Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More on Whitmire's TYC plans

Following up on this discussion of Sen. John Whitmire's idea for downsizing the Texas Youth Commission and shifting more responsibility to counties, an aide to Sen. Whitmire forwarded me a copy of this written testimony (pdf) from our pal Marc Levin with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The accompanying email declares "it is along the same lines as [the senator's] thoughts on additional reformation of TYC and the strengthening of resources for the juvenile probation system." Those interested in where the Senator wants to take the agency should be sure to give it a read.


Anonymous said...

I like the plan in that it takes out non-violent offenders out of TYC where they might often become violent to save themselves from those around them. That takes care of that problem. I like the idea that violent offenders who rehabilitate can enter a step down facility. Great. I like the idea of getting freaking 14 year olds(???) out of TDCJ. That is truely crazy and placing them in TYC.

However, what concerns me is that TYC looks like it's going to be inbetween TDCJ who'll send their youthful offenders down, and TJPC who will send their trouble making non-violent offenders up. This report doesn't tell me who'll be holding the keys to the TYC door? Like the idea but what about this? TYC has it's hands full of trouble makers who aren't necessairly violent, but probation sure as heck didn't want them. This plan says they should be back in their community. Well, a lot of these kids like what I'm describing here (non-violent trouble makers) came from probation residential placements who just kicked them out after a few months of seeing how they act, and sent them to us? So, who is the gate keeper?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and also, do you think the certified as adult youth may have the same incentives that we offer our sentenced offenders, such as they can avoid prison if the demonstrate that they've been rehabilitated? If not, then I can see kids who are sentenced who have nothing to loose, and well, that brings forth a whole new set of problems.

Anonymous said...

Marc has been a friend of mine for a number of years; however, since he has never worked in a correctional system, I am always uncertain that his ideas have any pragmatic basis. These proposals are rather lacking in any detail. They kind of remind me that we need to be in favor of truth, justice, and the American way without understanding the relationship among truth, justice, and the American way. The devil is always in the detail.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

I especially like the part about moving all the younger TDCJ inmates to TYC facilities. Staff and youth will be preyed on like vultures fighting for road kill. Sounds like a real genius came up with this idea. Most if not all of the younger inmates in TDCJ were sent their from TYC for committing new crimes in TYC or they were sentenced offenders that wouldn't follow TYC rules. Can't wait to see how this works out. Heaven forbid, but if this goes off as written, TYC may have its first JCO murdered in the line of duty. Remember, TDCJ can use deadly force if the situation justifies it, in TYC you can't use force without losing your job.

Anonymous said...

Stop the waste, stop the fraud and graft, stop the drugs inside the gate, stop the abuse (of both staff and youth), stop the madness! Flush the commode and start again. Old pappy used to say, pay me now or pay me (much more)later.

Anonymous said...

Did I read this correct? TDCJ’s population went up 300% after they were merged with the adult probation department?

Anonymous said...

I think it is absolutely crazy to send 14-15 year olds straight to TDCJ. That said, I agree with the poster who worries about what incentives these kids would have to behave while in TYC. I much prefer the determinate sentencing for juveniles that gives youths a chance in the youth system, with the option to send them back to the judge if they don't behave.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of the younger TDCJ offenders coming to TYC. Obviously, youth who were transferred to TDCJ from TYC would not be eligible. TDCJ would still have to have a very small unit for those who would not make it. Either that or TYC would need to have an AMP style unit for those youth who cannot function with other TYC youth. I am disappointed that Mr. Levin did not address the need to raise the age of commitment to 20 or 21 for sentenced offenders.

Howard, you don't have to have direct experience to look at what policy's seem to work at other places and provide a general framework to implement them in TYC. Obviously he is not suggesting detailed practices, policies, or procedures, he is simply identifying strategies which should be considered...

Anonymous said...

Hey Henson,

This is good stuff to debate and thanks for bringing it forth.

Boy, now that's a change.

Lets try to keep this string on the pros and cons of what they're talking about on a professional level and leave out this negative attack against current and former employees.

Please moderate as this is significant for those of us who have been in the profession for many years. I'd really hope you'd moderate this string for professional discussion only so we can debate this plan. I actually think their on to something good here, and I'd like to banter peacefully with those who have been through such a massive overhaul before, and those who can professionally express themselves.

This plan is not a "flush" of TYC, but rather a purposing of TYC differently. So let's stay focused on the entire juvenile justice system, the laws that effect it, and reforming it.

From what I read in this report, it wasn't just TYC that needed "reform," it was the whole damn juvenile justice system in Texas.

And Grits, thanks for being there and reporting it.

I think the person posting first is thinking out loud in a fair way so someone should address that, and post #2 is asking a very good question as well. Let's talk folks...

Anonymous said...

