Sunday, April 13, 2008

Not so fast: Locals not all onboard with shifting TYC role to counties

While earlier coverage cited broad support, apparently not everybody has signed off on Sen. John Whitmire recent proposal to "abolish" the Texas Youth Commission, reports the Waco Tribune Herald ("Local officials dismiss talk of abolishing TYC," April 13):

Although no hard numbers have been shared, Whitmire told the Chronicle the state could spend about half as much money as the current system by keeping all but the most violent youth in their local communities.

Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, a member of the House Corrections Committee, has an opposite view on the cost. Decentralizing, by its nature, would be more expensive because the agency currently is able to cut down on costs by consolidating specialized services at certain TYC units, he said.

“Asking each county to individually do this, frankly, can’t be the most efficient way to do this,” Dunnam said. “Our goal at TYC is to rehabilitate the youth, not to just house and punish them. To do that requires services specific to that juvenile offender.”

Bobby Campos, director of McLennan County’s juvenile justice center, said abolishing TYC would be a “knee-jerk reaction” to the sexual abuse scandal and cover-up that racked the agency last year. He said TYC’s specialized services are key to treating offenders who often suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues.

“We really need institutions and qualified and professional experts to deal with these kids,” he said. “There are not many services for kids that have mental health issues (at the county level).”

For offenders housed at county juvenile centers, the cost of contracting for such services can be exorbitantly expensive, Campos said. He cited the example of a single offender who cannot be sent to TYC because he has not committed a felony that has cost McLennan County more than $125,000 for various contracted treatment programs. ...

Dunnam said state leaders missed a huge opportunity last year when the public was demanding a series of reforms to the beleaguered agency. Lawmakers will have another chance during the sunset review, but abolishing the agency is not the solution, he said.

“I guess it sounds strong and bold to say we are going to abolish the agency,” Dunnam said. “But we aren’t going to abolish the kids, so the problem is not going to be abolished.”

This story confirms my intuition that "abolishing" youth prisons entirely will be a difficult proposition, and I'm glad to see folks talking about the real costs of treating these kids in community-based settings. I think that's a good idea, but not if it's being done so you can slash the amount of resources spent toward their care and rehabilitation.

Sen. Whitmire has cited TYC's $110,000 per child cost as evidence that the agency is wasting money. I already knew that number was somewhat artificially inflated because the agency received 98% of its previous biennium's budget, then cut the number of juvenile inmates nearly in half under the previous executive director. But the McLennan probation director's experience with the costs of community placement shows that the state can likely expect to spend more money, not less, to implement a community based strategy.

I'm fine with that, and even think it's a superior approach from the perspective of reduced recidivism and public safety. But I hope proponents of TYC's "abolition" don't continue to undersell the costs of doing what they propose.


Anonymous said...

"Dunnam said state leaders missed a huge opportunity last year when the public was demanding a series of reforms to the beleaguered agency. Lawmakers will have another chance during the sunset review, but abolishing the agency is not the solution, he said."

Tire - meet road. That's the reality.

John - sit down.

Anonymous said...

Sit down??? Go home sounds more like it.

Anonymous said...

I thought this line in the Waco article was interesting:

"Establishing regional lockups near large urban areas, where most of the offenders come from, might be one way to address the concerns of those who want to keep juveniles closer to home, Dunnam said. During its last session, the Texas Legislature appropriated $25 million to build such facilities."

Really? 25 million? What happened to that money?


Anonymous said...


The last I heard on the new facility is that TYC has not started on that project either with a location or a facility design. They do not have anyone who is familiar with the process of securing a location and have already dropped the ball on securing a new halfway house in San Antonio.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

TYC is more screwed up than ever. The kids are running the place and staff are fired if they fight back when they are being beaten. Staff shortages are being kept quiet but the truth leaks out. Only the desperate person who can’t get another job would go to work in a dangerous place like TYC. I have a business near one of the TYC facilities and I hear what many of the TYC people say about the place. Most of them are trying to find other work in a safer place. Most talk about being treated badly by the people they work under. If TYC closes my business will suffer but it won’t be the end of the world. I hope the dumb asses at the Capitol do something before more people are hurt screwing with the little criminals in TYC. Shut the place down or redo the place but do something and stop wasting my tax dollars. How about we let the general public vote on a solution for TYC and see what happens to the mean little entitled youth in TYC. The way TYC is run now all the little criminals learn is that they deserve special treatment and are above the law. I wish the state would have spent $100,000 on my two boys. It would have made it a hell of lot easier for them to get through college and grad school and the public would have got a lot more for their money. TYC is throwing good money after bad. Lock them up and make them go to school and behave. You don’t get out till you finish school and learn a trade. If you get too old and don’t finish your education then send them to the adult prison or Mexico.

