Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lawsuit filed to stop TYC pepper spray policy; Blue Ribbon report now online

Bill Bush directs me to the Austin Statesman, where we find a copy of the Blue Ribbon report posted (pdf), as well as news that Advocacy Inc. and Texas Appleseed have sued the Texas Youth Commission to end its new pepper spray policy. Reports Mike Ward:

The suit alleges that [TYC executive commissioner Dimitria] Pope changed the policy in violation of a state law that requires public notice of such changes. [Austin attorney Jim] George said the agency "went behind closed doors and enacted a policy that is detrimental to the kids."

George said a hearing on the lawsuit is set for Oct. 2.

"Just as the children in TYC need to learn how to follow the rules, the administrators of that agency also need to follow the law," he said.

That's 100% correct. Pope's August 2 directive on pepper spray went through no public process at all. It wasn't published in the Texas Register, there was no opportunity for public comment, and it was implemented before anyone outside the agency was informed. (I learned of it when I received an anonymous copy in the mail.) If legislators knew about it, they were told behind the scenes. But the decision, to use this season's catch phrase, was anything but "transparent."

Not only did Ms. Pope clearly violate posting laws by changing the pepper spray rules without public process, I think the policy itself is vulnerable to attack because it violates the Morales v. Turman settlement, not just the administrative code rules that reflect it. Certainly changing those policies, as George says, would require a public process that never occurred.

I'll be interested to see the full complaint that was filed.

UPDATE: Here's the original petition in the lawsuit, a TX Appleseed press release, and initial Dallas News coverage.


Anonymous said...

What can we expect from individuals with a TDCJ mentality, or rather a lack of mentality? The rejects are at the helm.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the suit. Too bad it has to come to this.

Anonymous said...

It is about time someone had the cajones to put da Pope and Owens on the spot.

I'll bet there is major crawfishing before October 2nd.

Anonymous said...


I'd say "watch out TYC" - this is the kind of suit that could easily mushroom into a much broader class action.

Don't forget that Morales began with about a dozen plaintiffs contesting the process by which they had been committed to TYC. It then broadened to a class action conditions of confinement case involving all of TYC's present and future inmates.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

It should be pointed out that the 8/2/07 memo violates the Use of Force GAP policy which is the official TYC policy. It was not changed so the memo on its face is a violation of TYC policy.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

I should point out that finally, finally, finally, someone one is looking and listening. The Blue Ribbon Panel Report counters the current leaders assertions and lies and the fact that we have rapid fire policies, directives, and memorandums that are rife with inconsistancies demonstrate that we have persons in charge that have no knowledge or experience. Now they are just trying to hang on to their lucrative government given positions. The rest of us are just waiting for them to not accept us as we re apply for our jobs so they can find some kind of yes person to person to put in their place.

Problem with all this is that the youth suffer.

Since SB 103 addressed JCO training and mandates, the word is that treatment is out. Secrecy is in. I got more information about the Blue Ribbon Panel from the AAS than from anyone at TYC.

There is only power people trying to protect themselves from rational logical counter ideas.

Do we have cases of rifles being stored at TYC??

Rumor is that we do.

I hope none of my family members ever has any reason to go to TYC as an employee or youth.

It is unfair, unjust, and unsafe, and I hope advocacy groups are staying involved for those employees and youth that have the great misfortune to be at TYC. It is unsafe and unhealthy.

Signed BD.

When I am in a position of safety, I will put my name on this.

Anonymous said...


Another observation: the Blue Ribbon report was "obtained" by the Statesman and the DMN, clearly against TYC's wishes, since its been completed for some time but not released.

Maybe at least one of the task force members was getting fed up with their hard work being totally ignored by TYC and the legislature. Not to mention the fact that TYC was moving in exactly the opposite direction of the panel's key recommendations.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

This is the only positive thing I have read in a good while. This may be what is needed to get those elected officials to oust the TDCJ regime and their cronies. So that we don't have to swallow the bull being dished out by them. Elmer needs to wake up, they are not doing a fine job!!! Hello??

Anonymous said...

