple staff injuries and new staff afraid to stay for fear of youth assaults.

For those who believe we're using spray to keep from hiring staff: HOW STUPID A COMMENT IS THAT? Maybe if the majority of the staff that interview would have a cleaner record, or maybe if they had a better work ethic and stayed on the job, or maybe if we didn't have to share the surrounding job pool with Marlin and Corsicana, we could probably keep staff. Or maybe if the staff were not so scrutinized by the media on every move we made, maybe people would stay. Who's doing the research on staff turnover? What are the reasons? For JCOs it's certainly not the pay so what else is it?

And for whomever else dislikes the use of pepper spray as opposed to physical force (or vice versa), remember: THERE IS NO ONE PERFECT SOLUTION!! In most cases we receive voluntary compliance through conversation but for those youth who test those limits and refuse to comply, what do you great minds suggest we do? Continue to beg these kids to do what we ask? Bake him some cookies and give him a glass of milk while he thinks about it? These are not Grandma's bad lil yunguns that keep pickin' plums when she said not to!! These are young criminals, destined to become OLD CRIMINALS!! These are kids who refuse to change. I don't care how much we teach/preach to these kids, if they are not receptive to the knowledge, receptive to change, the only alternative is to continue doing what they're doing, and their actions become progressive and more aggressive. It doesn't get better. The more they feel you are afraid to deal with their issues, the further they push until your arm is broken or your eye is out. And I, for one, WILL NOT allow someone else's bad-ass child injure me. The disrespect is workable. I'm not affected by words. But the potential for physical danger will not exist in my presence. Ignoring those kind of issues with these kids is why they become adults and feel comfortable running up behind women and yanking their purse or holding someone up at the ATM. If the person knew that they would get their ass whipped or "sprayed" by mace, they would probably think twice, like these kids do when they remember "this person isn't afraid to restrain me" or "I don't like the pepper spray so maybe I'll sit down." BOTH METHODS ARE DETERENTS--NOT PERMANENT SOLUTIONS!!

We raise these kids in TYC and raising them in the facility is no different than raising kids at home: we're dealing with multiple different personalities and one child responds to one thing where another child responds to something different. Many of my friends responded to their parents' verbal discipline, whereas I needed every whipping I received (and probably a few more) because I was a limit-tester. I feared very little and had my mother not stayed in my ass, I could have gone the wrong direction. Same thing for these kids: most respond to verbal correction but there are others that need some physical intervention. AND FOR THOSE OUTSIDE OF TYC THAT DON'T BELIEVE IT, I DARE YOU TO COME AND WORK HERE AND TELL ME WHAT YOU WOULD DO!! I CHALLENGE THAT TO EVERY NEWSPAPER JOURNALIST AND JUVENILE ACTIVIST THAT HAS A PROBLEM WITH HOW WE HANDLE THESE AGGRESSIVE AND COMBATIVE YOUTH!! WHEN HE STARTS BEATING YOUR HEAD WITH A MOPSTICK, WHAT WILL YOU DO??????

Anonymous said...

First off, to Anon 9:33 pm, I don't think that the blog at 8:57 is Dwight. First off, he was "One Team", not Team One, but good try 8:57. Secondly, I do not see him replying at all in this blog. Whether you liked the man or not, he was a child advocate and always will be. But that is the past, we now have our new administration. Like you say, we are in a state of change, and that is difficult. But to see what not-so-common-sense wrote, you seem extremely angry. You need to contact the EAP program If people are making you this angry, how are you at work and teaching youth how to deal with conflict. As far as who is did the best for TYC, the past or the present, well, history will dictate that.

not-so-common-sense said...

