Friday, February 15, 2008

Give me your opinion on a draft resolution supporting TYC reform and we'll see if Grits readers can get it passed

This year the presidential fight for every last delegate in Texas ensures that Democratic precinct conventions on March 4 will be better attended than any time since I've been politically active.

Precinct-level battles on the GOP side have long ago been won, by and large, by the religious right, and are mostly attended by party regulars. On the D-side, though, this year's precinct conventions will see a lot of new faces. Democrats get to "vote twice" for President: Once at the ballot box, and for the committed, again on election night selecting delegates at their local precinct convention.

One of the roles of these "conventions" in both parties (besides selecting presidential delegates and party leadership) is to propose resolutions for legislative action or changes to the party platform. The missus liked the resolution I wrote on prison and jail diversion, and suggested that readers might appreciate it if one were prepared about the Texas Youth Commission.

I agree, but on this one, I'm going to propose a draft and let folks make suggestions for changes and improvements before creating a final version. Then next week I'll roll out a little mini-blog based campaign to support both resolutions, just to see how far we can take the idea. If you're going to attend your precinct convention anyway - as will record numbers of Democrats, I predict, to support their presidential choices - you can take these resolutions with you and see if you can garner support.

Proposing resolutions in this fashion serves a couple of purposes: Though hardly anyone reads the platforms (deservedly), if you can get a resolution passed, a letter from the party telling the party delegation to support X, Y, and Z carries some weight. Perhaps more importantly, though, the process of getting them passed (or even proposing them and failing) educates party regulars and opinion leaders about problems and needed solutions on the issues you're discussing.

Though the language below is written for presentation at the Texas Democratic Party, obviously you could change that to the "Republican Party of Texas" and propose it on the GOP side, if that's where you vote. Both support and opposition for these ideas is pretty bipartisan.

While I've written before that "Blogs are a media strategy, not an activist medium," that belief is based on analysis, not real-world experimentation and evaluating results. Since I wrote that, e.g., Grits' readership has probably quintupled. So who knows if it remains true in today's dynamic environment? (It's certainly worth launching a low-stakes experiment to find out.)

Let me know what you'd add, change, delete, etc., with the language below, then next week we'll put together some tools to assist Grits readers who'd like to promote these resolutions when you go to support your candidate. Here's a draft of the TYC resolution:

WHEREAS the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) became embroiled last year in an internationally publicized sex scandal involving multiple facilities that cast a harsh light on problems in the state's juvenile justice system, causing its executive director and most top staff to resign or be fired;

WHEREAS the Governor's initial appointments to run TYC all came from the adult prison system and wrongfully spent the last year implementing policies based on an adult corrections approach;

WHEREAS a Blue Ribbon Panel convened to suggest solutions for TYC proposed shifting from large, adult-style units to smaller, community-based settings following national best practices;

WHEREAS the Blue Ribbon Panel found that TYC had developed a "punishment culture" similar to adult prison settings including overuse of physical restraints and solitary confinement, and recommended a shift toward a rehabilitative model;

WHEREAS most incarcerated youth in TYC facilities committed nonviolent offenses and end up there because local systems for educating and supporting kids with special needs have failed;

WHEREAS virtually all TYC youth will re-enter society in just a few years, and under the current "punishment culture" more than half commit new offenses when they leave incarceration;

WHEREAS TYC, like the adult prison system, suffers from chronic understaffing that makes both employees and youth in their care less safe and prevents treatment and rehabilitative programming;

WHEREAS because of underfunding by the Legislature and a lack of qualified treatment providers, youth sent to TYC routinely spend many extra months incarcerated waiting for spots in required treatment programs;

WHEREAS a significant percentage of TYC youth suffer from unmet mental health needs, and serious problems like post-traumatic stress treatment for abused youth go untreated;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Texas Legislature to follow the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel aimed at rehabilitating youth and ending the agency's counterproductive "punishment culture";

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to provide substantial additional funding to TYC to eliminate backlogs for drug and alcohol treatment, anger management, and other required programming, and to increase employee pay to eliminate chronic staffing shortages;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to expand programming through county juvenile probation departments and asks county juvenile court judges to shift youth whenever possible away from youth prisons to community based settings;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to prioritize expanding mental health treatment for youth in both carceral and community based settings, diverting mentally ill youth away from incarceration;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party urges county governments to expand treatment and diversion programs to reduce the number of TYC commitments.