Another Red Neck

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Dunnam is saying what we have been saying all along, Whitmire was once again looking for a "sound bite". If the man (Whitmire) really wanted to do the right thing he would establish dialogue with Mr. Nedelkoff and other experts and seek solutions rather than trying to bring attention to himself.

Anonymous said...

TYC is still missing the opportunity to get more efficient spending the available funds. So far they continue to get more top heavy in CO. It all started during Pope's nigthmare, but it needs to stop. Spending more money on unnecessary positions is not the answer to our problems.

Just this week HR reorganized once again and added two Director I (B 17) positions. Do they know what they are doing in there? Why would they need three directors for such a small operation (about 60 people including the field)? In addition, they have three managers B16 positions....It is crazy. I cannot think of any other agency who has three directors in their HR operation.

I am no fan of Whitmire, but how can we justify spending this much money on salaries? No wonder he is coming after us. If the other departments are constructed like HR we are in big trouble. We need a top to bottom review...quickly! Conservator, you have done many good things, but we need more, if we are going to survive.

Anonymous said...

Tell it like it is Red Neck, I couldn't have said it better myself. Anyone that ever tried to deal this way was ran off from TYC for not being treatment minded enough to work with the children. Personally, I think the good Sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona has the right idea, and it would work wonders with juvenile delinquents.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that when the state and mainstream media want to inflame passions it refers to all minors as children, regardless of age. But once they hit the criminal justice system they suddenly become "youths", "offenders", or "inmates"? Rarely are the child prisoners of TYC described as children.

Anonymous said...

State environmental agency

state agency with 2,900 employees and a $566 million budget

The new hire can expect a salary of about $145,000

Anonymous said...

Abolishing TYC for local facilities is a recipe for disaster. The rural counties - under 30,000 population - are not set up for this. Furthermore, these tend to be ultraconservative areas which will happily lock up kids for truancy and throw away the key. Talk about unequal justice across the state...

The "fix" for TYC is nothing as simple as locking the door.

Anonymous said...

11:42 pm.

Come on... you seem to imply being treatment minded equates to out of control. That simpy isn't the case.

Using fear and intimidation to control youth does create long term discipline problems not to mention it is counterproductive to treatment.

Creating a safe environment however, is essential for treatment.

Anonymous said...

Heck Redneck,

Why don't we just line em up and shoot them! After all, gosh darn it, this is Texas, after all.

Tejas that is, land of the "friendly" people.

Anonymous said...


I don't see anything about fear and intimidation being said from 11:42. If you ask the inmates in Maricopa County if Sheriff Joe's program provides treatment, the majority will say yes. It also provides a deterrent to future legal problems because they don't want to go back. With all the privileges that TYC gives the "children", it is a wonder that they ever want to leave the place. Please don't imply that 11:42 implied that treatment equates to out of control, but if treatment is what is being done at TYC at the present time, then it does equate to out of control for the majority of the facilities. I am a firm believer in treatment, in a controlled environment, with a touch of deterence, this especially works well for younger juveniles, but the 16-19 year olds need a little more control and a dose of reality because if they don't get the message now, they will be in TDCJ where they will see the real fear and intimidation, and NO treatment, which equates to a lost cause in helping the person, which equates to the TDCJ revolving door of incarceration.

Debby said...

I think we've gotten a little off track from the original post. The issue at this point is, should the state of Texas privatize TYC at a local level. We've been privatizing various service portions of state government since 1996. Someone would have to oversee these private contracts and a portion of that money will, more than likely go to Community-Based or Faith-Based Organizations. Many of these organizations are wonderful, caring, dedicated people who only want to do good. But having been in this business for a long time, I can assure you that these same organizations will get very little training, support and oversight from many of the overworked state agencies that hold that responsibility. These ideas have a place in the discussion but the only way this works is with a significant investment on the part of everyone involved....just this Old Hippie's thought.

