Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Whitmire backs TYC pepper spray use

Questioning TYC Ombudsman Will Harrell, Sen. Whitmire appeared to support use of pepper spray on TYC youth despite the fact that experts have told the state it violates best practices for youth corrections. As a member of the "Blue Ribbon Commission" said yesterday in an op/ed:
Though pepper spray has been viewed by some as a solution to violence in correctional facilities, it usually creates more problems than it solves. Staff come to rely on chemical agents in lieu of communicating with youngsters to defuse confrontational situations.
Whitmire said that pepper spray would likely result in "fewer broken bones," but I think that's a skewed way to look at it. A better approach to reduce broken bones and pepper spray use would be to boost staffing ratios to 12-1 as required by new legislation. Understaffing is the key cause of increased violence and abuse at TYC.

Sen. Hinojosa opposed use of pepper spray on kids, declaring it was the "easy way out." He blamed a lack of training on the increase in violence.

I was surprised to hear Will Harrell also defending pepper spray use, citing an Aug. 2, 2007 memo to say it was a relatively small change. Someone happened to send me that memo this week, and it declares that authorized staff "are instructed to use OC spray prior to agency-approved methods of physical restraint." In other words, "Spray first, no matter what."

I think Will's dead wrong that's a minimalist change, and I wish he or other agency staff had raised the understaffing issue as a primary cause of increased injuries to staff and students. That was certainly the conclusion of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee's last interim report on the subject(p. 17), and nothing's changed since then. Now nobody's talking about understaffing as a source of increased violence, and even the liberals (except Hinojosa) say peppper spray is a good solution. I wonder why?


Anonymous said...

WHAT Agency approved physical restraint?

Anonymous said...

Gee Scott, I was most surprised to hear Will's comments too as HE was the one that sent a memo to Administration which was leaked - grammar errors and all - about how concerned he was about the use of the OC spray. Will is well aware that until today the agency did not have any "Handle with Care" contract in place. The agency scrambled today to implement a temporary agreement with the licensors of the restraint technique.

Additionally, Will most assuredly misinformed the panel about the serious incident reports being provided to him when he requests them, as he apparently had no comments to make about the alleged mistreatment of the two youth that JCO Wilson reported were used for free plumbing services.

To his credit, talking to Will just once about human rights would convince anyone that this is an issue he would have taken on had he been aware of it.

Will, more was expected of you today and you refused to honor the obligations you agreed to undertake for these youth. You have the opportunity to redeem yourself in the eyes of these kids and the remaining TYC staff by modelling the behavior that we want the youth in the care of TYC to practice.

I will not assume that you are the sum total of one day's actions. Perhaps you were trying to be fair all way around to the new leaderhisp. For God's sake get off your butt, stand up to the administration and call it like it is! Help these kids and help the rest of us help these kids by telling the truth!

Anonymous said...

I watched a great deal of the hearing. It is clear that the ligislature and management at TYC are looking for a scape goat! Will H. and everyone else are just trying to retain their job so they can do it.

It is clear that a 12-1 staff ratio is needed as well as Medical and Psychiatric staff.

It is clear to me that hiring more staff is the first step to solving these problems. Why didn't anyone bring solutions to this problem to the table?

It is clear to me that nothing short of adequate pay and training for JCO staff will solve the problem. How bad does this situation have to get before something is done?

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't like the fact the TYC has resorted to pepper spray, but the fact is, as uncontrollable the youth have been here of late, this intervention is somewhat necessary in order to lower workers compensation claims, and keeping more staff on the job given they're less likely to become injured using pepper. If it goes right, it’ll result in increased staff to youth ratios because they’ll have more uninjured staff and/or on suspension pending investigation on physical abuse, although I do foresee some knuckle heads getting terminated for using OC for a smart-alecky kid mouthing off. TYC doesn’t want those staff anyway given their propensity to do something inappropriate otherwise.

That issue, coupled with the fact TYC OIG Bruce Toney is actively investigating employees fraudulent workers compensation claims, I can see more staff coming to work, increasing their ratios, rebuilding relationships with those better ratios, and thus lessening need for pepper spray intervention in the long run. I also think by lessening the violence (youth on youth/ youth on staff assaults which result in the worker compensation claims), it might just attract more prospects thus improving their employee retention rates and employee recruitment.

Handle with Care is rumored to be back. Thank God for that because OC won’t always be available when needed, and a certified restraint technique is always needed with young persons.

But what’s lacking here is all state employees need incentives to stay in physical and emotional shape, especially guards in TDCJ and TYC.

Nonetheless, I say we look at TYC again in 12 months, measuring quarterly.

I give the TYC a “B” on idealisms, but a flat “F” on communicating with the public. This area needs improvement, and many more questions are lingering out there that the stakeholders need answers. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

start with tiny David Anzaldua at Evins. Can you say rip off!!!!

Anonymous said...

ED : Quality of life for Staff and Youth has greatly improved over the last 100 days.........


Anonymous said...

ANYONE who cannot see the benefit of using pepper spray (which will burn for a little while but be 100% recoverable from) vs. a physical restraint of a violent student is just either in complete denial of reality or has never been in the situation to have to do a restraint. Prisons are nothing but steel, concrete and full of nothing but a whole lot of pissed off, "rules don't apply to me inmates". You think the fact that they are "children" matters? How about a 6'2" 210 lbs 15 year old who wants to beat the hell out of another student or YOU. You sit back and think about whether he should just have a little burning sensation for a little bit vs. you trying to jump in there and see how many broken bones, knocked out teeth, stitches and surgeries are going to come out of that. Seriously people. Just like one of the above posters put- if someone abuses the pepper spray- take it away from them. But, that same joker who would abuse the pepper spray is most likely the same person who would abuse a restraint situation. Spray is still the safer and less costly route. I speak from experience.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Whitmire said that TYC is better now than it was before and that he thinks it will even get better.

Yeah, there are changes. There is no decision-making in this agency. There are no real consequences to youth for misbehavior. There is no rehabilitation. There is more staff turnover. Facilities are dangerous. Are these really the changes that were needed? Give me a freakin' break - he needs to take some time out from getting poor bartenders fired and face some reality!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

&:51 - personally I'm not 100% opposed to pepper spray in situations involving older, violent youth in crisis situations.

When you talk about macing kids 15 or so and under, though, makes me uncomfortable, as does its use to gain compliance in otherwise nonviolent situations. TYC policy as of Aug. 2 REQUIRES macing children as young as 10 before any physical intervention is attempted. That just seems wrong.

The mentally ill kid in Corsicana maced because he wouldn't spit out a piece of caulk (he went into convulsions and was hospitalized) was a victim of abuse, in my mind. That's a completely unjustified use of pepper spray, especially on a mentally deficient kid, but also on young kids, restrained kids, and kids who pose no threat at the time the JCO sprays them.