Submitted to and Adopted by Precinct ____ in ________________ County, Texas, Senatorial District ___, on March 4, 2008.

Convention Secretary
What would you change? What do you like? What should be added or deleted? Let me know what you think in the comments and we'll get a final version out next week.


Anonymous said...

Scott - Don't you have some "real" work you need to get done? lol


Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm with you in one sense, Plato, normally these processes are pretty unimportant. But with the Obama/Clinton camps competing for votes, this round of D precincts conventions should be quite well attended, mostly by self-selected political opinion leaders.

Frankly, I'm tired of the political class in both parties dismissing these issues as a third rail. I've been sold down the river by Democrats more times than I can remember, and I want them to feel as though this is something their base cares about, ditto for the GOP to the extent that's possible.

Some personal background: When I was a cub reporter, one of the stories on which I cut my teeth was covering the takeover of the GOP at the precinct level by anti-abortion activists as it happened (before, even). I was their at the Christian Coalition and Eagle Forum training sessions in '91 where they prepped volunteers to take over the party precinct by precinct, starting the night after the '92 primary. The experts all told them these precinct conventions had little effect, just like most consultants would say here. Maybe it's true in the short term, but their takeover of the GOP party infrastructure had profound consequences in the long-term, I think any observer would admit.

Finally, I was inspired in part by an excellent series on Burnt Orange Report, see here, here, and here, educating Dems on the whole process. I'm not saying it's the end all be all, just a good thing to do if you're going anyway.

Glad to supply you with a laugh, in any event. You should still submit the resolution at your convention! :) best,

Anonymous said...

I was just funnin' with you, Grits. I've been involved in both juvenile justice and Demo. politics here in Texas for nearly 37 years (in the profession that long) and I've got the scars to prove it. Glad to see some new lefties tilt at the windmills. I'm too old and worn out to actively fight another big fight, maybe a moderate one, though.


Anonymous said...

Grits, this is excellent. Great idea. I wouldn't change a thing in the text.

I only wish I could be there to help push it at one of the caucuses. Unfortunately, I'm not moving to Texas until July...

I'd suggest, though, that you might have some success pitching this resolution to those Obama supporters who are aware of his stance on criminal and juvenile justice issues, and his background working on these issues in Illinois. I rather doubt we'll see anything like the 1995 Crime Bill come out of an Obama administration.

And, BTW, the resolution obviously presents a marked contrast to Gov. Bush's 1995 Juvenile Justice bill, so you might even pitch it as a repudiation of a Bush policy.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

It is vital that we educate, educate, educate and then educate some more on these problems.

As for the draft, the "feel" was about half a history of problems and the other half a laundry list of solutions.

Perhaps it would be more dynamic if the "feel" was more immediate. Listing where best practice is not followed and solutions that can be implemented without delay.

Seems like a little rewording might go a long way. I wish I could write as well as you do. Unfortunately all I can do is make suggestions.

Ron in Houston said...


Even if you have other work, I agree it's an important point.

The whole pendulum has swung to punishment and unless we swing it back to rehabilitation, we'll end up bankrupting ourselves building prisons.

Anonymous said...


Just as an FYI, 1992 was about 16 years after, what you would term, the Pro-Life forces actually took over the GOP in Texas. Only in those days we were the Reaganites and took over the Texas GOP in 1978. You were just observing the process that had been repeated many times since 1976.

GOP Precinct Chairman since 1972

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To the GOP precinct chair, I would distinguish between the takeover by the Reaganites in '78 and the Eagle Forum types in '92. For starters, the religious conservatives themselves saw themselves as assailing the bastion of moderate, pro-business conservatism, by their own rhetoric. Also, that was the year the Christian Coalition nationally expand their 1988 success (under Ralph Reed's leadership) in Southern California, and was the first time church ministers (in Texas) like at 2d Baptist in Houston were actively encouraging their members to work precinct conventions - that was a different kettle of fish, IMO.

I agree with you, though, that every 15-20 years there's a fight in the parties that requires these antiquated mechanisms to be revived, but I just see the factions we're talking about in '78 and '92 as largely different folks. No Goldwaterites in the '92 crowd - that's for sure.

BTW, any chance we can get you to propose the TYC and jail diversion resolutions in your GOP precinct, Mr. (or Ms.) Chairman? :) best,

spearshaker said...