Anonymous said...

4/13/08-8:51 PM

You were right, below is today's announcement. Again, Wood is lying, she states that the "changes have resulted in the elimination of three management level positions."

Not really, what happened here is that she upgraded two B16 positions to B17. Now TYC is paying more money for the same people. We have closed three facilities since August and yet we keep getting more top heavy. Also instead cleaning her own mess she shipped Matthew Levitt to Research.

So please stop trying to insult us. We know what you are doing "nothing." We still losing people at alarming rates and you don't know how to stop it. You can't even keep your own people to begin with, just last week you lost the leave and accounting person. What a mess you have made!!!

Wood your announcement is full of big words and that is it. HR service is the worst that I seen in my years in TYC. So give me a break.

We would like to announce recent organizational changes that have taken place in the Human Resources Division. These changes have resulted in the elimination of three management level positions and consolidation of the workload of multi-operational groups to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Royce Myers, Director of Employment and Employee Services – Royce is responsible for all aspects of recruitment, selection, hiring, criminal history checks, new employee orientation, benefit administration and leave accounting, employee classification and salary administration, and maintenance of employee records. Royce is also responsible for the oversight and processing of all Personnel Action Request documents for new hires, separations, and leaves of absence. This realignment of functions provides oversight of all actions required to bring new employees into the agency and support their pay and benefits throughout their tenure of employment.

Royce has been with TYC Human Resources since November 2005. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. Royce has more than 20 years of Human Resources experience at Motorola in the areas of employment and staff development before joining TYC.

William Humphrey, Director of Employee Relations and HR Field Operations – William is responsible for Employee Relations to include the administration of employee programs, grievance, discipline, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints and investigations. William is also responsible for HR Field Operations which includes the supervision of two Regional Managers, ten Human Resources Administrators, and all HR functions at TYC facilities and halfway houses. William’s focus will be to enhance customer service for all staff, ensure fairness and consistency in the grievance and disciplinary processes, and standardize all HR processes at the facilities. This emphasis and oversight should result in a higher level of employee service, satisfaction, and ultimately result in increased retention among agency staff.

William joined TYC in September 2007. He has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Corrections from Sam Houston State University and more than 30 years of service with the State of Texas. William has 24 years of Human Resources experience during which he worked as a field Human Resources Administrator, Regional HR Manager, Employee Relations expert and certified Mediator.

Please join me in congratulating both Royce and William on their new assignments. Our focus is to serve you, our most valuable resource!



Mary Wood

Human Resources Director

Texas Youth Commission

(512) 459-2574 Office

(512) 853-0916 Cell

Anonymous said...

8:30, I read that crap from HR, and I think that I vomitted a little bit in my mouth.

Anonymous said...

if you think kids in tyc have privileges you are very mistaken.

Anonymous said...

It really is not that complicated. If you paid the people who work in the field a reasonable wage (all positions according to market value) you would have a much more efficient productive and rehabilitative environment. staffing shortages plague the agency because everyone is underpaid. you cannot do treatment well when everyone is just trying to make sure the minimum requirements get taken care of because of shortages of staff.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly the privileges that they have. Many have better privileges, better things to do, and better resources than the average middle class kid that stays out of trouble. These include organized recreational activities, weight rooms, TVs, games, including video games, pool tables, etc. Most facilities have these items, so I am not mistaken.

Anonymous said...


I "inferred" that he was implying because of the apparent support of Redneck's statement.

I also believe you maybe rationalizing... "with a touch of deterrence." How do you mean??? Foot on back of neck or foot firmly planted in ass?

Also, I have never been in favor of the so called "privileges" and do not believe they contribute to treatment. This is largely because they are never implemented properly and are too often arbitrarily taken away.

Debby, pardon me, but your wonderful caring people would get manipulated and eaten alive by many of the youth in TYC.

Anonymous said...

10:25 my vote is with you. These kids do have alot of privileges and they also are now telling us what we can do and can not do. They tell us daily what we can not do. The kids are running the show at CRTC. They know there is no consequences for their actions.

Anonymous said...

5:33 privileges has little to do with why a kid stays in TYC.