They are doing exactly, and I emphasize that, exactly, what Elmer wants them to do.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to take bets on who da Pope will blame for this? They are running out of "old" employees...

Anonymous said...

If that's the case, Elmer needs to go.

Anonymous said...

I just read every word of the Blue Ribbon panel's report and loved it. Everything I've heard the oldtimers at work say about rehabilitation was in there. Everything I've heard other psychologists suggest was in there. Everything I experienced at DYS in Missouri was in there. Basically, the Panel's recommendation was to view the youth in TYC care as valuable human beings, indeed a potential asset to the future of our Texas economy and culture.

The Panel did an outstanding job.

However, the "leaders" at the helm, as Bill pointed out in an earlier post, are already so far in the opposite direction there is no way they can gracefully turn around now. Additionally, when I discussed the Panel's suggestions with a regular ole Texan (my 64-year-old uncle), he responded with the exact phrase I believe most Texans would respond with: "We just need to lock the son's of bitches up and teach 'em a lesson. After they've eaten bad food, worked some kind of job and slept on hard beds for a while, they'll start to figure it out and do right."

Folks, the Panel recommends what works. The Good Citizens of Texas, however, have different ideas about how to change people and it doesn't have anything to do with treating them like human beings...

I doubt there will be significant public support for the Panel's recommendations even if it does cost less money.

whitsfoe said...

Hey... HeY... HEY! No Elmer bashing without his foe feeding in.

If he only had the ears of the whabbit he was hunting, we may not be commenting on this today. You should have listened Elmer, and once again, you were fooled.

Bugs wins - everytime.

Anonymous said...

I have been asking internally for the panel's report and been told that people were threatenend with their job, that they (administrators) were afraid of leaks etc. We (I) believe that it did not support their agenda. I think I need to quit. this is a two faced, false administration. they do what they want at the expense of the youth. Can some body please publish the Blue Ribbon Panel Report of put a link that gets it to the public!!!

TYC has not interest in doing this.

And hence all these negative blogs.

If i file a open record request, I know i will not get rehired.

Maybe that steetcorner with a sign is the better option!!!!

Bob Dylan

Anonymous said...

F____! F___!@ F___!

that is all i have to say

Anonymous said...

Bob Dylan says,

I know when I start drinking vodka (started when tyc became TDCJ) I get mad, real mad and come in here and type on grits. hell, they are probably tracking all of this anyway, so i am pretty much screwed out of a job for that reason alone. rational does not work. sorry for the mispelled words in my previous post. kind of loose my poise after a shot of vodka and when i am really mad.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No worries. Here's the link to the Blue Ribbon report. It's also in the post.

Anonymous said...

Hey 4:52 p.m., not to worry, Elmer will protect them!! Crawfish or not.

Anonymous said...

Juvenile Justice advocates in Texas have to learn to temper their ideas for reform and package them in a such a way that the proincarceration mentality will allow itself to chew on it awhile before spitting it out. While the Blue Ribbon Panel makes perfect sense, in the Texas environment, it is sure to continue to receive an instant gag response( i.e. Madden), despite clear efforts to emphasize the fiscally conservative realities of juvenile justice reform.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I am new to this. Who is Elmer?

Anonymous said...

Texans with a "lock em up and teach em a lesson" mentality need to have a better understanding of the cost.

It is economically more efficient to teach a man to fish than it is to give him a fish. If a man knows how to fish, he can eat for life, if he is given a fish, he can eat only once.

Youth that violate the law need far more than to be "locked up with bad food and a hard bed". These human beings need to be learn how to live successfully in society without breaking the law.

Why can't Whitmire understand that doing the right thing will save money for the State of Texas in the long run? I'd be inclined to vote for someone else!

JT Barrie said...

I'm sure that support for widespread use is due to false associations. We know about violent people with bad attitudes who plague police and the public. But not every one who taunts police and has a bad attitude about their sorry lying butts is violent. People like yours truly and my neighbor have a history of taunting police about their misconduct and neither one of us is violent. We just don't like their games, subterfuge and outright dishonesty - encouraging by Hollywood values.
It's these false associations that justify abuses on our streets and the streets in the Middle East. Not everyone who despises our government is out to kill and maim others. But no one would know that by the reports of our media lapdogs.