Scott: The problem I have is the section on over-use of solitary confinement and restraint. It is an assumption that TYC in general has been over-using either. At WTSS, I don't think we did... then again, if it was happening at Mart, Giddings, Evins etc. the balance was tipped in that direction. I would suggest a modification that leaves it at relying on a punishment model.
Also, I want Richard Nedelkoff to be supported, at least by adding "or other leaders with juvenile justice expertise" to comments about the Blue Ribbon Panel. After all, I live in West Texas and it is highly unlikely students from West of I-35 will be housed in small, community based facilites that are less than 6-7 hours drive from home.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what TYC facility you folks work at, but I have worked at 3 and we used to hold youth accountable for antisocial behavior in all 3. That is until a year ago. Since the WTSS fiasco with the 2 administrators, we have in actuality gone from accountability and structure where we were turning out a good product to "no rules apply". Ever since the first conservator was appointed we have gradually gone from structure to NO PUNISHMENT. We don't restrain and we don't use spray as folks keep reporting. We are not allowed to do so. It is necessary to isolate dangerous youth to keep them from hurting themselves, their peers, or staff, but we do not have a lock up and ignore culture. We are in "nogotiate and wait them out" mode. I don't have a clue where you are getting this "punishment culture" business, but I think you are talking to the wrong folks. The ombudsman's office only visits with youth. Oh boy, I'm sure they are getting the absolute truth out of that!! I work there and know better. The facilities are suffering because staff are leaving at an enormous rate because the youth have assumed control; we are left with no tools with which to deal with negative behavior. The youth are laughing at us and having a good old heyday while you guys keep talking about a punishment culture. Show the ones who work at TYC where it is because we can't see it. We see NO PUNISHMENT whatsoever. Only today an excellent caseworker at Mart was moved to another dorm because the superintendent told her she is too confrontational. No, we surely don't want to have anyone working on the AMP unit that is confrontational. Now, maybe the facility will be blessed with a caseworker that won't confront antisocial behavior and leave the youth to do whatever they choose. By all means, we should never confront them. Our prayer is that the conservator will give those in the trenches some teeth and tools with which to work. Right now there are none. Punishment culture? You've got to be kidding!!! This should be left out of any resolution because it is absolutely untrue. I think you need to find another theme to talk about since this one doesn't exist. In fact, the truth is that it's just the opposite of a punishment culture. You should be concerned that we have our facilities filled with anti-social and dangerous behaviors without any means to deal with it, instead of jumping on the punishment bandwagon. Staff and teachers are taking a beating while they are unfairly being accused of punishing and abusing youth. Come and dodge the verbal abuse, spit, and body fluids with the rest of us and then talk about a punishment culture. Then put that in your resolution.

Anonymous said...

The Superintendent at Mart never made a comment regarding the AMP case Manager. That's how rumors get started (and people get in trouble)! It came from a supervisor, not the Supt. (BTW, the CM is fine with the move and the reasons behind it).Please remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and change can be a good thing, even on AMP. As these administrative decisions are made, we should do our best to embrace them and move forward as we staff can bring our own positive influence to any situation we are blessed. The goal of any program should be positive growth within the youth and there are many people who could do a great job with TYC youth, including the ones on AMP. We should all come together to embrace Grit's efforts to make the representatives aware of our commitment to guide and support the TYC youth with whom we are charged to serve. Grits, your resolution sounds great and I am in full support!! Wouldn't change a thing!

Anonymous said...

If you are going to work with these youth in the community you have to include services for families. You cannot just provide services to the youth and expect them to overcome the significant barriers at home all on their own.

You also do not address funding for programming for youth on release. Aftercare issues are extremely important and treatment programs on the release side of things are overall pitiful at best in the vast majority of Texas counties.

Anonymous said...

10:05 I agree with you about the no tools to work with our youths. I know nothing of the other subject matter as I do not work at your unit so I am not commenting on that.
I can also say that punishment does not exist where I work. Five minute time outs and huddleup that are a true joke, kids are laughing while they do them and they SUGGEST THEM for FUN. They will tell you that you have to give me a Huddle up and Time out and interventions to get me to comply. At that point staff is just going thru the motions cause it is all lost , kids are in control.
Punishment does not exist in TYC and we are slowly getting out of control.
We have mixed up the cake batter and we are slow cookin the cake and one day that cake is going to get done and all hell is going to break loose. It is rising in the oven and if we don't throw that cake out, we are all going to be in deep trouble. You will see massive amounts of field staff leaving.

Anonymous said...