Bottom line, the key is to adequately staff the facilities. Pope was either mistaken or mendacious when she said youth to staff ratio were at 12-1. Maybe if you count teachers and case workers! No one on the committee questioned that (though a later speaker called the claim "bullshit), but that misrepresentation, if she sticks by it, will keep TYC from addressing its real problems. Adequate staffing must precede nearly every other reform the Lege and the agency want to implement. best,

Anonymous said...

Sure things are okay in TYC. What legislator is going to say that SB103 is crap?

Anonymous said...

the abuses with pepper spray are all ready wide spread. You can't even believe...all this talk about the agency thinking about making changes. the change with pepper spray has been made and it is out of control. staff injuries are down, staff abuse allegations (and now much more serious due to using a weapon) are up and will surely lead to many being shown the door. just what we need. lose more JCO's.

Anonymous said...

the real answer to this is staffing rations. Be proud of the lone star state...among the worst in health care, prisons, mental health and juvenile justice.

Anonymous said...

Are you two really serious speaking of the "misuses" of pepper spray and how unjust that is to the youth?! Do you even know how many UNJUSTIFIED RESTRAINTS of youth take place EVERY DAY!?!?! The difference- the amount of bodily damage (to youth and staff) and cost!!!! Don't respond to the use of misuse of pepper spray like there is no misuse of retraints!
Yes, the spraying of the Corsicana youth was totally absurd!! IT WAS A MISUSE! And, guess what- had that guard not had pepper spray- he/she (not being of sound mind on how to actually deal with mentally ill youth) would have instead done a UNJUSTIFIED RESTRAINT which would have almost 99.9% guaranteed an injury for one, the other or both. Stupid or untrained people do stupid and untrained things. It STILL DOES NOT TAKE AWAY THE FACT that the MISUSE OF PEPPER SPRAY IS LESS HARMFUL THAN THE MISUSE OF PHYSICAL RESTRAINTS!!!!
And anyone with any knowledge of mentally ill youth know that they DO NOT UNDERSTAND the use of pepper spray and YES, it CAN trigger physical reactions because of the horrendous shock it has to those who have no idea what it means and why they are burning all over all of a sudden! IT'S A SENSORY OVERLOAD! JUST LIKE A PHYSICAL RESTRAINT CAN BE! The mentally ill youth could have just as easily been triggered into a seizure by a restraint as pepper spray. Come on people- stop looking for reasons to make pepper spray the bad guy. It's the person using it- not the spray.

Anonymous said...

9:16, what kind of medication are you on?

Anonymous said...

To 9:18- It's called the medication of reality. Try it sometime.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. What was crazy about what 9:16 said? It sucks but it's true.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Scott: we have had a 13 year old, 6'0" 240 pound violent sex offender violently assault both peers and staff; a 15 year old, wheelchair limited sex offender pull himself out of the chair and up the bunk to the top bunk in a matter of seconds to sexually assault a student... it took 3 adult male staff to pull him off. How about the 11 year old with a serious weapon? I hate pepper spray, but prefer it to getting my head cracked with resulting brain damage or my leg broken etc. (both of which have happened to staff) How about the mentally ill kid at Corsicana who wouldn't spit out the caulk, you ask. Want to GUARANTEE that what is in his mouth IS caulk and not a razor blade, battery, somebody else's contraindicated medication...want to make that guarantee to his familY BEFORE you get it out based on the statement of another mentally ill student? Scott, we have had 3 students help another student hold his arm steady while he use a broken piece of glass to gouge and cut both the inside and the outside of his arm 8 inches long (on the inside) down to the bone, requiring 2 layers of stitches plus staples to close the wounds. These same kids would have blocked staff from getting to the student even if he had cut the radial or other artery, not because they hated the cutter but to prove they were down with him. I am suggesting that you avoid setting rules that would have killed this kid. By the way, the battery incident involved a girl swallowing her 6th 9 volt, often biting the outer wrapper as she did so...
The policy and training should set a threshold criteria, such as immediate threat to self or others that cannot be safely stopped another way. Again, I suggest it may ALMOST have to rise to the level when deadly force would be appropriate. If not done properly, let a hearing determine if re-training or permanently removing (or criminally charging) the user should be the response.
And PAH-LEEZ, do not ever interchange the terms mace and pepper spray (especially water based pepper). I find the idea of using for compliance issues reprehensible; for protecting staff and students, perhaps the best choice of a lot of not so good ones.

Anonymous said...

GRITS: At first blush, I too was shocked at Harrell's response to seemingly hostile questioning about his documented opposition to the use of pepper spray. However, after reviewing the policies he was refering to, I think Harrell may be onto something.

He didn't seem to be endorsing the use of OC spray. He was endorsing the confirmation he received that current TYC GAP on Use of Force and chemical agents are in effect despite that August directive.

It was the first clarification of that fact I have heard yet. It was also the first time I heard Handle With Care was back on the table--effectively cancelling another directive issued by the CO in August.

Harrell said more than once that the current limitations on the use of chemical agents are in place. Since there are more restrictions on use of chemical agents than on restraints and since the directive requires OC spray before restraint, there will be less restraints and no more use of OC spray--at least no more use of OC spray done in compliance with GAP.

With either the use of restraints or OC spray, the GAP permits it only as a last resort to protect safety of kids and from serious property damage. The Aug. directive doesn't change that.

What worries me is that Harrell also metioned there is a draft policy in the works. I'll reserve judgement about him until I see his position on that. I assume it is not a progressive policy proposal.

I want to believe in Harrell so I want to believe that he was pointing this out repeatedly to create a record which will be hard for CO to get around. If that was his strategy, it was brilliant.

What's the game plan Harrell?

Anonymous said...

Addendum to my 9:42 comment: the students at Corsicana range from moderately to very severely emotionally disturbed (not always the same as mentally ill in most people's minds); even for the more seriously impaired, there are moments of being fully lucid as well as maybe being floridly psychotic. I was not intending to suggest the common use of pepper spray or any other particular action. For example, if I know he has grabbed several students medication, not just his own versus seeing him put a piece of caulk in is mouth, my response set would be different. Having worked in the past with serverely mentally retarded adults and children, I recall (by tape at another facility) the use of a shock belt on a 4 year old child with an IQ under 20. It had not been recommended lightly... she had already scratched one eyeball out, ripping it apart and had started on the second. Rather than keep her mechanically or chemically restrained for life, in this particular case, the shock belt may have been the lesser of 3 evils (fyi, it was done well; on her for less than 13 hours and 7 years later, she still had sight with the remaining eye). In no way does this suggest that all 4 year old, profoundly developmentally delayed children should be equipted with shock belts in case they don't eat their green beans.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Henson:

If you say pose restrictions, or otherwise use additional criteria on 10-13 year olds (both sexes) and/or all females who have an opportunity to benefit through further counseling from being a survivor of sexual abuse, and most importantly, prohibition of use for emotionally disturbed self-mutilating youth, then most TYC staff are sold on those prohibitions unless any circumstance exist which would prevent the loss of life or significant bodily injury. We agree with you on that point Mr. Henson. But we face a population of adult-minded TDCJ personnel that don't seem, or care, to draw those distinctions. That's troubling to all of us in this juvenile justice field.