Anonymous said...

Just wehen I thought they couldn't take anything else away, has anyone else seen the e-mail floating that all of the budgeted money for all youth privileges has been suspended? It may not have been much but at least is was a tool for us to gain compliance in some cases. The entire privilege system was called officially "dead" on Monday.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone: As a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, it is encouraging to see that y'all are interested in our report and the strategic, sound, sensible, and cost-effective recommendations that we offered.

It is clear, however, that any reform of TYC speficially and juvenile justice in Texas more broadly must be spearheaded by the citizens and the active watch groups. The politicians will not make the necessary changes to the law and/or insist on policy changes unless the public makes them address the deficiencies in how Texas does business with delinquent children.

Anonymous said...

Would someone elaborate on what anon. 10:15 is talking about?

Anonymous said...


Just finished reading the Blue Ribbon report.

My initial response is that I'm impressed with what they were able to put together on such a short timetable.

TYC and the lege are already trying to downgrade this report as "pie in the sky" dreaming by ivory tower academics disconnected from reality. IMO, this is either a sloppy mischaracterization or, worse, a blatantly dishonest characterization intended to undercut the report's authority and to distract attention away from its actual content.

Honestly, I question whether some of these people have actually read it beyond the executive summaries. Let's argue about it openly here, pick out the good and the bad. But let's not just dismiss it out of hand, as TYC and Rep Madden seem to wish, because it doesn't give us a magic bullet.

I found the report to be extremely thorough. It drew careful comparisons with other states, including Missouri, Illinois, and California, suggesting lessons Texas could learn from them while also noting that some practices will be less applicable due to different offender populations.

The report backs up virtually all of its claims and suggestions with a wealth of empirical evidence, belying the "unrealistic" label of its detractors.

The report is also comprehensive in that it addresses each stage of the juvenile justice process. The "continuum of care" model it offers is, IMO, not only appropriate (and probably cheaper in the long run) but also very similar to proposals knocked down by spendthrift leges of the past.

My sense also is that it differs in some key ways with Resocialization, but I'll defer to expert practitioners like Old Salty on that score.

However, I'm going to disagree respectfully with those who feel that this report wasn't what TYC asked for. The panel was charged with finding solutions to TYC's problems, specifically those that led to abuse of inmates.

It seems clear that the panel began looking at TYC as it was and realized that cosmetic changes would not suffice. The report states that TYC's problems aren't in execution, they're structural and conceptual and require major changes. And then the report spells out in fairly precise detail what those changes should include. Pretty good for having met only 2 days.

If TYC and the lege want to wait for a massive lawsuit or, worse, another abuse scandal, or maybe federal intervention under the next presidential administration, they will ignore this report.

The problems addressed in this report didn't form overnight and won't go away quickly either.

It continues to just astound me the degree to which history repeats itself with TYC.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Bill, I must disagree with your characterization of what TYC asked for. I was there at the time and the orignal request was to redo Resocialization. As I recall that is what we put in the consultant agreements.

Howard A. Hickman

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Howard, I remember that too. But FWIW the report itself says they changed its focus with admin's blessing, specifically naming Ed Owens.

Of course, that begs the question why TYC then waited to replace resocialization until the BRP report came out, if they knew it wouldn't be that specific.

It's all just awkward and clumsy, isn't it?

I predict the lawsuit will successfully knock down the OC policy, they'll try to do it again the right way, then more litigation will ensue that could even re-open Morales v. Turman.

If that happens, maybe the Blue Ribbon Panel report down the line can serve as a framework for what some judge orders, since it looks like nobody wants to fix the agency in the here and now beyond stocking up on mace.

Anonymous said...

Stop calling it mace! It's oleoresin capsicum, OC, pepper spray!

And I truly believe that eventually, enough kids will suffer at the hands of these incompetent, bumbling ex-TDCJ idiots that the courts or the Feds won't have any choice but to intervene.