Anon 11:52am, not quite angry, yet. Ignorance is bliss and many live in it. People make life too difficult and everyone is quick to play the "blame game" but no one offers real solutions--just ill opinions. I don't need to see anyone, what I need to see is common sense take control here. If you are not the one who witnesses these youth make turn-arounds by many effective staff, then you don't understand my plight so don't comment. If you are not the one who stands in the face of danger when these youth begin to physically threaten you, then don't comment because you don't understand it. If you are not one that watches these kids' parents run away from them and then the expectancy is for you to be a miracle worker in this child's life, then don't comment 'cause you could never understand. We raise these kids 40hours+ every week so don't comment if this is not your role. Thank you for your comment but no thank you!!

Anonymous said...

"These are young criminals, destined to become OLD CRIMINALS!!"

That's great, 11:40. Now tell me again why you've chosen to work with "somebody else's bad ass kid" in a juvenile justice system with rehabilitation as its mandate instead of at TDCJ? Since you've got your mind made up about the students and clearly don't enjoy working with the youth, why don't you move on out?

I don't understand why people read these articles and take them so personally. This is not about a journalist or an advocate telling you that you are stupid or can't do your job. These people don't even know you. They obviously don't want to do this work, otherwise they would. Why aren't you a journalist or an advocate? Because that's not your calling. It's that simple. I'm sure you have opinions about lots of things that you have not personally or professionally experienced -- and that's okay.

The question is as Grits frames it -- Will use of pepper spray fix the chronic problems with violence and understaffing that TYC suffers from? I'm sure even you can agree, 11:40, that a little spray isn't going to fix those bigger problems.

not-so-common-sense said...

In response 12:24p, it's the comments that you make in attack that incite the responses I give. To state that some of these young criminals are destined to be old criminals is a fact--not my opinion or hatred for these youth. And if you believe that EVER youth in TYC will make a complete change, you are foolish. Not everyone of them can be helped for whatever reason, be it the fault of another or their own fault. But not every one of them will change for the better, meaning they will continue to disrupt the neighborhoods they live in.

The personal attack comes in, not on Grits, but on the newspaper articles that I read this morning that attacked TYC for using pepper spray, in which it specifically said that the juvenile advocates called "us" barbaric for using it. You claim that the journalists are just stating an opinion but for those who lack the facts, the journalists opionion means EVERYTHING!! So for those who don't understand TYC and listen to what they read, yes, it becomes a personal attack on me as a worker who attempts to rehabilitate these youth. Right now the view of TYC is the role of the abuser. And since I work for TYC, then they're talking to me. I have T-shirts, I have jackets, and I wear them in my community. So when I'm in Wal-Mart after work and someone discredits me because I am an employee of TYC, yes, it is a personal attack.

I don't have enough time to explain to you how many I've affected positively over the many, many years, but my personal satisfaction comes from the change of only 1...I become disgruntled by the media, or people such as yourself who believe that we deal with angels (said by you in so-many words). This is not a game to me; I take it very seriously. The job I do, I take it personally. SURPRISE, I'M HUMAN!!! And the realities of life are what these kids need to see, not some falsehood...

So basically I said all that to say, my comments are towards Grits at all...there are several articles out about this pepper spray issue and for those who don't believe it's necessary, there's a simple challenge to come and work a full week with them and see would they want to use it if need be. You may be one of them...

not-so-common-sense said...

My last comment was supposed to be "NOT towards Grits at all."

Anonymous said...

Hey Not SO Common Sense

His name was George Heikens A psychologist and was a transplant from Marlin. He was there very long though and caused a few problems, so maybe you missed him!

not-so-common-sense said...

George must have been there before 2003...but the person before that was Dr. Winningham and Dr. I don't know when George could have been there...

Anonymous said...

If your not happy with the direction the AGENCY is going maybe you need to find a job that makes you happy. Clearly if your working with GODS children with that attitude, your in the wrong place. Maybe if inmates are your forte TDCJ might hire you, and I did say might. I wouldnt hire as a night watchman your so bitter. I cant believe you work with children, and have no hope that you can make a difference in someones life. Your a pig, please quit before you become a liability to the TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSION.........

Anonymous said...

