Sunday, January 11, 2009

Levin: Juvie probation grants proposed by Sunset deserve equal attention to merging agencies

As news of more youth on youth sex assaults at the Texas Youth Commission spawns reclassification and segmentation of inmates and more calls to merge the agency with the Juvenile Probation Commission, Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation rightly argues in a Houston Chronicle column ("Consider competition in efforts to reform juvenile justice system," Jan. 10) that the debate over merging agencies has obscured a perhaps more important recommendation from the Sunset Advisory Commission:

Although the consolidation recommendation has attracted the most attention, Sunset's proposed pilot program represents the most fundamental and welcome shift in juvenile justice policy.

The recommended pilot program would allow county probation departments to keep some of the funds that now go to incarcerate that county's youths at TYC. In Ohio and Illinois, this approach has proven to save money and reduce recidivism. Youths benefit from being closer to their families and communities, while taxpayers save because local solutions cost less than TYC. In this scenario, TYC would compete on recidivism and cost with local lockups called post-adjudication facilities run by counties and private operators, as well as non-residential alternatives such as day reporting centers. It would also eliminate the fiscal incentive to unnecessarily refer youths to TYC in order to preserve county funds.

In Ohio, this remittal of funding to counties reduced commitments to state lockups by 36 percent and cut recidivism from 54 to 22 percent. (TYC's recidivism rate is 52 percent.) Under Ohio's Reasoned and Equitable Community and Local Alternative to Incarceration of Minors (RECLAIM) funding system, judges may use the same pool of funds allocated to committing non-violent youth to state lockups for community-based options. The RECLAIM model does not cover youth convicted of the most serious violent offenses. These are actually the youths with whom TYC is best equipped and most effective to deal through its Capital Offenders Program. Ohio's success with pooling funds is not unique. A similar pilot program in Illinois called REDEPLOY reduced youths sent to state lockups by 44 percent and saved $11 million over two years.

The savings in Texas from this pilot program could be much greater. The Sunset Commission identified three TYC facilities that should be closed, each of which holds fewer than 100 youths. Shutting these units down would save taxpayers $25.4 million per year. Texas already has 32 post-adjudication facilities at the county level, costing $90 a day per youth compared to TYC's $153 per youth. In the major urban counties that account for 80 percent of TYC commitments, post-adjudication facilities could compete with TYC to attract placements.

Transparency and performance measures are critical to effective competition. Armed with information including recidivism benchmarks on each TYC and local facility, judges would be empowered to choose the best option based on outcome data for similarly situated youths.

With this pilot program, counties will be incentivized to carefully evaluate youths currently being sent to post-adjudication facilities to identify those that would be appropriate for day reporting centers. Over time, high-performing local facilities may expand to meet demand if TYC continues to produce poor results.

Levin is letting the horse back in front of the cart by emphasizing building up local capacity first, since that's really a prerequisite to downsizing TYC - or whatever you call state-run youth prisons - in the long term. Merger may or may not be a good idea, but downsizing capacity without financing upgrades for locals to manage problem kids is a recipe for internecine rebellion by a variety of local systemic actors - most prominently judges, juvenile probation directors and county commissioners courts.

I don't agree with Marc that this strategy will save money in the short term and I think it's a mistake to sell the idea on cost arguments, particularly at a time when special education in youth prisons, mental health treatment and a suggested, renewed focus on re-entry/anti-recidivism programs all will require greater investment, not less.

Overall, though, I think Levin and the Sunset Commission are onto something with the pilot grant program idea for juvie probation departments. The notion is similar to the grants in the adult system that have re-invigorated probation and reduced the number of incoming prisoners. If the idea works the way they hope, it has the potential for achieving in the long term - further depopulating youth prisons - what in the short term risks creating confusion, unfunded mandates, and an unnecessary backlash.


Anonymous said...

I would say this would work but at the same time would state TYC and the state of Texas is currently not allowing the non-violent youth in their doorways now.
The youth TYC (2200) currently have in institutions would be unable to be in a least restrictive environment based upon their crime and if they were the judge or politician allowing this would be out of office when this youth committed another heinous crime.

Anonymous said...

There is a cost argument to be made, but it's not quite as immediate as the one he's making here.

