Friday, May 25, 2012

Solitary confinement at Texas youth prisons: A brief history

"Off with her head!"
I've seen this movie. From Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman, state Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire said TYC officials are engaging in "hug a thug" behavior for not using solitary confinement more frequently, or in TX juvenile justice jargon, imposing "behavioral management plans" on youth ("Juvenile justice officials disagree on reopening Waco-area lockup," May 24):
At issue is whether to use the empty beds at the McLennan County Juvenile Correctional Facility in Mart — single-cell rooms with a higher level of security than most of the six campus-like facilities that hold most of Texas' 1,100 teenage offenders. Supporters say the cells could separate the troublemakers from other youths and reduce violence. But opponents, notably Texas Juvenile Justice Department Executive Director Cherie Townsend, say moving the offenders would disrupt their schoolwork and their treatment.

The stalemate comes amid continuing reports of assaults and violence at agency facilities. On May 14, several people were reported injured as youths rioted at the Evins Regional Juvenile Justice Center in Edinburg. It was the second such uprising there in five months. On Monday, six youths at the Giddings State School broke down a door and climbed onto a dorm roof before guards subdued them with pepper spray.

Two months ago, the disclosure of escalating violence, unchecked gang activity, extortion rings and general unrest at Giddings sparked a legislative inquiry.
For those who don't recall (assuming anyone even cares anymore), this is PRECISELY how TYC reacted the first time Sen. Whitmire launched into his Queen of Hearts impersonation and began shouting "Off with their heads!" (We're definitely through the looking glass, now.) The agency cracked down, expanding use of solitary confinement in just the way being suggested in this article, then had to roll it back once agency leaders discovered legal limits on the practice.

Grits argued recently that many of the agency's problems stemmed from failing to follow the recommendations of the "blue ribbon" panel of experts convened by the Governor because of the expense of shifting from large to small facilities. We can add "ditto" on the question of use of solitary. From a 1/16/08 Houston Chronicle article:
Juvenile justice experts expressed disappointment, but not surprise, upon hearing of the alleged stepped-up reliance on isolation at the agency — particularly so soon after the abuse scandal broke and after the agency found itself the target of a lawsuit over its increased reliance on pepper spray to subdue difficult youths.

"Solitary confinement has been universally condemned by courts in the juvenile justice system," said Barry Krisberg, president of the California-based National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and a member of the task force in Texas that last year recommended TYC reforms.

"Nothing good happens when you isolate youth. These are youth that are already having trouble communicating," Krisberg said.
Then-TYC Ombudsman Will Harrell issued a memorandum four years ago (which Grits uploaded here) detailing the legal limits of BMP. Critically, and this was the bane of BMP expansion under then-executive director Dimitria Pope, use of solitary confinement at TJJD is regulated by a federal settlement agreement described in a memo appended to Harrell's report. Most folks have forgotten this history, but restrictions on BMP stem from a 1973 lawsuit, Morales v. Turman. Back then, a federal "Court ordered that certain practices of TYC, including the conditions of solitary confinement, be abolished pending final order of the Court. Ten years later, after a good faith effort by TYC to improve facilities and protect the plaintiffs’ rights, the parties agreed on a settlement, setting forth, among other things, TYC commitments, policies, and goals regarding use of isolation and security" (citations omitted). Concluded Harrell, "The settlement agreement remains binding today, and any dispute arising in regard to its enforcement, if not resolved amicably, may be enforced by the plaintiffs in any court of competent jurisdiction."

The agreement "includes provisions regarding (1) the appropriate reasons for placing youth in isolation or security; (2) limits on the duration of that placement; (3) necessary treatment of inmates while in isolation or security; and (4) appropriate conditions of confinement in isolation or security," all of which he alleged TYC was violating in 2008. Here's an overview of the settlement provisions from the report's summary:
The 1983 settlement agreement that ended litigation in Morales v. Turman prohibits facilities from using isolation as a mode of retaliation or as a first-resort punishment, and limits its use to when the facility’s superintendent agrees that an inmate is out of control and dangerous. When the inmate is sufficiently under control, he or she shall be released. Isolation should not be used for more than 3 hours. The agreement, with a few exceptions, allows placement in security only as a last resort, and for no longer than 24 hours. If the inmate is kept in security longer than 24 hours, he or she is entitled to impartial review and appeal of his or her confinement. While in isolation or security, inmates must receive: daily visits from the superintendent and personnel from clinical, social work, and medical units; appropriate psychological and medical services; and the same food, prepared in the same manner, as other inmates.
So there are limits to expanded use of solitary that TYC under Ed Owens and Dimitria Pope failed to respect but which still apply if TJJD decides to crack down again - whether or not Cherie Townsend is in charge - including appellate procedures if isolation lasts longer than 24 hours. Grits suspects a program maxxing out solitary confinement under the Morales v. Turman settlement still wouldn't satisfy revanchist critics within the agency who're driving this recommendation. They want to use solitary as punishment, not behavior management, and likely wouldn't be satisfied if, "When the inmate is sufficiently under control, he or she shall be released."