Anonymous said...

certainly pepper spray has its usefulness but the current administration wants it used for everything. You do not use pepper spray to generate compliance. You only use pepper spray when someone is going to get seriously hurt.

OF course it is the people who use the spray. and good people will misuse it. That is the nature of of using weapons. it creates an oppressive correctional environment, it erodes morals and makes the jailed hate the jailors and vice versa. That is human nature and ultimately makes things more violent and certainly completely eliminates an environment for rehabilitation. The answer is not pepper spray. The answer is well trained, well paid, well qualified staff and a whole lot of them.

Anonymous said...

I just finished watching the whole thing and what I want to know is:

1. How on earth did Whitmire ever get out of high school, much less elected to the legislature? He has got to be the rudest, dumbest, hickass person I've ever heard?

2. Why hasn't anyone just told him to his face that he is full of crap? He keeps accusing former TYC admin of covering things up when there is a videotape of Dwight Harris attempting to tell him about the West Texas incident to his face, not to mention emails to him and the others about the situation.

3. What is the purpose of most of the people on the committee? Very few stayed throughout the hearing; of those who did, very few spoke; and none seems capable of realizing they were fed a line of "bulls--t" as that one parent put it.

Just when I thought that TYC couldn't get any worse, I'm sure it is going to - and, yet, somehow, they are going to spin it to say that things are getting better. I feel like Alice in Wonderland.

Anonymous said...

The solution is so easy?
I invite all of you to sign up to be a JCO...there are plenty of jobs avaiable pick yout part of the state......
if ya care that much come on down

don't use the should coulda woulda
use to be ...was...etc...step right up..

let's get the ratio down as you suggested.....

oh wait the pay sucks...

Anonymous said...

9:47, you are on to something.


Anonymous said...

For the record Mr. Harrell knew about McFadden and DID report it immediately! He testified prior Mr. Wilson and was not asked additional questions after Mr. Wilson spoke. I believe Mr. Harrell is more concerned with having these issues reported and addressed instead of worrying about getting public credit for what he is doing.
Mr. Wilson it took a great deal of courage for you to speak publicly today and the youth need more staff like you on their side. You may not see it now but you have made a significant difference in their lives. Thank You!!!

Anonymous said...

Senator Whitmire is rude, arrogant and power tripping. Anybody else notice he called Ms. Pope by her first name? How professional can one get.
( A little birdie said that Pope was named in Whitmire's divorce a few years back )

Anybody have access to the Harris County Divorce Court Records ??

You may understand then how she got to where she is today.........

Anonymous said...

What I found most disturbing about the hearings, and there was plenty to be disturbed about, is how the ACTING director 1) referred to herself as THE director, 2)gave false information - okay, lied on multiple occasions, 3) pretended to know what she was talking about only to have Whitmire guide her back to the correct response, and 4) that no one on the committee is knowledgeable enough to question her ... not to mention the fact that she had much of CO scrambling every time she said a job was posted. LOTS of jobs were posted yesterday by noon . . .

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@7:56, I'm not sure I care so much about your first point, but 2, 3, and 4 are 100% on the money. I found the whole hearing a pretty sad display (I'm going to listen to the end of it myself this morning - I heard the Advocacy Inc. gal had some interesting new information.)

And @ 9:47, I don't think I'm buying it. First, I don't think that's how the policies have been communicated to staff or used on the ground. Second, though you're right that "Harrell said more than once that the current limitations on the use of chemical agents are in place." But the directive clearly states that OC will be used BEFORE restraint in EVERY case. If that policy is followed, it's a big mess. Sen. Whitmire seemed to ignore that distinction every time it was pointed out to him, and Harrell's comments inexplicably glossed over it, but that's a major change and a bad policy - literally the Aug. 2 memo issued a REQUIREMENT to mace EVERY child TYC lays hands on!

Anonymous said...

dDid anyone else seem to notice that the Ex. Director is confused about the difference between determinate and interdeterminate cases? What the hell!!!! Maybe we need to bring Ms. Murdock back so she can clearly explains things to her.

Does anyone know where Mr. Humphrey was yesterday? I was really looking forward to hearing his well thought out explanation of how pepper spray will be used. He also has some intriguing insight on what restraint techniques should be put into place and would have added nicely to the entertainment factor yesterday.

Anonymous said...

The gov commuted one sentence today... can TYC have the same courtesy. Perhaps "pardon me" as he kicks TDCJjr out the door? Please!

Anonymous said...


The directive and the policy are not the same.

The policy Harrell was referring to is the use of force policy (GAP 97.23), which places serious restrictions on use of chemical restraints. The executive directive changes the use of force continuum, but not the policy. That means violations of policy are going on multiple times per day since staff cannot both follow the administrative directive to use pepper spray in lieu of physical restraint AND comply with existing -- and still governing, according to Harrell's testimony -- policy.

I would agree that Harrell's testimony on pepper spray seemed like a seemingly foolish parsing of terms to be sure, unless there are any lawyers watching ...

Anonymous said...


You hit the nail on the head. How was the information about the change in policy communicated to the field? I'm curious about the dates in particular.

The administrative directive is dated August 2, but Grits' commenters were discussing pepper spray and posting emails sent by Billy Humphrey regarding changes in policy beginning in late July. Hmmm ...

Is it possible that the executive directive was actually a retroactive CYA move by the new TYC admin?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else notice that one committee member actually asked if TYC had Halfway Houses?

Anonymous said...

OMG, yes!!! DP had to look before she answered! What the hell is that about???

Anonymous said...

You guys still don't get it! YES! BEFORE any restraint pepper spray should be used!! NO ONE GETS HURT WITH IT! Why in the hell not spray first if the situation is already at the point of a restraint?!?! Something ELSE in the benefit of using pepper spray BEFORE a restraint- now that the student is sprayed, the staff are LESS LIKELY to jump in and get physical because of the almost 100% chance they are now going to get pepper spray on them. Staff will use the lease amount of contact possible to subdue the sitation. And 9 times out of 10, if they will just wait long enough for the spray to take affect- they'll never have to lay a hand on the student! Why doesn't anyone get that?!?!?! If there's a situation that's going to call for a restraint why the hell NOT have one and save broken bones, stitches, huge medical bills and time away from work. Gees man, this isn't rocket science!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@10:49, it's closer to rocket science than you claim.