The long-term cost argument that should be at the heart of any reform initiative should be based on lowering offense and recidivism rates, and doing so without the massive carceral infrastructure that TYC currently operates.

Also, I'd like to see "cost" understood as both a fiscal and a social concept. The social cost of failure has been quite high.


Anonymous said...

Marc's comment "The recommended pilot program would allow county probation departments to 'keep' some of the funds that now go to incarcerate that county's youths at TYC" demonstrates his lack of understanding on how the current system works. Counties do not pay TYC anything. His claim on counties being cheaper ignores the degree of and type of care as well as the fact counties do not pay for education as factors in his calculations. Marc's main problem is that he takes a pseudo-economic approach to juvenile justice and does not understand the pragmatics since he has never worked for or in a juvenile justice agency, which also seems to be the Sunset Commission's problem.

Howard A. Hickman

Anonymous said...

Bring it on! I ain't skeeert. For the immediate session though, I suggest the following steps:

1) Abolish TYC Parole and contract parole and give to counties with a daily per diem);

2) Further restrict the number of offenses for which a kid can be committed to TYC;

3) Put a population cap on TYC;

4) Provide money to rural counties so they can place kids in county residential programs, for profits, non-profits, etc. (this goes back to the $90 per day vs the $153 per day.)

5) Sit back and see the effect of these proposals two years from now.

I provide the proposals for free.


Anonymous said...

TYC Parole simply does not work. Give it to the counties. FIRE more superintendents. This policy of placing sex offenders with non sex offenders has been ignored by the EX Dir and superntendents. They just alow it to go on and on. Fire these managers and get some that can stop the sex abuse!

Anonymous said...

The individuals placed in charge of reforming the juvenile system in Texas simply do not understand it and that is the major problem right now. Mr. Hickman is right. You can't fix what you don't understand-that's just plain old common sense. I'm so frustrated that I can't even talk. The Sunset Committee reported that te treatment programs at TYC were failures. WHAT TREATMENT PROGRAMS? The agency is just starting to attempt to implement the new silly Connextions program and I don't believe they've implemented the Sex Offender treatment programs at all. How much money was wasted on all of that? People who do not unerstand the system went in and ripped the agency apart, implementing rules and changes based on faulty information. How could anyone think it prudent to evaluate TYC so soon. Look at how many different chiefs have been in the kitchen, the multiple management changes. What a waste of money! There is no discipline and without it the kids and the staff are going to get hurt more often. Discipline is not abuse, just the opposite-It is created a safer more stable environment wo therapy and treatment cn take place. You can't do away with TYC. Remember that many of these children are extremely violent, dangerous, and mentally disturbed. Do you want your money to be spent on keeping them at home. Do you think they're parents are going to see to it that they stay out of trouble? If you believe that, you are naive. The majority of my caseloads parents don't even call. We spend a great deal of time trying to find working numbers to call. They are often engaged in criminal activity with their child and make excuss for ther behavior. I've had parents hang up on me, not wanting to speak to their child,I've had parents show p drunk. Dear old Dads that showed pornagraphic movies and material to their children an got them girls to be with. Mamas and daddy's that have sex with their children and who watch while their children do eachother. Sure ai had some nice parents, but they were few and far between. TYC cannot perform miracles on these children in the short amount of time we have them. All we can do is do the best we can while they are with us. We can create more parenting classes but are we going to make them change overnight, after engaging in the same behaviors forever. Let's be reasonable and spend the money on the agency and the system wisely. We can give them the opportunities but at some point they must assume responsibilty for their actions.
Spend some money on staff morale, it's at an all time low. Stop making threats and firing so many people. That causes stress, which sends people out of FMLA , more sick leave used and many peole unwilling to do anyhing extra. A healthy work place is less costly. Encourage teamship, and offer support. Treat people like humans. Don't spend money on radios that are never used that cost 1500 dollas a piece. Consult with old staff aand with people experienced in juvenile corrections. That is working smarter.

Anonymous said...