Many staff in TYC do not see themselves as participating in a punishment culture. Unfortunately they don't see that in TYC there are very few rewards. Very few of these kids have the mentality to successfully pursue long term goals with extremely limited short term reinforcement. "Resocialization" practices (not the content of the treatment program) became punitive with much more focus on what the kids were doing wrong as opposed to doing right. Don't get me wrong, there must be accountability but you also have to provide developmentally appropriate motivations. These widely vary within TYC (ages 13 to 19).

TYC has serious issues and the current funding/adminstrative structure are inadequate to deal with them. TYC will continue to suffer as they chronically fail to fill vacancies (in all institutional departments), as well as those those departments which provide direct support to the field.

As long as TYC has the "we will take whoever we can get for this amount of money" mentality, there will be no stability. The burn out culture within all facilities does not allow for creative thinking, pursuit of outside collaborative relationships (i.e. universities, local community programs), or stability within programs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the points made by 9:56. A rewards-based climate is a more positive and therefore preferable one than a punishment-based climate. However, both rewards and punishments are INEFFECTIVE in the long term. Research has shown that behavior change occurring in response to rewards or punishments is time-limited. It does not last following elimination of rewards or punishments. That is, once the student is in "the free," he is likely to return to behaving in a way that matches his intrinsic beliefs and values. If we aim to make lasting change with these youth (i.e., reduce/eliminate recidivism), the treatment program must go beyond basic rewards and punishments. Students must be surrounded by social influences more likely to result in internalization of prosocial beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. I don't know much about this ConNEXTions business, but here's hoping it is a little better conceived of than simple rewards/punishments.

Grits, love the draft! You hit many of the key points in a succinct manner. Good job.

Anonymous said...

Grits, Eagle Forum was created by the Reaganites in the early 80's by Phyliss Schafly, who incidntly was a Goldwater supported. It is not a creation of the Religious Right but of the Reagan Revolution. As to the use of the Christian Evangelicals, we used those to great effect in 1982, 1984 and 1986 to take over such things as the Travis County GOP convention and the Senatorial districts in Houston, Dallas, and Ft. Worth, long before Ralph Reed. Where do you think he learned the technique?

As to the resolution, it is already a done deal in my precinct.

GOP Precinct Chairman

Anonymous said...

Although this resolution may have good intentions, I believe it is a waste of effort. The only way TYC will ever operate efficiently is to contract the care of the youth out to the private sector. Most of the present administrative staff both in the field and at central office is a waste of taxpayer money. TYC needs to be downgraded to an oversight or accountability agency for contract care. The youth and employee culture now present in TYC will not change. I have had the opportunity to visit all TYC facilities, and they all fall in the same parameters of low employee morale, insufficient supervision, and incompetent administrative staff. While the corrections/treatment pendulum will continue to swing like it has in the past, agency culture will never change.

The Taxpayers and Legislature of this State will NEVER fund an agency such as the Missouri model. A biennium budget of 500M+ such as what is in place presently would grow to 5 or 6 times that amount to model Texas after Missouri.

There have been positive steps taken to correct the corruption, "good old boy" culture, and incompetent staff issues TYC has faced in the past. Unfortunately, there are still all three of these issues still present in the agency.

TYC training has been and still is just a vehicle to shift liability from the State to the employee. It in no way prepares the staff for what they will face in dealing with youth.

Do the right thing and dissolve or downsize this agency before it is too late!

Anonymous said...


Like you I have visited every TYC institution, but unlike you I have been to every TYC institution many times over a 9 year period. The morale problems exist in every governmental entity and even in private correctional facilities and the entire corporate world. The difference is that in the last year that morale problem in TYC was inflamed by a group of cronies who did not understand juvenile corrections and were out to make an impression that reform was being made through a bizarre series of terminations usually accompanied by a press release.

As to the "good old boy" problem that also exists in the private sector. You just need to look at the management of any major corporation and study the history of the individuals in the corporate management.

Privatization is not a cure all to morale or the good old boys. You really need a better justification for abolishing TYC. Privatized correctional faciities have their share of good old boys and morale problems but they also have problems of their own vastly different from governmental correctional facilities. The need to be profitable creates a whole different set of problems, usually at the expense of inmate treatment and employee morale.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you about my five years with the "privates." Pay for most all personnel was less than TYC and county workers. Benefits didn't kick in until after three and sometimes six months. Population management was the #1 priority so when kids were paroled, we needed to get more in the institution as fast as we could. Employee morale and turnover mirrored that of the current TYC. Are there exceptions to the rule, yes, but I can count them on both hands and have a few fingers left over. The state makes determinations based on economics and finances. $162 cost per day at TYC compared to $90 to $110 per day at privates, what would you do?