Have you ever trained a dog? If you beat a dog, in the short term it will obey you. But in the long term you can break its spirit and limit the dog's trainability, utility, and happiness.

Similarly, sure, using pepper spray as a solution to every conflict may seem to "work" in the sense that it stops the conflict. But barring life-threatening situations, pepper spray is as antithetical IMO to youth rehabilitation as beating a dog is to proper animal training. best

Anonymous said...

Man what time do you get up in the morning? My mind can't get past Spong Bob that early, much less type an articulate response.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

That's why it's Grits for BREAKFAST, amigo!

Anonymous said...

As much as I can appreciate the arguments going back and forth regarding pepper spray it appears that there is one issue that gets totally left out of the discussion. That is that TYC currently lacks a treatment program and CO has failed to give any clear directions on what programs should be taking place. The goal should be to prevent violence from taking place in the first place and the key to that is to keep the youth engage in constructive activity be it treatment, education, and recreation. Combating violence with violence will only make the situation worse. Do not get me wrong I know these youth.The youth could take over any institution in a matter of seconds. Fortunately for TYC the youth cannot get along with each other long enough to make that happen. But I would not be surprised that if it happens at one of the institutions the way things are going. Pepper spray has its place in TYC along with physical restraints, along with psychological services, along with educational services, along with treatment, etc. etc. At some point the powers that be are going to need to realize that they need to start taking care of all these others issues and most importantly start taking care of their staff or the battle will be lost. Fear and intimidation will only work so long with staff also.

Anonymous said...

Cross-posting this from another thread here.

Whatever you may think of the pepper spray policy, it is a clear and dramatic contrast with this part of the Morales ruling (quote below):

"The use of tear gas and other chemical crowd-control devices in situations not posing an imminent threat to human life or an imminent and substantial threat to property - but merely as a form of punishment - constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment"

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

"But merely as a form of punishment"? What is your point Bill? I know you do not condone letting them fight and pick up the pieces. Chemical agents, WHEN USED CORRECTLY, reduce injuries of staff and those incarcerated.

Of course spraying them only for punishment is illegal!

Anonymous said...

Grits posted:
"Have you ever trained a dog? If you beat a dog, in the short term it will obey you. But in the long term you can break its spirit and limit the dog's trainability, utility, and happiness.
Similarly, sure, using pepper spray as a solution to every conflict may seem to "work" in the sense that it stops the conflict. But barring life-threatening situations, pepper spray is as antithetical IMO to youth rehabilitation as beating a dog is to proper animal training."

We are talking apples and oranges here when talking about the PROPER use and VERY effective use of pepper spray. You equate these students as "training" a dog. Like they are learning to sit, stay and maybe figure out not to get into the road. That type of training is great for sweet fido who lives as the family pet, has his own doggie bed and shares breakfast time in the morning with the whole family. However, the type of dog training your should be comparing this to is when a pit bull, doberman, mastiff, etc. decides it just wants to rip apart another dog or YOU. We're not talking about training kids how not to break another law and maybe get to the 5th grade reading level. We talking about stopping a violent behavior that THEY initiated- either going after another student or staff (or both). Others here say that just with good trained guards and staff, restraints shouldn't have to happen. HOLY CRAP- honestly. ANYONE WHO HONESTLY THINKS THAT IS REALITY HAS NEVER WORKED IN A PRISON. These students come from gangs, from social settings that taught them little or few positive social skills and sometimes all they do is think about how they are going to "get" the person they hate. Fights are planned days and weeks in advance and they just happen out of the blue MANY times. I've seen a kid shake a guard's hand implying he was "over" the anger he was having with the guard telling him to tie his shoes and then less than a second later punched the guard straight in the face knocking him out. You're telling me this kid should just be trained like the kind little fido you equate "positive training" to? No, you need to put the correct dog into the correct training picture if that is the reference you're going to use. Tell me Grits, when out of the blue a pit bull latches to your leg, are you going to use a tasty little biscuit and a stern "NO!" or a can of pepper spray?

Anonymous said...

8/29, 9:16 - Abuse by any other name is still abuse. And that's against the law and policy. Logic like that is part of the reason TYC is in the shape it's currently in.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@6:56 - it was allowable to use pepper spray under those circumstances under the OLD policies. What TYC has done is move pepper spray to the front of the use of force continuum before any attack, etc. If its use were restricted to those worst cases, it'd be one thing, but that's not what the policy does. It says kids must be maced EVERY time, and if you lay hands on a kid and didn't mace them when you had the opportunity to do so you've actually violated policy. That's an overuse of OC spray, IMO, by any measure, and doesn't jibe with the limited circumstances you're describing. best,

Anonymous said...

Something to ponder if you want.

On pepper spray.

It might work in controlling some kids and it will save on injuries to staff.

Take downs have a higher injury rate than standing there with a can of spray and then the cuffing the combative youth.

You are going to have trigger happy staff.(no matter the rank of the staff, adminstrators will fall in this trigger happy click)

You are going to have the same class of staff that are fight happy and get off on taking a kid down and the battle that goes along with that adrendlin rush. They will stand there and push a kid to the point of fighting.

You have kids in TYC that get off on fighting as well and on the pepper spray side, this takes away the need to be handled by someone. These kids would fall in the mental health kids. So pepper spray might stop this violence that is intentional by those kids. I am speaking of the ones in Corsicana and Crockett units for emotional distrubed. Pain the name of the game for some of these young kids.

Mental health kids not knowing what they are doing. If you work at one of these units, you know they know what they are doing and that they clearly understand pepper spray and the affects of it and they understand the thrill of being taken down.( not all now, but they are there)

Maybe the use of pepper spray once someone has been sprayed will make them think about what could happen if they continue the behavior. Maybe not. Depends on the kid.

They at this point do not seem to be afraid of being taken down with the handle with care tech. that tey all know how to do by heart and know exactly what staff is going to do when they get into a fight or decide not to cooperate. Maybe since they know that handle with care does not work, they have become more aggressive these days.

It is a no win topic either way you choose the way to control these TYC kids. There are no perfect solutions to this ordeal in real life.

I worked at Mart in the begining of Mart. When kids did not comply to the rules in a classroom , dorm what ever they were sent to security. Back then if you went to security, you bought yourself at least 24 hours(I believe, been a while). Kids knew this, did not want to be there, they begged not to go. It worked. Now a kid goes to security they are released in a few minutes. No punishment at all. At one time in Mart, the security people made these kids do "duck walks", it was cold in there also. Now a little hard excersise hurt no one. But some one complained that it was cruel punishment. Kids would come back sore from all that excerise. Did it hurt them, No, probably did some good to have excerise. But people complained and it was stopped. Guess what,behaviors sored to new heights.

Councel with the kid who is mad. Sure it will work on some and 90% will tell you to get fjfjfjfj to your face. So that want work 100% of the time either.