Not-so-common sense, I have been there, so yes, I can comment. You say you are not angry, then why everything in capital letters, that shows anger. Secondly, I am a 16 year vet, been where you have been and back more than a few times. Common sense, you better believe I have it. I am the staff member you want standing next to you, not in front and not in back. I have worked at least 40+ hours, sometimes over 20 hours a day with these youth, so don't worry, I know exactly what you and everyone deals with and them some. I, like yourself, do not like what I read in the papers, but I refuse to let them anger me. I have been in Walmart, filling up my gas, etc, and people see where I am from. If they say something, I let it go off my shoulder, because ignorance is not worth it. It is when you do this the comments stop, the respect comes back. No, the youth are not angels by any means, and society is good about judging everyone else and what they do, but believe me, with us releasing all these "angels", you will soon be reading different articles about TYC down the road, these I believe will be in more support, just give it some time. I am with you, not against you, and thanks for being a fellow staff member who is beside the rest of us. Plus, it was the EAP program that helped me not let people incite my anger.

Anonymous said...

Not any (SO) Common Sense

You talk to much, and say nothing.

Keep other facilties out your mouth. you are angry and misled in your thinking. If you know so many pshycologist,PLEASE get some help. Your opinion is tarnishing others around you. GOD forbid someone else thinking like you....

Anonymous said...

I'd say you’re wrong on me training staff: you can train staff on the "what to if when" scenarios, how to use a radio, 10 codes, etc. But you can't train a staff how to be brave and give that look that tells that kid he needs to knock it off. You can't train courage, it comes from within. I've worked with little (like 5 foot) women who had that courage and would jump in the mix when she was needed, and I've 6 foot, 230 pound staff who would bail out the door when some kid mad dogged at him. So, how do you train courage? I failed no one in that regard.

And as to the outsider at 8:22, I'm no ex-con. If I were I wouldn't be employed at the agency. Did you not know that H.Q. ran extensive backgrounds on us? Well, they did.

And as far as my name Ham Head: let me tell you a story outsider. Back in 1990, some black kid called me a biscuit head because I'm white. He was trying to piss me off. He got a rise out of the group. Then they paused to hear what I'd say. I looked right back at that boy and said, "that's pretty funny, but in all honestly, since I'm a big fat white guy, I think my head looks more like a ham. Therefore, I want each and every one of you to refer to me as Mr. Ham Head in (kids name)'s honor!" They cracked up laughing better than the biscuit head comment that kid made. I then went to my name caller who was getting razzed by his peers, and gave him a pat on his head and said "better luck next time, 'child.'" And that's how Ham Head became Ham Head. I stole that boy's audience, and we went to recreation afterwards. No security referral. That kid wrote me a letter about five years after that happened, and mentioned that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard but he couldn't laugh because he knew I won that "rap."


Ham Head

(p.s. that name died when Gov. Bush became Gov. and we had to get all serious).

not-so-common-sense said...

Team One, I hate to believe that your level of intelligence blocks your view of what's being said in any statement I've made. Let me speak on your level: Duh, if I didn't care about the kids, I wouldn't be working here. I'm here now. But along with caring about them, I care about my own life and the lives of others. I'm trying to figure out where my support of the agency in carrying pepper spray for the staff and youth's safety shows I don't like my job. HUM...Can u explain that one for me?

My original point argued that the media disagrees with our now using pepper spray and I disagree with their opinion if they have not been in a position where pepper spray was useful. And all you got out of that was I don't like my job. You're a retard. It's people like you I would like to meet face-to-face for discussions...for clarity sake of course. Please, we work together where I work. We team build where I work. And we approach real problems instead of shielding and masking. So get a clue. I am very radical about my beliefs and one of them is believing that these are God's children who need quite a bit of help (just like you). However, when God's children allow Satan to use them, this is how they end up: incarcerated. And with the offense you're taking in me just shedding light on the truth that some of these kids refuse to let goodness soak in, you probably were a juvenile in the system once before that made a change so you want to prove that change is possible. Good point. I never said it wasn't.