It might be a good idea not to pu two kids togethor alone in a room. Asine management are beig hired and they are making asine decisions. There is no excuse for a sprntnd. to make gross grammatical errors, or to talk about getting her Sha Na Na on in a management meeting. There is also no excuse to treat other human being the way those new folks do. Who likes to walk around feeling like they have their neck in a noose all of the time. Staff are threatened with disciplinary for even mentioning an idea that worked well at their other facility or expressing an opinion or thought at all.

Anonymous said...

There are many fundamental flaws in the pilot program.
First there are many counties out there that have for years worked very hard at keeping kids out of TYC other than the aggravated cases. All of that was done with COUNTY funds prior to the SB 103 TYC diversionary funds were available. Many other counties have developed fantastic diversionary programs after SB 103 with some of the state funds available and suplementing it with COUNTY funds. If the counties are to be made to handle more TYC eligible kids then the funding must be made available to the COUNTY juvenile probation department. The county departments are already bailing out TYC in a sense by not sending kids to them, it is now time for a influx of funds from the state for more programs. I think Sunset is accurate in abolishing buty TYC and TJPC, creating a new mega department, but funding needs to be there and no current TYC or TJPC administrative staff should remain.

Anonymous said...

I am so disheartened. I also agree, combine the two agencies, but start fresh and get rid of the old/and current administrators and the austin idiots. How after two years can there be sex offenders in the same rooms with non sex offenders? Even non criminal justice people know better than that. TYC sets youth up to hurt others and make youth fail. Time for drastic changes.

Anonymous said...

Also at issue in the juvenile justice field is the influx of kids with mental health disorders. Our mental health services are tragically low in Texas compared to other states. Pour money to preventative mental health services and watch the rate of referrals decline proportionately.

Anonymous said...

Mental health in probation may work, in TYC it is a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

TJPC and TYC both need either revamping or go away. Administration at both is so far out of touch with the real world. They need to work in the facilities awhile just to see how their stupid rules affect the officers dealing with the kids every minute of the day. I can instill more discipline on my own kids at home that have not committed a criminal act than I can on a kid in detention. The TJPC idiots need to come work in a detention center and see if their new rules can work.

Anonymous said...

The more I learn about TJPC, the more I feel it too should be abolished. This agency is as bad as TYC, if not worse. How can combining two buckets of manure do away with the stength attached to both buckets?

Anonymous said...

Two questions: If one sex offender assaults another sex offender, is it okay 'cuz he got what he deserved?
What if the incarcerted victim's only crime was messing with his younger girlfriend (and, please remember, if she had turned up pregnant, the judge could have just as easily let them get married if she was 14). According to the news reports, at least one alleged perpetrator had no history of sexual assault.

Anonymous said...

Fire the Superintendents? Hadn't this already been done under Kimbrough. What's you have left is a result of Kimbrough's unjustified wrath, which is a bunch of incompetents running the facilities. Kimbrough should be held accountable for the sex offenders being bunked with non-sex offenders. When will people wake up and see that the Governor and his cronies are the ones that need to be brought before a grand jury for corruption and official oppression?

Anonymous said...

Sex offenders have been housed with general population for years...this is not new! The cases of sexual assault, youth on youth, are not always with "sex offenders."

Reality is there was a lapse of supervision... Now was this due to poor staffing, poor training, or poor judgment by staff.

Ex of poor judgment... at the now defunct Hamilton State School a staff took 5-7 youth and put them all in a cell together resulting in physical and sexual assault of two youth. This staff unfortunately thought this was OK (ex TDCJ employee) and did standard cell checks (10 minutes
)...but problem was the cell was now a dorm. The youth involved were tried and convicted the staff disciplined (can't recall if he was fired.) The other part of the story is that the staff was following instructions by an administrator to clear cells so students who had been "lashed" with a belt could be interviewed by a central office lawyer who was representing TYC during the employee termination hearings. The staff was not instructed to place them all in a cell...he utilized poor judgment.

"Sex offender" is a very broad label and not all sex offender's are created equal (I do realize that it hits a "personal" cord for many people) Example, I remember there was a student who was sent to TYC for indecent exposure because he mooned the mayor of his small town during a public function.