My point, we can't win, someone will always complain on the outside/inside of what we are doing.
I am not saying use the pepper spray, I don't have the answer either. I think we just need to do the best we can do with what we have. That an't much at this point.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:48,

My point was this: the Morales ruling defined the legitimate use of spray in specific situations, and defined its use in others as "mere punishment" and a violation of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Whether we agree or disagree about the rightness of those definitions, that's what they were.

I think TYC did decide in the 1990s that definition was too narrow for practical use. I seem to recall that it was modified in the 1990s at some point.

But even so, the new policy greatly expands its use, as Grits and others have suggested, to a first option rather than a last resort. Some here have suggested that it's a "band-aid" response to serious staff shortages and that little thought went into it. I don't know enough to say for sure.

However, because of the prior legal history with Mace, it may open up TYC to a potential lawsuit that could cost a lot more than workman's comp claims.

To the person who said that there will always be trigger-happy staff, does this really support the expanded use of spray then? From the outside, that seems like an argument for strictly limiting and monitoring its use.

Which actually raises another issue: in the pre-Morales era, broad use of force policies led to doctored or haphazard filing of incident reports. An atmosphere existed that allowed and even encouraged shoddy or biased reporting. Could this new directive on pepper spray have the same effect?

If there really are severe staff shortages, that could only contribute to reporting difficulties.

Is this armchair quarterbacking by an academic who doesn't have to deal with the kids everyday? I'm willing to fess up to that, but still think these questions are relevant.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bush in all honesty the OC spray was a quick fix to get an atta boy from the politicians. TYC has had a 3 to 1 workers comp issue over all other State of Texas workers. By attempting to cut this in half they the new administration get a pat on the head for a job well done.

Will this work? The real question no one would like to answer is, where are all the new staff? If TYC could hire the extra 500 staff allocated by the government this would cut the workers comp rate. But this is not as easy as issuing pepper spray. When you have facilities that cannot hire open positions now let alone an extra 500 spraying youth was the quick fix.

Unfortunately our elected officials do not want to hear about this. The hearing they had last week was an embarrassment and served no purpose, I wish they would all stay home until we can vote them out.

Anonymous said...

Bill: your 6:13 may be missing a valid point made in several comments. The same 'trigger happy" staff tend to be fight happy as well and the physical damage is likely to be less. Underpaid, overworked and disrespected staff at all levels tend to set up situations where any warm body is hired, training is overwhelming to new hires, OJT doesn't occur because there aren't enough "trained" employees to staff the units, not to mention enough newly trained senior staff to do it. Keep in mind, if we were able to replace all lost JCO staff and hire the 500 new ones today, it would be 300 hours (almost 2 months) before they could relieve current staff. If the current staff is not doing it right (presumptive, since d'Pope et al decided 300 hours were needed and Supt's needed to learn their jobs at Huntsville),,oops, almost forgot, there is no program to train, no OJT, no supervisor development... Got any room in that cushy academic arena Bill? Mine has too many lions and gladiators...

Anonymous said...

OK, I finally watched several parts of last week's hearing.

The Owens / Pope testimony was exactly as everyone here has described. A lot of broad and suspect claims about progress. The most precise evidence given was the lower number of inmates. The discussions of key issues like use of force, a rehab program, and staffing shortages, were overly general. I'm left feeling like I still don't really know what is going on with TYC, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment for an 8-hour hearing.

It's clear that most of the committee is very invested in the current admin's success. This was evidenced in the blatant double standard applied to statements by TYC (questioned very little) and by its critics (questioned a lot). Wasn't credulous acceptance of agency statements how these geniuses got into this mess?

Maybe they don't have any interest in having a substantial Sunset Review at all, and they want SB103 to be the last word. That's my impression, they think their work is mainly done. It's "fixed." Miller Time. Huzzah.

It was disappointing and a little sickening to watch them shout down or intimdate anyone who presented information that conflicted with an obviously pre-fabricated conclusion that things are progressing swimmingly - even to the point of real absurdity.

Senator Whitmire might want to sit down with Ben Barnes, who as Lt Governor during a TYC investigation in the late 1960s behaved almost exactly the way Sen Whitmire did the other day, ultimately to the state's cost, since the Morales lawsuit came about two years later.

I was especially appalled at the sophomoric treatment of the Harris County monitor when she pointed out the lack of a rehab plan and criticized the use of pepper spray. Frankly, I wish she hadn't "apologized" and backtracked when challenged by Sen Whitmire and others. She said that she wished TYC would spend as much on staffing and training new staff in mediation as it is on pepper spray, and the response was to quiz her for dollar figures, to enthuse that pepper spray is "pretty cheap" after all, and to call her statement "irresponsible." Well, how revealing.

Here is a seasoned juvenile justice professional who has clearly been working extremely hard (450+ interviews with juvies in just a few months!) and has tons of first-hand information to present the committee, and she's treated like a bomb-throwing hippie. To call this performance disgraceful would be too charitable.

Obviously criticism of post-SB103 TYC is a full contact sport for thin-skinned legislators. In that spirit, let me suggest that Sen Whitmire's attempt to further discredit the HC monitor's testimony by criticizing HC's lack of a monitor for its county JDCs was one of the more pointless, Student Government quality diversionary tactics I've seen in a legislative hearing.

Excuse me, were they gathered there to talk about the county JDC? Did HC go thru a massive abuse scandal that is the slightest bit relevant? Is it in crisis the way TYC is? Why not just do the chicken dance, or jump around in a circle?

How about putting a little more thought into these affairs, so that people with, like, actual information aren't testifying at the end of an 8-hour hearing, when attention spans are clearly fading?

Grits, sorry to depart from my usual tone, but this irritated the living crap out of me. I'm left with the strong impression that the lege simply doesn't care a whole lot about this and would just like it to go away, the sooner the better. I'd love to be proven wrong, but wouldn't bet my last dollar on it.

Bill Bush, UNLV

Anonymous said...

Thank you, our exact thoughts and I say our, because eveyone I have spoken to has the same feelings.

Nothing of any importance was discussed. There were no harsh questioning of the leaders of TYC and it almost seemed as they knew they would not be put in the hot seat prior to this meeting. It was like they had been told, dont' worry about this meeting , we will cover your a>>.They did just that, Whitmore covered their a.. real good.

There is Nothing fixed in TYC and training?? I like and laughed at the statement that they had a aggressively hiring plan! That is a big ass banner in front of the facilities saying now hiring. Boy that should bring em in. Hey, its a plan, never been done before!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bill. Not that anyone is listening except the choir and, if we are lucky, DoJ. As an outsider, you at least have the credibility of not being a disgruntled current or ex-employee.
Like most academics, you do your research and remain objective. Unlike most academics, you at least listen to those in the field. It really is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

It's real simple. Before ANY OF YOU say pepper spray shouldn't be used- SHUT UP, quit typing and go spend a day or two on a dorm AS A DORM STAFF- not a stuff suit. See what your opinion is then. Until then, you are NOT qualifed to speak whether its use is proper or not.

tttt said...