As for re-doing Resocialization, has anyone noticed that the Transitional Treatment Program still refers youth to specific pages for exercises in the Resocialization workbooks that need to be completed, which, by the way, were ordered destroyed by Central Office.

If TYC was a crowbar, these TDCJ boneheads would find a way to f#*k it up.

Anonymous said...

That report spoke the truth. But, I fear, Rep Madden spoke the truth as well. He was not opposed to the findings, he said just pointed out the political realities of Texas. True changes will not be self-generated. As Dr. Bush has documentent, we keep making the same mistakes over and over. I believe that any real changes real only come about as a result of a court order. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Please excuse my constant typos. Old Salty

Anonymous said...


My understanding was that shortly after the Blue Ribbon Panel began its first meeting control of the agenda was lost. I believe Owens was just trying to put the best face on a landslide that was out of control by embracing the rumble in the hope that he would not get buried and possibly reshape the report, which like many decisions of the reform administrators just backfired.

I am not against reforming the juvenile justice system or discussing what needs to be done. However I am more concerned with the need to direct energies for a temporary fix of TYC so that we do not loose the youth currently in TYC.

I have believed ever since I left TYC that the only practical method for reform in this political climate is for a court takeover since there seems to be no effort to appoint an executive commissioner with juvenile justice expertise.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Good thought Howard. Let me see; where could I find someone with the expertise to take the position for the pay offered?

A better question; What qualified person, being of sound mind, would want the position?

It is obvious the position would not receive proper backing /funding from the lege. How many months have gone by AFTER the problems were identified?

How are the facilties being operated today vs. prior to the Lege "helping them out"?

Yes; let's get the feds involved; appoint another Special Master, let the State pay all that money to the Special Master and his assistants. In about ten years TYC will be operating as effectively as TDCJ. Please!

"Chuy" said...

I agree with Howard in the sense that TYC does need a new leader at the top. I am not stating or making any comments about the current leader Ms. Pope but after the takeover and the booting of Dwight Harris she has become the rebound after you lost your boyfriend/girlfriend and it is time to choose a leader with Juvenile Justice experience who would be willing to take on the challenge. And if they had this experience I do believe they would step up to the plate based upon their beliefs that Juveniles can be rehabilitated and need a second chance. Just my humble opinion without throwing stones are making accusations.

Anonymous said...

Howard, you and I agree on this one. I do not see any way that significant changes will be made without a court order. Rep Madden plainly stated the political realities. The political atmosphere of Texas is not conducive to making the changes that need to be made. It goes deep. We cannot deal with the numbers of youth that are now in the system without a significant influx of money. The guv is not about to call the lege back into session to do that. There is no short-term fix on the horizon. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

I agree with both Howard and Old Salty that the political atmosphere presents an obstacle to reform.

But I guess my frustration with comments like those from Reps Madden and Whitmire stems from what I see as their lack of leadership.

IMO, "leadership," a much overused word, means leading public opinion, not just following it. Instead we are given a completely unimaginative repeat of past mistakes, dressed up as "pragmatism."

For their part, the reformers would be well served to make a case based on fiscal conservatism. That is how the Missouri model gained support from prominent conservatives in that state, including former Governor John Ashcroft. It won over small government conservatives by reducing the size of the state's bureaucracy, the immediate cost of operating juvenile justice, and the long-term costs of high recidivism.

They managed to devise a system that was both progressive and less expensive, in both the long and short run. Politically, that's clearly the only way real reform is going to play in Texas.

These elements are in the blue ribbon report, but not featured as prominently as they could be.

It just isn't constructive in any way for pols to blow off the report recommendations because its proposal for a rehab program to replace resocialization is too demanding. However, I do think it's fair to fault it for not giving enough attention to the transitional period between the current program and their proposed one, which is very different.

Still would like to hear what TYC people think about specific features of the report...

Bill Bush

Emily said...

14/9/07 10:15 AM: Can you tell us anymore about this, or can anyone confirm it?

Anonymous said...

As a lawyer, what do you think of the chances of a class action suit forcing Texas to really deal with the problems we are seeing? Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Old Salty,

From what I have heard, I anticipate that is what is going to happen.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

I hope so! Old Salty