If you remember back in our discovery of "Grits For Breakfast," many of us argued that the counties where lacking funds to take care of their own, and urged the state to address the issue. If GFB has achieves, he can pull these comments back, as they occurred in March 2007 - I think. Somewhere around that time frame.

Then, we (commentors on this blog) said TYC should only be considered for the most violent offenders, and that youthful offenders who have committed minor, but often repeated offenses should be managed locally within their own community. This would lower our populations to serve society's maladaptives in an effort focus our purpose.

Give the money back to the counties. OK, let's plan.

That's what's going on now.

But those of you who remember back then:

Henson gave himself up as a graffiti artist as a kid. There ain't no telling what else he's done that he ain't admitting to, but hey, he's got our attention and there's lots of ads telling me how to think on his site. Who would have thought his delinquency would have captivated this audience? Therefore, there is hope...:)

Anonymous said...

DOJ Report: Adult System No Deterrent to Juvenile Recidivism

State laws that require juvenile offenders to be tried in the adult criminal justice system exert little or no effect on juvenile crime rates, according to a Justice Department report.

WASHINGTON — State laws that require juvenile offenders to be tried in the adult criminal justice system exert little or no effect on juvenile crime rates, according to a Justice Department report.

Compiled by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the report also states that transferring juveniles to the adult system substantially increases recidivism among juveniles.

In recent years, in an effort to strengthen sanctions for serious juvenile crimes, many states enacted laws expanding the types of offense and offender eligible for transfer from the juvenile justice system to adult criminal courts.

Seeking to deter juvenile crime and reduce the rate of recidivism, lawmakers in states throughout the country lowered the minimum transfer age and increased the number of eligible offenses, according to the OJJDP. At the same time, states moved to circumscribe judicial discretion and expand prosecutorial discretion in relation to juvenile transfers.

The policy shift toward juvenile offender transfer is based on the assumption that more punitive, adult criminal sanctions will act as a deterrent to non-prosocial behavior and juvenile crime and recidivism, experts say.

However, laws that broaden the scope of eligibility for juvenile transfer and ease and expand the practice do not prevent or deter juveniles from engaging or re-engaging in criminal behavior, according to the report.

Conducted by Chapman University law professor Richard Redding, the report titled “Juvenile Transfer Laws: An Effective Deterrent to Delinquency?” provides an overview of research examining the deterrent effects of juvenile transfers. Redding analyzed the data and findings of large-scale, comprehensive OJJDP-funded research studies on the effect of transfer laws on recidivism spanning more than a decade.

In terms of recidivism and specific deterrence, six of the studies analyzed found higher recidivism and rearrest rates for juveniles convicted of violent offenses in adult criminal court than for similar offenders tried in juvenile courts.

The picture is less clear with respect to the general deterrent effect of transfer laws on potential or at-risk juvenile offenders. Although the studies analyzed by Redding produced somewhat conflicting findings, the “bulk of the empirical evidence suggests transfer laws have little or no general deterrent effect,” according to the report.

Higher recidivism rates are due to a number of factors, including the stigmatization often felt by the juvenile offender at being labeled a convicted felon and the “sense of resentment and injustice” often associated with being tried as an adult, according to the report.

Juvenile offenders also learn non-prosocial thinking and decision-making patterns and criminal behaviors while incarcerated with adult offenders. Juvenile offenders have less access to rehabilitation programming and family support in the adult system, and they experience decreased employment and reintegration opportunities due to a felony conviction, according to the report.

There are three types of transfer laws — legislative (automatic transfer), judicial-discretionary (judicial transfer), and prosecutorial-discretionary (prosecutorial direct-file) — and the majority of states have at least two types of coexisting transfer laws in effect, according to the report.

With prosecutorial statutes often applicable only to older and more serious offenders, 40 states and the District of Columbia have judicial and prosecutorial transfer statutes as of 2003. In addition, 25 states had reverse waiver laws in place, in which the adult criminal court judge has the discretion to transfer the defendant back to juvenile court or to treat the defendant as a juvenile for sentencing purposes.

As of 2006, 29 states had automatic transfer laws that require the transfer of a juvenile if statutory criteria are met. The District of Columbia and 45 states had judicial transfer laws, which vest the juvenile court judge with the discretion to decide juvenile transfer after the prosecution files a transfer motion.

Prosecutorial direct-file laws, which give prosecutors the discretion to file charges in juvenile or adult criminal court, were in effect in 14 states and the District of Columbia, as of 2006.

Anonymous said...

"TYC lockups should be prioritized for closure based on their
recidivism rate"

The juggling of youth throughout the system makes this impossible. Just because a youth is released from a location does not mean he spent most of his stay there.

Anonymous said...

Move TYC facilities to Houston?
Check this article out:

You don't want to know what we do after dark": on the streets of Southwest Houston, violent gangs are out of control, dealing drugs, robbing businesses, and protecting their turf at all costs. For one longtime member, each day comes down to two simple questions: will I have to kill? Will I be killed?