The bottom line is this, the use of pepper spray, though justified in extreme instances, is nothing more than a subsitute for proper staffing. Thus, it opens up TYC to litigation for the indiscriminate use of the spray. The first inclination will be to use it because there is no JCO back-up.

I was appalled that Pope did not have in place a reporting mechanism for its use. That's SOP in any use of force and of all people, she and Owens should know that.

It's apparent that Whitmire's demeanor indicates that he wants TYC under the TDCJ umbrella.

Anonymous said...

What is sadder is not that TYC did not have a reporting mechanism in place regarding the use of pepper spray but that fact that Ms. Pope did not know that. TYC has always required staff to complete not only an incident report but also a use of force report. And when possible these incidents are video taped. In addition, every facility has a Use of Force review board that reviews all written documentation regarding all use of force incidents and at times interviews staff and youth regarding use of force. If pepper spray was used these incidents are then reviewed again at Central Office by the Security Department. It might help if Ms. Pope would read policy, talk to staff and know what is already going on!

Anonymous said...

I have asked this question before but I don't think it was answered so I am going to submit it again. I would also like to point out that I am not a TYC employee so please forgive my ignorance on this subject.
I read in one of the comments that the Use of Force Continuum is laid out in the steps: Staff presence, verbal instruction, mechanical restraint, oc spray, physical restraint and then full body restraint. I don't undertand how the JCO's are expected to get a defiant kid into mechanical restraints without using some form of physical restraint. Why pepper spray would be needed if the kid is in a mechanical restraint. Now if staff follows the mechanical and oc spray then why would they need to use a physical or full body restraint on a kid who has been cuffed and sprayed?
I don't have any experience in this area and I ask out of sincere interest? It seems on paper at least that this would just cause more hostility and resentment with the kids which ultimately puts the JCO's at great risk.
I understand that the facilities are in crisis and the JCO's definitely need a safer environment so they can do their job effectively but did they have any say in this at all?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
It's real simple. Before ANY OF YOU say pepper spray shouldn't be used- SHUT UP, quit typing and go spend a day or two on a dorm AS A DORM STAFF- not a stuff suit. See what your opinion is then. Until then, you are NOT qualifed to speak whether its use is proper or not.

9/03/2007 10:05 PM

To whom ever wrote this- AMEN!! I just shake my head in disbelief when I see these so called "educated" and "well thought out" reasons to debunk the use of pepper spray. Not one of these people who have responded against it has actually worked on a dorm and had to face the hands on situations that even WELL QUALIFIED, ADEQUATELY STAFFED dorms have to handle. Pepper spray has a VERY useful function and the naysayers have not lived the moments when it is. The all or nothing arguement does not fit nor does the belief that if you just had well trained staff (and enough of them) that you should never have to use it. That's like saying no American's should have to wear their seat belts or have airbags in their car just because THEY are a good driver. You cannot account for what the other drivers on the road are going to do even though YOU are doing exactly what you should. If we could actually predict an accident and never have to use safety features like safety belts and airbags, don't you think people would be smart enough not to drive that day or change how they were driving to prevent it?!?! It does not matter how great a staff is or how many you have- sometimes students unpredictably attack another student or those "great staff members" and the only safety belt or airbag available is either a likly injuring restraint or a less harmful action of pepper spray. Anyone coming on here with the belief or approach that these students are always predictable and able to be redirected with "good, numerous staff" is being absolutely unrealistic. Next time you believe that, go get in your car and try and predict what the drivers around you are going to do and see if you can control that too. I agree with the above poster- Close your mouth, get off the computer and go work in the environment hands-on before you say it's not appropriate.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No matter how many times you tell people to "shut up," they won't. And shouldn't. Personally I don't take orders from people who are a) anonymous and b) rude.

Nobody is saying pepper spray is never appropriate - that's a red herring. The argument is that it shouldn't be moved UP the use of force continuum, and if other states can operate that way, so can Tecas. Five years ago staff injuries and confirmed abuses for students were much lower, and nobody was using pepper spray - that's because staffing levels weren't in crisis. In the current context, pepper spray is just an excuse not to hire and train quality staff, IMO.

Anonymous said...

That's fine. Use the excuse that "shut up" was rude and that no one can tell you what to do to keep from actually putting yourself in a position to understand why someone would advocate it's use. Your attempt at redirection doesn't change the fact that you and everyone else who are stomping your feet and having tantrums over the use of pepper spray have NO EXPERIENCE in the real life scenerios in which it is used. Until you get in there, walk in those shoes and live it, you are nothing but a armchair quarterback.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't work at TYC and to you no one gets to have an opinion who doesn't. People who lose arguments frequently resort to claiming that only someone with their subject position can understand the truth. That's what you're doing here, and honestly it's beginning to bore me.

Anonymous said...

Everyone wants staff safe and unharmed. Your jobs are more critical than many of the Central Office folks can grasp because they have never worked on the front lines. The problem is that many TYC employees have never worked anywhere but TYC facilities and have no frame of reference with how other facilities are run. If they did they would not walk they would run to the other facilities.
Does anyone know how many other juvenile facilities in Texas use Pepper Spray? If there actually are, which I doubt, is Pepper Spray used with such frequency? If the answer is no then it might be wise for Ms. Pope and Mr. Humphrey to learn from these other JUVENILE agencies so they can develop a long term plan to keep everyone safe.

Anonymous said...

Nice pre-school response there Grits. SERIOUSLY? The only thing you can come up with is "you bore me"? Retorts like that come from those in debates or arguments who know they have nothing left in providing any useful argument on their behalf.
Who cares if you don't work for TYC. They have volunteers. Become one. Maybe then you would have some experience to back up your side of the issue. YES, ANYONE with real experience is going to be more credible than someone who doesn't- DUH! Do you want an actual pilot to fly the next airplane you are on or one who just read a really neat book about it? Rather than pre-school "you hurt my feelings and I'm taking my ball home" responses- go earn some credibility to your argument. Just because you have a blog doesn't make you qualified to speak to everything. Report it, yes. Speak on behalf of it- NO. Some of us actually look at people who have done it or lived it before they give credibility to bedazzling intellectual bullshit. How about going and earning some credibility before you pronounce pepper spray's use as uncalled for.

Anonymous said...