I said SOME are not receptive to the rehabilitation they are given and their end result is a continued life of crime. Very simple point proven by the adult criminals we have today. Very simple point proven by the many we've referred to TDCJ. So please don't argue with me about the truth we see everyday. Thank you Anon for seeing my point. I am in complete support of the youth, of the agency, of the staff, of it all, but I'm also in support of the staff who find themselves in dangerous situations everyday and safety comes first to the victim--no matter if that victim is the child or the staff. Safety first.

Ham Head, I know exactly where you're coming from in seeing women respond and men run. So do we need spray? Sometimes we might. Because some of these kids are much strong and much more powerful than the staff, we need whatever we can get ahold of for protection and control. I feel the same way you do that you can't teach or train courage--or common sense. So you work with what you have and protect yourself at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Good story Ham Head...I hope you stick w/ the agency. You're just what we need. I've been around many years myself, and I've seen it all. I can tell by your comments, and by the fact that a youth wrote to you later on, you are respected and needed by them. Keep up the good work, and I hope to hear from you again here on this blogsite.

Anonymous said...

Yall can make me wear pepper spray, but I'll just use it as a better "no drip" form of Tabasco Sauce and eat it on my eggs. I'm never going to lose what I built with my group, but I can see in other places where ole' fat guys like me or young cocky kids that look not much older than these kids would feel the need to use it because they have no control. I think they need to develop a new course on "How to call a juvenile offenders bluff." Use all our past experiences with these street kids and walk through scenarios.


Ham Head

Anonymous said...

"Ham Head" hit on one of the most important aspects of working with these kids successfully - keeping one's sense of humor and not taking oneself too seriously. These kids work hard to get a rise out of each other and out of staff. They are totally non-plussed when they do not get the rise they are looking for. It makes them blink. (There is an old saying among horse trainers, "When they're blinkin', they're thinkin'") That is a major challenge, since most of these kids are on a type of autopilot.

I have seen many, many physically small staff, male and female, who always had total control over their groups. Why? They did not take the insults personally, they held close limits on the kids, and they always, always treated the kids with respect. Incidentally, every one of these I am referring to had a marvelous sense of humor.

Unfortunately, the leadership under the Chester Clay regime ran off a lot of these staff. Intimidation became the rule in many places. If you weren't restraining a mess of kids, it must be because you are a coward. That really was the attitude! Now, we are paying the piper. We need to bring back some of those folks who, like Ham Head, knew how to control youth without intimidation. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

If that PO's everybody then dig this: Teachers are fixing to get OC certified.

Oh Yeah!

Where's your homework boy?



You better have it next time boy!!

Yessa, yessa, Toby be a good boy and have it right away!

Oh what a tangled web we weave; when we practice to be lead by a group of stupids!

Anonymous said...

To Ham Head, 8:06pm and 10:44pm:

I’m a former employee who left TYC several months before all this drama began. I’m not a Grits regular but I check in every now and then just to keep up with the news. I was surprised to read the negative, insulting comments against the Training Specialists (who used to be from the PDA and called Behavior Specialists). It upset me and I feel compelled to respond because I worked closely with them for many months.

Let me say up front that of course they’re not perfect, they’re not always right, and they can’t change a campus just by walking in. But finding flaws with anyone is easy; it’s recognizing the good stuff that is the challenge.

Anyway, as to who “schooled” them, well most of them learned the hard way by working the units and dealing with the youth 24/7. Most of them are former JCOs and if you add up all their experience you’d be counting in the hundreds of years. They’re all about decreasing confrontations, take-downs and the use of pepper spray. They’re all about talking, positive reinforcement and the use of group dynamics/peer pressure to encourage self control. In short, Mr. Ham Head, they’re all about everything you’ve said YOU believe. That’s why I don’t understand why you’d call them “idiots”. Maybe there’s a lot more to the story or maybe as an effective successful staff person you resented outsiders coming in and judging your methods. I can understand that; as a teacher I don’t enjoy being observed and judged in my classroom. But sometimes (not often) the principal or whoever actually has some good points to make and I learn something that makes me an even better teacher.