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at all the either/or comments about TYC. According to these comments, the pendulum must either be pointed at punishment or at rehabilitation. If this is truly an either/or situation, then the pendulum will always be swinging and pointed in the wrong direction to meet the needs of a portion of TYC youth.

When you look at our legal system, it is represented by scales, not a pendulum. There must be balance in whatever TYC does to make a difference in the lives of the youth entrusted to its care. There must be rewards and punishment. A system that depends only on either rewards or punishment will fail. Some youth will not be motivated by, or perhaps interested in, the reward. Some youth will consider the pleasure they get from the negative behavior to be worth more than discomfort of the punishment. In a balanced system, there will be rewards for progress and punishment for negative behavior. In this system, the reward must be fairly earned by reaching a worthwhile goal. The reward should be something that the youth wants. The type of punishment must be balanced with the seriousness of the negative behavior.

TYC staff must have the ability to compel compliance. It is impossible to reason with irrational youth. No matter how well trained staff is in using Verbal Judo, many youth still refuse to comply. If staff does not have the ability compel compliance after following the intervention flowchart, then there is really no point in even starting the process. Many of the youth at TYC (especially when they are moved to a new facility or dorm) have a “make me” attitude. If the staff can not compel compliance, then the youth will never change their behavior.

When I first started working at TYC, the staff could compel compliance. On the old AMP, if a student was being disruptive in the classroom or threatening staff, he was given his interventions and his options and if he continued to refuse, then additional JCO staff was called in and he was escorted (non-physical) or physically removed from the classroom. On AMP, when it appeared that a youth would not comply without being physically removed from the classroom, the other youth were asked to go to their rooms until the situation was resolved. The resolution rarely took more than 15 minutes after the other youth were safely in their rooms. Once the non-complaint youth was in his room, the other students returned to the classroom. There rarely was a situation when two or more students were being disruptive and had to be removed from the classroom.

The current AMP does not work that way. Now a student who refuses to comply with staff instructions even after being given all the required interventions inspires other students to join him. How is this possible? Simple—if a student is not involved in the negative behavior goes to his room as requested, then he could be there for hours before the situation is resolved. Under the current procedures, the JCO staff can not physically remove a student from the classroom unless he is being aggressive. The youth can sit in the classroom and say anything he wants—do anything he wants, so long as he is not aggressive. These situations are not resolved until either someone plays “Let’s Make a Deal” or staff refuse to let him eat his meal anywhere other than his room. The resulting consequence rarely inspires the youth to do better the next time. In this situation, the compliant student received the punishment because he was denied educational time, rec time, or any other activity than can only be done outside his room. When you get punished for being good, what is the point in being good—it’s more fun to refuse!

For the non-believers, there have been numerous situations like this on AMP and they are getting more frequent. One such situation lasted over six hours. Yes, I said “over six hours”. However, do not blame the AMP JCO staff, the AMP case managers, the AMP teachers, or the AMP program specialist for this breakdown; this change in procedure was mandated by someone higher up the chain of command. How far up? I don’t know—I don’t need to know, I just hope this change will be reconsidered and repealed.

I do not want to see anyone hurt or even placed in dangerous situations, but there is a time and place for everything. I have been involved in restraints and I have been the target of assaults, but luckily I have received only minor injuries. Whenever a youth has to be restrained, there is always a greater risk to the staff than to the youth because the youth have the advantage. Staff is required to follow the Handle With Care training which is a grab, hold, and pin-down strategy. It almost always ends up with a pile of bodies on the floor before the youth can be handcuffed and shackled. The aggressive youth is always very angry; he will punch, kick, scratch, spit, bite, or do whatever else comes to his mind. Some are resisting being restrained while others are trying to hurt as many staff as they can. Until an aggressive youth learns that violence is not the answer, he must be met with physical force. Once he sees that violence does not work, then he starts looking for a non-violent solution to the situation. Now that you have a rational youth, you can reason with him. Staff must be able to physically control youth until the youth have learned to mentally control themselves.