People hear the term sex offender and become all worked up. Many have done horrific things... such as pimping girlfriends for drugs to true pedophile behavior but there are a few that the label is questionable. Ex. 12 year old hispanic male has sex with 12 year old white girl. Probation documents (common application etc...) indicate the girl initiated contact (sure sign she had been abused prior to this incident) yet the boy is the one who is committed to TYC for sexual assault and is now labeled a sex offender.

I can just imagine segregating youth based on their crime...sounds like a civil rights violation to me. In other words, there may have been a valid concern about segregating them purely on an offense.

Also, the commitment "label" is not true indicator of a students behavior. Many of the worst students I have worked with were committed for "general" offenses.

Anonymous said...

824: You state sex offenders have been with non sex offenders for years; and indiicated thats OK? Why has all the problems not brought change priot to this? YOU feel its OK for this to happen? I hope you are not an administrator, even though most of them are dumb also. Keep placing sex offendeers with non sex offenders and perhaps it wil all just clear up?

Anonymous said...

It's 8: 42 and no, sexual assault is not OK but the concern that sex offenders are housed with non-sex offenders is a "non" issue. It is an issue of appropriate and adequate supervision. TYC students can show predatory behavior regardless of offense.

It is obviously a personal issue for you and one you are not prepared to be rational about.

Next you know, we will housing gang kids with only gang kids...lets separate them by set and affiliations. Let's separate the murderer's from the general offenders... white kids from black kids, hispanics from non-hispanics... this can go on for ever and is not practical or bottom line it is not fiscally responsible.

Every youth deserves to be in a safe secure environment regardless of offense, race, color, or creed... and this is provided by well trained experienced staff with adequate staffing. Not by people who spout histrionics about "sex offenders."

Anonymous said...

8:54 p.m.

I go one better... I would say that sex offenders are less likely to engage in predatory behavior when housed with other students who are not sex offenders because they (non-sex offenders) are quick to confront in appropriate sexual behavior.

Or... many sex offenders are safer away from regular population kids because "sex offenses" are considered to be about the worse thing a person can do and sex offenders are more likely to be physically assaulted. I have confronted and held accountable non-sex offenders attempts to get sexual favors (oral sex) from a sex offender kid because they must be "gay." After all having a male sex offender perform oral sex on you doesn't make the non-sex offender gay... (by the way I am being sarcastic.)

Guess, 8:54, what I am saying is that you have little to no idea what "correction" populations are like....

Anonymous said...

HOw did this turn into sex ofender 101?
This post was about the funding of the new department that will hopefully occur tomorrow.
Sunset needs to follow thru, disband both TJPC and TYC, create the new department with NEW adminid=strators and FUND IT appropriately. End of story.

Anonymous said...

so what is the problem with the system???? Too many kids going to TYC? The way TYC is run? Someone needs to answer that question before they start throwing out these so called solutions.

I thought the problem was how TYC was functioning with the sex assaults by staff on TYC youth, the recidivism of TYC youth when released, etc.

Somehow things have flipped and instead of fixing TYC let us focus on how we can prevent kids from being committed to TYC.

Believe it or not there are kids that need to be in TYC for the protection of their communities.

and the next time I hear that we need to keep these kids close to their families I am gonna puke. Are you kidding me? Their families are probably 80%+ of the damn problem.

Raise em right from the beginning and you'll keep em out of TYC.

Anonymous said...

Start fining the mothers and fathers who have criminal children. If in prison, extend their time until they learn to produce properly and control their products! Stop the welfare to these dsyfunctional families.

Anonymous said...

1159 has some valid points. I know some families that receive welfare and their kids roam the meighborhood causing problems. Why not tie the money giveaway issue to control of their brat/criminal offspring? It like the state pays families to cause problems for the state.

Anonymous said...

How did you come up with that brilliant conclusion? I mean just teach em what they need to know, show them the right way, and pray. Right. That should do it.

And if it doesn't then blame the people who failed right? Its their fault?

Unfortunately most parents of these children did not have parents who raised them "right," and neither did their parents, and so on and so on.

Believe it or not their are people in our country, even in our state, who are oppressed by sociolegalpolitical factors and believe (maybe rightly so) that government institutions are designed to prohibit them from equal rights and access to government and to limit their constitutional freedoms. Raising someone "right" is just a matter of perspective.