So, I just wanted to defend the guys by saying I know their hearts are in the right place. They want the best for the youth and the staff that work with them. If they come back to your facility I hope you can see they really just want to help make your job easier by sharing some of the things they’ve learned through the years. In return you can share your knowledge and maybe they’ll learn something, too.

Hope you don’t mind me commenting. It’s really none of my business anymore. Keep up the good work. (Please. I work in a high school and the next TYC youth that gets out might end up in my class!) Good Luck, T.

Anonymous said...

The PDA trainers (????) are not worth the time and effort. They spend the majority of their time trying to finds flaws so they can justify their jobs when they do their monthly reports. If they turned in good reports every month, they lose job security.

The majority of the stuff they are trying to teach is memorization and what you get is angry youth who intentionally disrupt because they know if they screw up the script they have to continue to repeat the script until they get it right, by doing this they eat up all the group time and the youth the group needs to have group on for problem behavior gets by.

Behavior group should return to its roots where staff actually interacted with youth and please get away from the robotic scripts.

Anonymous said...

I don't do behavior groups so please excuse my ignorance: What are the "scripts" and why are they used?

Anonymous said...

I would hope and I don't see this ever happening that everyone is going to be toting a can of pepper spray. I think we are overreacting on this at this time.
Teachers carrying pepper spray, I really don't see that happening either. If it comes to this, then TYC will be a very unsafe place for anyone to work. We have not made it to the juvy jails in california yet and I hope we never do.
I may be speaking out of place here but I don't see many teachers continuing to work where they have to be armed with pepper spray or anything else to teach kids. The day I have to strap on pepper spray to teach a class, I will be looking for another job.

At our facility I have only seen one person carrying pepper spray and that was JCO V1. It has never been used in the school. To add to that only certain ones can use it and they have to call our Sup to get permission to spray.
I am not in favor of it at this point but I am not aganist it either if it is used in the cases of extreme need to gain control or contraband from a youth who is trying to hurt himself or others.
If it is a tool in our tool bag after all other attempts are exhausted to gain control then good for us. These kids will get the message sooner or later that we are not fooling around, we mean what we say. Right now we need to gain control of these kids for their saftey and ours.
Once we gain control, we can begin to help the kids see that changing their lives is in the best interest for them. You can not change an out of control kid.
If you have a dog that jumps on you , you have to show the dog that is wrong. But you can't teach him if you never have control of him. You have to get his attention that he is doing wrong. Even a puppy dog can learn right from wrong most of the time. A little kindness and fairness goes along way with kids and animals.
Ok, I have set my self up here for some one to attack.

Anonymous said...

No attack 10:54, I just have a question. What will you do if a kid is combative in your class, and you are waiting on a pepper spray and the approval to use it? I am a teacher and if I have a situation like that, I am going to spray if I have to, so I hope there's a can of pepper spray nearby.

Anonymous said...


Good question and one we all have been asking. But they are still using the physical restraint in the school and the staff are all still in our hallways. There are certain staff that carry the spray on each shift in school. So far we have been able to maintain a good enviroment in our school. Lets hope we can continue doing that.
Ok, I know that is dreaming.Ha

Anonymous said...

5:40, this is 5:29. It sounds safer at your facility than mine. Are there any job openings for teachers there? They are already using spray at our facility. I sure don't like it.

Anonymous said...

you need to go work at mcdonalds if your scared, pansy

Anonymous said...

reponding to the 9:33 comment

Looks like someone is trying to get someone to respond to his negative behavior.
So I will bite. Your stupidity is showing, if you look at the other blogs here, you should see that they are all on the professional side of intelligence. Then there is yours, mean, rude and just does not fit in. Get the drift, naw, you would not understand. I will not respond to your rebutle as that is what you want to get a nasty attack on someone started. I hope your not watching Kids at TYC.

Anonymous said...