Many kids stay because they have "3 hots and a cot" which is more than they get at home. Also, as chaotic as TYC many are safer "locked up" then they would be on the streets where some run a far more significant chance of ending up dead.

Then there are those who, for whatever reason, find status and reputation (equating to a sense of control and power) while at TYC and run the risk of becoming a little fish in the big pond, rather than the big fish in a little pond.

Privileges, please many of these youth have been raising themselves for years...they could give a rats ass about privileges.

Anonymous said...

The corrections mentality began to be instilled in TYC with our "get tough" governor who had aspirations on higher office. (Where he "got tough" on the Iraqis). Considering the number of people who have been employed by TYC in the past 12 years, it is not surprising to hear the complaints posted here about the coddling of kids. None of these bozos understand that rule by intimidation only drives the behavior underground and reinforces the already distorted values system of kids who believe that power is everything.

Anonymous said...

The truth is most of the youth can stomach discipline/consequences (even when they whine are cry about it) when given by a staff who is genuinely concerned about his/her best interests.

They can tell when someone is just faking it, a control freak, or takes the easy way (staff who fail to confront) out. These staff use the system to his or her advantage against the youth in their care.

They know the staff who make a difference better than any of us do!

Anonymous said...

Changes Inside TYC Don't Bode Well For Smith County

the state is talking about transferring supervision of parolees from TYC to the counties
Unfunded mandates will only increase, he warned, and the demands on the county budget will expand
In 1998, the cost of detention operations was about $55 per day, per juvenile, Downing reported. By 2007, it had jumped to $190 per day, per juvenile
"This could be monumental ... in terms of manpower, facility and budget," he said.
From his experience, Downing added, there's little use in appealing to the TYC or TJPC boards.

Debby said...

As it would happen, I've been working with ex-offenders in one way or the other for about 28 years, the last 10 or so in oversight of the RIO program (which has it's on issues) and TYC kids are RIO-eligible. It's amazing what some non-profits can do with some of these kids. But, as with anything else, you don't put your hardest core kid with any organization that isn't equipt to handle that situation. It's just not reasonable thinking to assume that Community-Based/Faith-Based organizations have no place in the solution. They can be an important piece of the puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong Debby, I think those programs have their place but they don't usually get farmed out the high restriction or youth with chronic behavioral problems.

Getting rid of TYC and going to straight contract programs would be a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Just heard that TYC awarded a contract to Cornell Corrections to run a progam in San Antonio for the younger kids. Has anyone else heard anything about this?

Anonymous said...

I did hear that they were about to do this but this is for the 10-13 year olds. We will still be housing the 14-15 year olds. I am hoping this will be watched better than Littlefield

Anonymous said...

I have worked for TYC for 15 years. Ten years in other faith-based and private organizations. I think Debby has the right idea. She is not the naive one. The problem is the Texas legislature is afraid to put its money where its mouth is. TYC has always been its worst enemy. The reforms have led to more waste and stupidity. The legislature will not have to sunset TYC. It will implode on itself. Unless Nedelkoff can walk on water, this agency is doomed.

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like the focus is finally taken off where the real problem is: there are still people in very influential places that have no business being in them--there are still Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Regionals and Program Specialist that need to be replaced--until that happens, there is no way that issues can even begin to be addressed. Let's make some changes on the local levels.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to TYC there are several areas that need to be focused on. Years of bad management have so woven its way into to TYC it can never be rooted out. On another note I see the 10-13 year olds are being contracted out. There is only one age group to go for complete contract care. Face it, there are two things about to happen; $4 a gallon gas and TYC gutted or completely closed down. TYC plods down the road to ruin like a lumbering old dinosaur that is having trouble finding a tar pit to tumble into.

Debby said...

I'm afraid that it isn't just TYC, TDCJ has huge problems of their own. HHSC is experiencing a major meltdown. I'm not sure the Tx. legislature could deal with this if they had all the time in the world and all the money they needed. So, we're going to have to take this one community at a time, one bite at a time. If we can't do that, then we'll all loose.

Anonymous said...

Hey 4/15/2008 10:36.

I loved that line about the
"lumbering old dinosaur that is having trouble finding a tar pit."

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see if TYC can come up with some contracts in Harris, Tarrant, Bexar and Dallas counties, given the track record the state has with contractors, and given the money the state is not willing to pay.