It is time we stopped talking about either/or and started talking balance. Either/or solutions don’t require a lot of thought. Balanced solutions require a lot of thought because every situation has to be weighed so that the reward or consequence matches the behavior. Throw the pendulum in a pit and get out the scales, it is time for balance!

Anonymous said...

so what do you suggest?

Anonymous said...


Most of the time, the word "pendulum" is used historically to describe how rehabilitation or punishment has been emphasized more or less at different times in the history of TYC (or of juvenile justice more generally).

I'm not sure we're using it the same way you are here. For example, I don't think anyone here believes there is never an occasion where physical restraint is warranted, or where some form of temporary isolation is needed.

The question is when does such a sanction become merely punitive, rather than serving any other valuable purpose.

Easy for me to say all that having never done your job, I know... but this is how the question has usually been framed by staff, experts, and reformers over the last 100 years.

To 4:16, I have to agree with Howard Hickman about privatization. This has almost never produced positive results and the cure has usually been worse, and more expensive, than the disease.

I'm also going to beg to differ with your comments about whether Texas will ever move toward a Missouri-style model. First, every single time someone dismisses the idea, they say with no evidence whatsoever that it will cost too much. Would someone please prove it? Just because Pope failed to use evidence-based approaches doesn't mean we have to repeat her error with regard to what happens next.

The Blue Ribbon report, for example, offers us some actual data about whether elements of the Missouri model might be workable and affordable in Texas. The state of Ohio also wrote up a very detailed cost-benefit analysis of it. If Pope, Owens, et al, had been serious about reforming TYC, they would have not only taken the BRP seriously, but commissioned a follow up study focusing specifically on a cost-benefit analysis.

Scoff if you want, but the reality is, as Grits says all the time, most of these kids are going to get out eventually. That indisputable fact alone should be Exhibit A in the public campaign to convince Texans that a real rehabilitation program isn't "too soft" but a smart investment that might cut down on adult crime.

Many of the features of the Missouri model have been urged on juvenile justice practitioners for the better part of 60 years. In the rare places where they've been tried, they've usually been successful, and less expensive than naysayers thought they would be.

As a historian of juvenile justice, I just ask: When will we ever learn? If the implosion of a state agency like TYC won't do it, what will it take?

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Under the current procedures, the JCO staff can not physically remove a student from the classroom unless he is being aggressive. The youth can sit in the classroom and say anything he wants—do anything he wants, so long as he is not aggressive.

I know this is true of the classrooms in TYC our hands are tied with the behaviors, but TYC expects teachers to educate the kids and move them up grade levels.

Now how can one do that. To learn in a classroom, you have to have a learning enviroment. At this point the only learning enviroment is about how to disrupt and stop the education of all in that room,by one student. If they are removed from the room it is only for about 15 minutes and they are back with the same behavior. This process goes on for the entire class time.
No one where I teach seems to understand that education needs to happen. But they seem to all want to blame us for the kid not complying. Its a bad deal all the way around. Yes , we need balance and we need it fast.

spearshaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

OK Grits, add this:

WHEREAS, the majority of TYC youth lack basic reading and math skills, which lead to discipline problems and future failure;

WHEREAS, youth incarcerated in TYC have limited options for vocational training and transitional services BEFORE and after release;

WHEREAS, state resources such as the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, community colleges and trade schools could provide needed transition services and training to TYC youth BEFORE and after their release;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to provide for expanded basic reading and math classes for TYC youth beyond the sixth grade level;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to provide money for expanded vocational and GED programs, trained staff to support these programs, and to guarrantee the creation of these programs;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Texas Democratic Party encourages the Legislature to provide for partnerships with state resources such as the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, community colleges and trade schools, either by legislation or memorandums of understanding, in order to give TYC youth a fighting chance at success in the workplace once they are released;

spearshaker said...