I have to defend the rural settings, albeit not the current size. Pyote has some of the lowest rates of behavior problems and has a history of no riots and no spray. The problems it has are agency wide, with oil paying $22/hr. Keep in mind, the closer to cities, the higher the cost of living. The majority of staff live in Monahans (15 miles) and Pecos (24 miles),not to mention the 24 houses and 12 mobile home spaces on the campus, the admittedly few who live in Pyote and Wickett (7 miles) and Wink (17 miles). Odessa and Mildand have gang problems, although not yet as serious as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The most vocalized problem with staffing Pyote is the threat of closure still hanging over everytone's head. People figure it is always easier to get a job when you have one rather than from the ranks of the unemployed. But as some have pointed out, Mart cannot get JCO's 15 minutes from Waco. Come to think of it, try getting anywhere in 15 minutes in Dallas or Houston during rush hour (roughly 6 hours of each day); been on IH 35 in Austin or San Antonio lately? At Hamilton, chicken plucking at Pilgrims paid better, not to mention competing with the lowest unemployment rate in the state. Why do you think TDCJ gave it up in the first place? Scott, the last time I saw the recidivism figures, Pyote looked a lot better than most of the other locations. One final comment: staff at Pyote reported both the concerns about Brookins power trips and possible inappropriate contact with students. The investigation that finally ensued revealed serious problems at other facilities, yet WTSS keeps getting tagged for the sex scandal. Scott, come see for yourself before you decide we should be tossed on the garbage heap.

Anonymous said...

9:33...who said anything about being scared? I just don't like pepper spray. NOW would be the appropriate time for scared people to leave, and I'm not going anywhere.

Have you ever been around pepper spray with contact lenses on?
...I didn't think so.

Have you read about the possibilty for corneal damage to the eyes from pepper spray? I didn't think so.

Scared of the kids? No. Scared of eye damage or someone with asthma getting sprayed? Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

10:27...Ditto from Victory Field. Looks like they are going to need a big garbage can to put us both in. I'll be there until they close VFCA. I hope they change their mind and decide not to close us, but that's like saying Perry might actually do something besides worry about his political reputation.

I'm hanging in there though, and I hope you will too. You guys out in West Texas are getting a bad rap for the acts of 2 people. That is just NOT fair! Hang in there. It ain't over till its over.

Anonymous said...

The problem with WTSS was not the "locals" who worked there, it was the administrators who were dumped out there. The WTSS line has put up with a parade of bad administrators. They deserve better.

Anonymous said...

I might add, that from what I have heard about their new Supt and Assistant, they may have finally gotten the leaders they deserve. I certainly hope so! Hang in there WTSS! I looking forward to hearing from WTSS staff on their opinions of their new administration once those two have had a chance to get their feet on the ground.

Erin Espinosa said...

WWRPD said...
What is amazing to me, is that this all started because some people in positions of "authority" over youth, decided to get sexual with it-now the entire system has been scrapped. Many scholarly articles have touted the success of the TYC rehabilitation system. Now, because some men couldn't keep their privates in check, the State has decided to completely collapse a system that was sound in its attempts to help kids to stay out of prison. Great job Texas! Way to take a sex scandal and make it a reason to build more prisons. Days of our Lives couldn't have done it better. Kuddos to you. EMC

8/16/2007 6:32 PM

Anonymous said...

Let's take Brookins and Hernandez and....uh, well...I was raised not to talk like that; however, I do find comfort in knowing that what goes around comes around, so I know they'll get theirs in the end (no pun intended....or, wait...uh, maybe there is;)

Anonymous said...

You mean that really happens in TDCJ, where all of our leaders are from?

Anonymous said...

Yes 11:28! The difference is this:
At TDCJ they've always known "what's up". At TYC, whenever something was "up", it got covered up, if you catch my drift.

So the moral of the story is this:

What goes on at TDCJ, stays at TDCJ.... when the same thing goes on at TYC, it causes the TDCJ leaders to takeover TYC...ummmm, let me see, isn't that pretty much the way it went?