Publication: Texas Monthly

Publication Date: 01-DEC-06

Author: Hollandsworth

Anonymous said...


You are correct that you do not have to have experience to suggest stategies, just look at how well Wall Street is working, just do not expect me to pay much attention. Bromides are not very helpful. The problem is well beyond generalities from people who do not have the experience or the education on the subject matter. The TDCJ reformers proved that point.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

I want to know is why is the gov't wanting to remove these kids who are in TDCJ to TYC when it's been proven in court that they belong in TDCJ?? I want to also know what about these kids that rob a mom & pop 7/11 store on the corner at gun point, and only get a slap on the wrist by being sent to TYC. If you do a violent crime such as that you need to be locked away for life, I don't care what the age is.

Anonymous said...

Given the history of Eagle Lake, I worry about what will happen when they start getting kids. If the past is any indication, they will keep the OIG plenty busy!

Anonymous said...

Very good point 9:18 a.m.:

"Juvenile offenders also learn non-prosocial thinking and decision-making patterns and criminal behaviors while incarcerated with adult offenders. Juvenile offenders have less access to rehabilitation programming and family support in the adult system, and they experience decreased employment and reintegration opportunities due to a felony conviction, according to the report."

Keep it coming please...

Anonymous said...

Ericka, it's because these are kids who have committed crimes at a very young age. It was discussed (on grits)that these kids don't have the ability to really consider the consequences of their actions given their psychosocial development that is both biologically and socially driven.

Kids certified as adults at age 14 to 17 really lack the ability to weigh the costs and benefits of delinquency, and sometimes they carry out their thinking errors much more extremely because rank is power, as is recognition, and it's often gang driven. They feel powerless at home given their circumstances. Parents may have substance abuse histories. Some parents are incarcerated, sometimes both. Some of these kids have a need to eat food.

Regarding the delinquents I knew in the county I came from, a certain percentage of drug sales went to supporting families that could not obtain employment because either the mother or father was convicted of a felony. Sometimes both. The only housing available and were accepted in were located at or near the projects.

That's what happened in my big city, and it looks no different anywhere else. I've looked at this issue for 22 years now, and it's bad. It has been an issue for many years now.

We need to fund these counties and offer services to both parents and the juvenile delinquents. But more importantly, we need to fund prevention programs much more than now. If the public wants to effect the juvenile delinquency problem in Texas and have a lower cost-per-day for incarcerated juveniles, then fund prevention and keep these kids at home with functional families and a functional agency supporting them. A functioning economy helps, so let's get that problem solved as well.

Anonymous said...

Yes Howard, the TDCJ regime proved that they knew nothing about juvenile justice and flatly ignored best practices, nonetheless laws, court orders, common sense, etc. It seems Mr. Levine has taken a more reasonable approach with quite a bit of research and basis to support his opinions. I see his ideas as very pragmatic, heck he even includes numbers of youth in TDCJ. Does he have the knowledge to implement his ideas within current systems, i don't know, probably not. Are all aspects of his ideas realistic for Texas right now? Probably not. Certainly all of these are issues which should be considered for the next legislative ANy thoughts on his ideas as opposed to your opinion of his experience? He certainly has the ear of people who matter. What to do you think?

As far as more coordinated efforts between TYC and the TJPC. Sounds good to me! Why not?

As far as having more facilities which are less restrictive than the large institutions, which can serve as group homes or step down facilities, sounds great! Why not?

As far as youth who are transferred to adult court, nothing has really been proven about them. The reasons behind why a youth gets certified as an adult are generally more the result of characteristics of counties, judges, lawyers, and attorneys, as opposed to characteristics of the youth themselves.

Anonymous said...


My concern is that we are talking about pretty broad concepts such as "more coordinated efforts between TYC and the TJPC" and "having more facilities which are less restrictive than the large institutions" Just what exactly are we talking about. It is like saying we need to provide the youth "better education" Nebulous concepts sound great but what are we really talking about? Why do we not discuss what would be the perfect system where we do not have to worry about money or political realities. It would be just as productive. Marc's ideas fall way short in that regard. Do you have any idea as to what is Marc's ideas for treatment programs? Do you see anything in them that resembles a Resocialization program? We know he likes vocational education but many youth in TYC have the capacity to do much more educationally and should not have their horizons limited to vocational trade instruction.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Maybe the state should just fix TYC (programs, implementation, and follow through) instead of worrying about the population of TYC. The numbers are not unmanageable.

Anonymous said...

Howard, The average IQ of youth in TYC is in the 80's. The vast majority of these youth (even those with higher IQ's) are far below grade level. Yet, most of them do well in vocational ed classes. As for the few really smart ones, what is wrong with a smart kid getting a good vocational trades education? Have you checked out what a master plumber makes? A smart kid with good trades skills and good motivation can be the owner of a profitable business. What is wrong with that?