10:31; don't know what 10:04 will suggest, but I know what I have seen work, ranging from MH to MR clients. In my case, the source was Dreikurs, for some of you, it may be in the context of Resocialization as it was intended. Starting with consequences, rather than punishment... sometimes the difference may seem like just a different word, but it is more than that: consequences (good or bad) are EARNED by the student, i.e., the responsibility is his (as in he bought the ticket, now he is taking the ride). Punishment is always put on from the outside. Too often, it is done in anger by a staff...the kid doen't have to take responsibility, he just gets to tell himself and others that the only reason he was punished was because Mr. or Ms Jones was pissed at me. An example (unrelated to TYC)... stick a screwdriver in the wall socket and you may bounce off the far wall, but the socket wasn't angry and didn't punish you... it is just what happens when metal comes in contact with electricity. 11:42, I disagree that that the research has shown rewards (or punishment)based systems are time limited and ineffective. There are may examples of shock belts and other adversive treatments ending, permanently, self destructive and devastating behaviors. I suspect you are referring to "points, stars and M&M's". Any attempt to make reward systems useful is to find out what is a reward (or, for that matter, what is a punishment) for that person or any group of people. As you note, the outcome needs to be to make kids internalize prosocial, but that doesn't happen if the child in TYC or in the free finds it unrewarding. The football player who toughs it out and makes the score may respond to the respect others give him; the one who cheats to score the same number of points may find he gets to take his ball and go home. Admittedly, too often the cheats have ended up on top; Enron comes to mind. Maybe it is time we demanded a lot more prosocial in the free if we are going ot demand of our students

Anonymous said...

2:37, Are you one of them illegal Chinese aliens we been hearing about sneaking across the Canadian border or did you arrive in a container at Houston?

Anonymous said...

11:16, I like your comments about rewards, consquences, and punishment. It is very easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. TYC mantra has been "fair, firm, and consistant", but with the current situation of over-worked and over-stressed staff, that is wishful thinking especially when 8 hours suddenly becomes 12 hours for the third time in three days. Frustration can get the best of even the most seasoned, experienced staff when they have been pushed to their physical limits.

I had forgotten the words of wisdom from a friend who said never make a suggestion unless you are willing to chair the committee to implement your suggestion. I have been giving this a great deal of thought and it is difficult to come up with a plan that will be effective at all the facilities.

As 11:16 mentioned, consideration must be given to what the youth think is a reward, a consquence, or fair punishment. The earning or denying of privileges is usually a good way of getting youth's attention. The problem is under our current set-up there aren't that many privileges. Watching movies, having popcorn parties, having dorm parties, and such are good, but there comes a point when the youth look around and say "What else have you got?" At one time (a couple of years ago), there was some discussion of creating a separate game room that would be a special privilege, but I guess that idea died. I also heard about a weight lifting program as a special privilege (as if we need stronger youth to restrain). What it all boils down to is that each campus has to look at their resources and determine what they can use as a privilege based on what their youth consider a reward. However, TYC should develop a plan to build game rooms or other special places that will provide a fun reward. For those youth who have made remarkable progress, there could be some special event off campus. Once a youth has earned a privilege, then the obvious consquence for negative behavior is to loose one or more of those earned privileges.

Then there is the problem of what to do with youth who have not earned any privileges. Isolation from their peers can be effective. On some campuses, youth who are disruptive in class are sent to isolation for three hours. How is that a consquence? It isn't. The youth got to act out in class for his peers' amusement, then he was sent to the dorm for the rest of the school day. At the end of the school day, he is out with his friends playing games and having fun. There was a consquence on paper, but not in the mind of the youth. Instead of three hours of isolation, the youth should be on isolation for the rest of the day. My mother always told me if I was too sick to go to school, then I was too sick to play outside after school was out for the day. Applying that logic to our youth--if you can't work in the classroom, then you can't play on the dorm.

Now comes the hard part. How do you punish aggressive behavior? Obviously there is security and BMP. For the really aggressive, there is AMP and/or county jail. However, the problem I see is that not all campuses treat aggression the same way. There should be some steps to get the youth's attention before there is serious injury to staff.

One thing that has bothered me for some time now is the number of youth refered to AMP that are still classified as General Offenders. I believe all youth who are overly aggressive should be reclassified through a level hearing as a Violent Offender with the clear understanding that continued aggressive behavior could result in recommendation for the AMP program and then continued aggressive behavior on AMP could result in going to county jail. Of course there are always some youth whose first act of aggression at TYC merits charges and county jail without any of the other steps I mentioned. I see reclassification as an intervention that could redirect a youth who is headed for prison. We give classroom interventions according to a flowchart before writing a 225, so why can't we give a life intervention before a youth goes too far down the prison road?

Whatever new system that is developed for TYC, it should live up to the mantra of "fair, firm, and consistant" and ensure that when a youth leaves TYC he knows the prosocial values that our society expects. Whether or not he uses that knowledge will always be his choice, but unless there are some consquences for failing to learning the material, then there is no hope of rehabilitation.

I sometimes climb pretty high on my soapbox, so I will step down now. Thank you, 10:04