2:34- Wow. A little bold towards the blog master weren't you? Sure you want to piss him off and be blocked for the rest of your life? He can get your IP you know. But I see your point. Yeah, I'm going to believe someone who's been there over someone who hasn't. It's like people second guessing what cops do all the time. They're the ones putting their lives on the line every day trying to protect us and then everything they do is arm chair quarter backed by the public and media. There's bad cops too but I'm not going to go taking the guns away from all the good ones just because of them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Look, you've assumed no one who does not have your job can have a credible opinion, so it's really pointless to argue. Christ admonished us not to cast pearls before swine, and similarly one should not attempt to argue with a closed, small mind.

You think if I don't have your job or if I don't volunteer at a facility my opinion doesn't matter. OTOH, I think you're an anonymous blog commenter who knows less, for example, than the Blue Ribbon Panel member who criticized pepper spray use recently and said it wasn't considered an accepted best practice in juvenile corrections. We all have our opinions. Yours just contradicts most of the expert ones.

Finally, with respect, I volunteer a lot of time in ways I think many TYC employees have found quite helpful. If you don't, why do you hang out here?

This blog is here to encourage debate, not so you can tell people who disagree with you to "shut up" and pretend no arguments but yours are valid. And FWIW, now you're REALLY starting to bore me.

Anonymous said...

Since it's likely that the commenter who asked non-staff to "shut up" about pepper spray was talking about me, I'm going to respond rather than hide behind Grits' shirt-tails.

First, I have openly acknowledged several times on this site that I don't pretend to have the kind of first-hand experience that staff and youth have. I have visited facilities once or twice only, I have talked with staff and known ex-inmates, I have studied transcripts of oral interviews and depositions with staff and youth from the last 100 years, but of course none of those are even close to the same as having to do the job day to day.

If that invalidates my view, it does the same for the policy makers who are pushing for more pepper spray, who have no more direct experience than I do. I guess we could emulate TYC's spokesman and take a shot of OC spray for the cameras. But in any case, by the "shut up" criteria nobody but staff should make policy in either direction.

Second, I would point out that "butt out" because "you in the public can't understand what we do" has been the mantra of TYC throughout its history, and it usually hasn't led to good results for anyone.

This was especially true at the Gatesville boys' training school, where "shut up" was the response every time a child advocate or legislator or attorney or parent or reporter or staff whistleblower publicly suggested that there were problems. It helped NO ONE. Individual staff and inmates both lost their lives in completely preventable incidents over the decades because officials were able to shut out public scrutiny.

Third, my criticisms of the pepper spray policy aren't really directed at staff at all. They didn't make this policy.

My comments are aimed at the legislators and administrators who are putting staff and youth at risk for bodily harm. Who has placed staff in difficult if not impossible situations in the first place? Is it really TYC's critics who are to blame for bad inmate-staff ratios?

Who gave as the reason for "enhanced pepper spray techniques" that they would keep workers' comp costs down? Is this really an expression of concern for staff safety by TYC? Did TYC enact this policy because staff demanded it, or as a CYA move for their own purposes?

It bears repeating: the individuals who are mandating expanded use of pepper spray are in many cases no more experienced at the staff level than are their critics.

And as Grits noted, the critics aren't arguing that pepper spray should be banned altogether, only that its use should be limited as it has been in the past in Texas and as it is in most other states.

Remember, TYC just assured the lege the other day that they are well on their way to becoming a "national model," not an outlier state. Fine. TYC and the lege need to fix things ASAP so that this pepper spray policy becomes unnecessary.

Not shutting up,
Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Bill Bush, as far as I'm concerned you can speak up for this TYC employee anyday. You have been nothing but honest in you comments and your observations of TYC. All issues have two sides. One cannot learn by being narrow minded. Pepper spray should be a last resort and used only if a student puts another student or staff in eminent danger and is totally uncontrolable.

Anonymous said...

I find Dr. Bush's comments extremely interesting and helpful. I would love to hear from Steve Bercu on this blog. Emily - FYI - Steve now owns that wonderful bookstore in Austin called "Bookpeople". Steve was responsible for brining the Morales case. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Man, I've never seen so much hot air from both sides in a long time. You're all twisting words however you want to make yourself seem like the victor of this argument. Now I'm getting fed-up with all the stupid, arrogant replies from all sides! Grits/Bill, no where did the first guy say to immediately jump in and use pepper spray for every situation. He said it should only be used when a restraint would be. After sifting through all the rhetoric of what you and Bill said- it looks like you are saying the same damn thing! You all are so hung up on aruging and having last word you don't even pay attention to what each other is saying! You all are actually on the same damn side! No wonder nothing in this world gets solved. Also, for you and Bill to try and make the guy look bad because he thinks someone should have experience before forming a "all or nothing" opinion on something- it isn't just his opinion! That just makes sense! It doesn't mean you can't have an opinion! No where did he say you couldn't! From what I see in his posts, he just doesn't want someone of your position/influence to make an all or nothing call on pepper spray when you obviously haven't been in his shoes! Why you and Bill are bucking so hard against that is beyond me- it just makes sense! How would you feel if he told you how the ACLU or other work functions you have should be changed without ever having worked there or had any experience with it? I have no doubt you would call him uncredible or encourage him to go check it out first hand.
And Scott, before you start thowing God into any of your replies again, you need to check your ego at the keyboard too. This was all just ridiculous! All you heard was shut-up and you let that take you over. Practice what you preach if you are going to.

Anonymous said...

To Mr. "Shut up" who says those who are criticizing the current pepper spray policy have no experience on the dorms, I answer that I was working on dorms long before we ever had pepper spray. There were some rare instances where having it available would have been helpful. Many of these folks were saying that what is needed is better staffing ratios and better training for staff. Duh! Before the budget cuts, the 96 bed dorms and the severe overcrowding, we did have fairly good ratios, and we did have enough control, most of the time, to carry out effective treatment. I can think of two instances in my first 5 years of employment when having pepper spray available would have been a benefit.
Note, during those times we did not tolerate staff cursing at kids, and we emphasized developing healthy adult/youth relationships. That is something that went out the window during the Chester Clay era. Anyone who hired on in the past 10 years would probably not know anything different. My advice to you, Mr. "Shut up" is to take your own advice. Old Salty

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"no where did the first guy say to immediately jump in and use pepper spray for every situation."

My comments in that regard, and I'm sure Bill's, were directed at the POLICY that requires pepper spray before employees lay hands on TYC youth, in EVERY situation. I'm assuming commenters don't set policy, so his or her opinion wouldn't have the weight of Pope's Aug. 2 directive, which DOES mandate using OC prior to any physical restraint. best,

Anonymous said...