I say, let's concentrate on vocational education. Old Salty

Anonymous said...

Old Salty,

I have nothing against vocational education, but I believe that we are obligated to provide appropriate education for those youth who can benefit from it. Marc is inclined to use only education that is vocational in nature. The other problem is that youth who leave TYC may be going to school districts which do not offer much in the way of vocational education and many would not necessrily have the same type of vocational programs so the youth's TYC vocational education may be less than helpful.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Good point, Howard, about the kids returning to districts that do not have good vocational programs. That point needs to be factored in, especially with the younger kids who will be required to go back to school, even if they have a GED. That said, I still think we should put more emphasis on vocational education for the older youths. Of course, the GED is essential for them if we really want them to be employable. Old Salty.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Texas school districts should focus more on vocational education than

Anonymous said...

...or band?

Anonymous said...

Lets be honest, we need a treatment plan.

If CoNEXTions really worked why is the Release Review board having fits trying to figure out who to release for those youth currently involved in this program.

I get weekly e-mails and calls from someone on this board asking me why do I have this youth or that youth on such a high level. I cannot explain to them this is the way the program is set up, don't blame me. We just recently got all the youth back on campus after Ike and we are being told to get these kids out the door. This can be the only reason I see for having this program and it's based upon a lack of clarity and accountability.

Anonymous said...

We got this email from the new ED late Friday afternoon:

"Greetings from Austin! I am excited to be back in Texas and at an agency that faces both a number of challenges, but also many opportunities. I look forward to getting to know those of you that I haven't yet had the chance to meet and to reconnecting with those of you that I had the good fortune to work with during my prior employment with TYC.

Richard Nedelkoff, TYC Conservator, provided you with a summary of my experience when he announced my appointment. It's important for you to know that my experience translates to three areas of focus for me. The first is juvenile justice. The second is bringing the voices of victims to the work that we do in the juvenile justice system. Finally, my experience in juvenile probation helped me to understand that communities expect us to provide specialized treatment to the vast majority of juvenile offenders that are committed to our agency by the courts. That expectation is based on an understanding that this is absolutely necessary to reduce recidivism and to provide troubled youth with the opportunity to turn their lives around and become contributing members of the community.

I am just completing my first full week as your new executive director, but as I’m sure you’re aware, I’ve had to hit the ground running. Last Wednesday at the Joint Oversight Committee on TYC, I told the members that my mission is to transform the agency into a healthy organization that will produce the best results possible through regional service delivery, accountability, and evidence-based programs.

Briefly, here are my top five priorities for the next 60 days:

1. Take care of the basics: youth and staff are safe
2. Develop the initial plan for a regional service delivery system of accountability and evidence-based program models, including the budget and timetable needed for implementation.
3. Identify current resources (people, funding, and capital) and align them with the operational plan.
4. Communication
5. Executive/Leadership Responsibilities

I will expand on these in the days and weeks to come. My expectations of staff are that you give TYC your best work, fulfill the responsibilities of your positions, meet deadlines, be open to learning new things, work collaboratively with individuals within and outside of TYC, act with integrity, be dedicated to our mission, treat others with respect, and conduct yourself in the workplace as the professional that you are.

You can count on me to fully accept the responsibilities of my new position, treat everyone fairly and with respect, tell you the truth, and make the best decisions I can with the information available to me. People who have worked with me in the past will probably tell you I have high expectations of others and that I expect people to work hard. Hopefully, they will also say I’m fair and supportive of employees. I will be a vocal and active advocate for TYC and its mission.

I know the past 20 months have been uncertain. The bottom line, and what you need to know, is that I have a respect for history—and what was working well. I will want to build upon that. If something from the past was solid juvenile corrections practice, but was set aside just because it was part of the past, I may want to dust it off and include it in our foundation for the future. On the other hand, just because I worked for TYC in the past doesn’t mean I will automatically assume everything we used to do is best practice. I know better, and so do you. Our focus will be on providing best juvenile correctional practices throughout our system as well as specialized treatment models that demonstrate that they reduce recidivism.

I’m looking forward to meeting you as I visit all of our facilities and I appreciate your continued commitment to the youth and our mission. To provide an opportunity for you to communicate directly with me to ask questions, to identify problems, or to submit ideas for improvement, a mailbox is being developed for your use in addition to my personal email address. I look forward to hearing from you in that way as well as in person.


Anonymous said...

We are now out of Conservatorship. What a ride that was. Cheri has been named executive commissioner.

Anonymous said...

Is Executive Commissioner a fancy name for Executive Director? Do we get a board?

Anonymous said...

A board of advisors, not directors. Perry will name them soon.