From Mr. Shut Up-
Well Old Salty- you just proved my point. You don't work in the current environment. You worked in the olden days years ago where TYC admin actually allowed the staff to be in control and could hold these kids accountable for their actions. That's not the case now and hasn't been for years. These kids are ten feet tall and bullet proof and they know it because the administrators took away all staff control, bent to these hysterically incompetent parent complaints, covered up all the wrong doing, understaffed, undertrained and lengthened the hours for everyone to produce the monster of today. Yes, all of those are factors. But, you can not and will not convince me that it will be fixed anytime soon. There will NOT be adequate staffing, there will NOT be adequately trained JCOs, there will NOT be rules that hold kids accountable for their action- NOT FOR A LONG TIME IF EVER. Meanwhile, we have to somehow maintain control and safety for ourselves and other kids with what we have- which is virtually nothing. You all want the pretty picture ending NOW. We don't have what it takes to get that NOW and may not for years the way things keep going down the crapper every single day. And, you can't tell me that even if you had all that, pepper spray is not a appropriate response instead of a restraint when the situation calls for it. It absolutely is because IT SAVES INJURIES instead of someone throwing their body in there in steel, concrete and nothing but flying fists and objects.

In your day, restraints were few and far between for whatever reason. Reality of the sitation today is it's not the same anymore- not even close. They can spit in your face, throw blood, feces, tell you to go fuck yourself, not listen to any instructions and make everything absolutely unsafe. And all that's before they punch you in the face. 80% of these kids could care less how much you reason with them. They are in TYC because they didn't follow rules, don't think rules or laws apply to them and have absolutely no respect for themselves or others.

We don't have what you had and may never get there because every day we are shit on by the legislatures and these incompetent limelight/headline whores who are in charge now. I'm sick and tired of people telling me how it should be done, what's appropriate and what's not. You all are expecting the immediate "pretty picture", smooth running program and are conveniently forgetting we don't have ANYTHING to make that happen any time soon if ever. As I said before, there is a HUGE "meanwhile" time frame in there where things have to be brought back under control, have rules that can be enforced, programs that work, enough trained staff and at least SOME assemblence of a stable work environment before even one of those things can happen. Years, years, years- if ever.
For the here and now that I work in- I want and NEED pepper spray. I have too many situations every single day I have to deal with that I know one day I may not walk away from next time. I don't have all the other stuff that would make the use of it less necessary- ITS NOT HERE and it may never come. I KNOW pepper spray works. Pepper spray IS HERE. It's one of the few things I have left that keeps me and others safe. It doesn't leave any long term injuries and I know I have an option available to me that gives me and the kid better odds of making through the incident unharmed.
Glad you had it good in the old days Old Salty. But those days are long gone.

Anonymous said...



Are you seriously saying you should jump on someone rather than use pepper spray? You're advocating physical conflict over not?

There are steps to follow in the disciplinary chain and it's saying to use them all before you restrain someone! Restraint is the LAST option! Pepper spray is the step before that for a good reason! Pepper spray is LESS HARMFUL than a physical restraint show why the heck are you saying it shouldn't be used before a restraint?!?!?!?!
There are STANDARDS to when a restraint can be used. It's not because little Johnny won't eat his cookie or tie his shoes. It's when he/she's about to be a DANGER to themself or others! You baffle me why you think pepper spray is so dastardly when it doesn't break any bones, knock out teeth, make staff miss work, blah blah blah. I just don't get your thinking that pepper spray is the bad thing when RESTRAINTS are the major problem!! I would bet someone a thousand dollars that if TYC prohibited physical restraints and ONLY allowed the use of pepper spray for use of force instances, the occurances of violence and injuries would almost disappear.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The phrase "physical restraint" categorizes a range of actions, not only the most extreme ones you describe. To mandate use of OC every time is to mandate overuse.

And btw, writing in all caps, like telling people to shut up, doesn't make you right. And Salty still works at TYC. best,

Anonymous said...

Wow Grits. I think you've kind of fallen off the self control wagon on this thread. First you quote the bible and then mock the guy in the same post. Then you point out using all caps doesn't make what you say right. Uh, you've written in all caps before too in things you've done. Beginning to wonder if the guy just really struck a nerve with you or if you really aren't practicing what you preach. Putting "best" at the end of what you say doesn't make it diplomatic either when you're doing that stuff. It just makes you look sarcastic. If that's what you're going for then I guess it's working.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry if you're disappointed. I've answered the guy's question six ways from Sunday and I'm bored with the "shut up, only I know anything" bullying routine.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Scott is correct, I still work at TYC, and I still work in the field. I have said repeatedly that there are some occasions when using pepper spray is appropriate. Unfortunately, I have seen it used too much as a crutch. If you have read all my posts, you would know that I feel very strongly that our political leadership has sold TYC down the river over the past 12 years. The over crowding, 96 bed open bay dorms, cutting back on resources to save money - they have all contributed to the mess we are in today. We also lost a great deal under the leadership of Chester Clay and the "get tough" bunch. Staff who had great skills at de-escalating were called cowards and were run off. Control by intimidation became the rule. Someone here keeps posting the mantra, "Control is an illusion." That is absolutely true when you try to achieve control through intimidation.

Staff who can hold firm, fair and consistent limits on kids, who confront them politely, but firmly, and who follow up with appropriate consequences when the youth do not comply, and recognition and reward when they do comply, tend to maintain control.

We are the adults. We have more control over their lives than we realize. Try something, as an experiment, if you do not believe me - when everything is loud and disruptive, make a point of addressing them at a lower volume. You will probably be surprised at the reaction you get. I've been doing it for years, and 95% of the time they quiet down because they want to hear what I am saying. They are used to staff yelling back at them, they are taken aback when a staff stands in the midst of them and calmly and without showing either fear or aggression, begins addressing them.

I am not afraid to get physical with youth - I have been involved in literally hundreds of restraints over my career. But, 95% or more of them were cases where I went to the aid of someone who had already initiated the restraint. I'd estimate that at least 80% of those restraints could have been avoided. The point is, that too many staff (especially males) feel that they have to prove themselves. You don't have to prove yourself to anybody.

Right now, my biggest concern is that there have been so many conflicting directives coming out of Central Office, that staff do not know what to do. The youth sense the uncertainty and are taking advantage. The predators are terrorizing both other youth and the staff. Kids tell me constantly that they do not feel safe. They want staff to reestablish control.

In conclusion, we, the adults, need to lead. We need to walk the walk. Don't expect much from Central Office, but don't make that an excuse for not doing your best to lead these kids. Don't let the kids gain the upper hand by letting them succeed in pushing your hot buttons.

I have never resorted to the use of pepper spray to get control, but, I have been mightily pissed off when I have been caught in the cross spray of a panicked staff.

I learned an important lesson from an experienced YAS IV early in my career. A kid had been told by staff to go to his room. The kid instead went over to the YAS IV and tried to address him. The YAS IV remained expressionless as he said, "You were told to go to your room." The kid persisted, and each time the YAS IV responded impassively the same way. Finally, after about 5 or six rounds of this, the kid said, "Fxxx you," and went to his room. About 5 minutes later, the YAS IV went to the kid's room and asked him, "Now, what was it you wanted to ask me?" He had control. Old Salty