IMO expanded STAFFING of youth prisons, along with shifting away from larger facilities altogether, as the Governor's blue-ribbon panel recommended, would do more to reduce both current problems and future crime than expanded solitary confinement. But legislators wanted to reform TYC while cutting costs and eschewed such suggestions, so here we are. Larger youth prisons that were failing five years ago are still failing for the same reasons. Like I said, we've already seen this movie: It's over-hyped, has too much violence, a crappy ending, and it goes on way too long.

RELATED: Violence at youth prisons blamed on lax discipline, structural problems ignored.


Anonymous said...

Good viewpoint Grits! Of course Mike (in bed with Whitmire) Ward singled out Townsend as the only one dragging her heels because isolation would disrupt the violent offender's schoolwork and therapy. It didn't mention anything about solitary confinement limitations. Of course, it also showcases Whitmire's CHARGE attitude with little to no information at all. Both Townsend and Whitmire need to take one step back for a moment, then get on the same page.

I totally agree that they need more staff with means more money - shame the LEG (Whitmire) cut the TJJD budget when the two agencies were combined.

Anonymous said...

""Nothing good happens when you isolate youth. These are youth that are already having trouble communicating," Krisberg said."

But, until you can help them overcome the communications barrier, you will have to isolate them for the protection of the other youth. They can be let out for class and other programs, but when you throw them all together in a dorm, that's when the problems start.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"when you throw them all together in a dorm, that's when the problems start."

Hence the blue-ribbon panel's recommendation to move away from larger, dorm-based facilities.

Anonymous said...

TJJD needs to have a variety of treatment responses to meet the diverse needs of this population.The folks that were brought over from the TDCJ by Kimbrough dismantled the treatment approaches that were in place and failed to replace it with anything. This resulted in law suits and the fiasco called Co-Nextions.

There was an opportunity to make great strides in the Juvenile Justice system in Texas with the creation of a new agency with new leadership and a new vision. Instead, there has been a TYC takeover of TJPC by leadership which is tainted by past failures.

Anonymous said...

Some of these violent youth inflict roughly one assault a day upon other youth. Why do they do this? It's a life-long habit. They can get by with it. It is consistent with their personal code.

They were sent to TJJD for one big climactic act of violence (the capstone of their active career) and many spend a year or two or three indulging in a orgy of violence with many, many violent episodes. The staff on the dorm know it's not a matter of if, but when they will have to call security to have him removed and have the victim taken to the infirmary.

Then he is returned to where his criminal career began--to the scene of the crime, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

The only reason TJPC was regarded as successful was because of the many, not all, county juvenile probation departments doing the hard work. TJPC just had many meetings trying to figure out how to impose rules on them. Then they would come out and "monitor" the departments. Giving "advice" on the best way to handle juveniles, or at least how to write a good policy and procedure. " I am from the government, and I am here to help you" lives on!

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

I have a lot to say about solitary confinement. The Crises Intervention Center, CIC, as it was called in the aftermath of MvT was an interesting wrangling of policy and reality. Something the agency prides itself in. I want to write more. The caliches pit, being hung on the wall, the beatings by staff, the whack jobs that hid out there both inmate and staff, the isolation, and the sorry ass caseworkers who manipulate the system to keep a kid there. My longest stay was about 3 months for escaping shortly after being returned. You don’t screw with the inventory.

“Both Townsend and Whitmire need to take one step back for a moment, then get on the same page.” I think the more appropriate word is bus, not page, a bus to somewhere else. Your shot caller or callers have demonstrated over the last decade that they are actually doing a very poor job and are not capable of providing any productive input in TJJD, and have actually reduce the agency’s ROI. The corrections committee may need to be disbanded and rebuilt without retaining any of its current members.

The kids that the local counties can’t keep out of state lockup are the worst of the worst. By the time a young man gets to this point in his criminal career the thug lifestyle that some of the less civilized cultures tend to glorify has already become a reality in their life. Interestingly, one of the things about Gatesville that MvT wanted to shut down was the culture of sagging pants and the ignorant dialect of Gatesville’s inmates before it spread to the free world. See the book “Weeping in the Playtime of Others”. Perhaps the people of the 1970’s feared that upscale malls like North Park in North Dallas would be inhabited by a bunch of hoodlums in saggy pants with an ignorant sounding vocabulary like those bad kids locked up in Gatesville. MvT had good intentions but failed on many levels. The tyc culture was spread to other facilities, and if the ignorant hillbilly’s weren’t screwed up enough what they got replaced by make them look like real juvi justice gurus, and well lets just say, I advise my kids not to go to North Park these days.

And yes anonymous 2:53, the culture that is provided by staff at tyc incubate and magnify the personality disorders in both staff and inmates. It’s been a constant for over 120 years. Returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak.

These young men who are sent to tyc today for their criminal behavior need to be handled by people who know how to deal with this type of personality disorder. There is a need for TDCJ JID. Dr. Turmans vision of Mountain View was spot on, but like solitary confinement, by the time it was put into the hands of the states juvi correctional employees, it became a tremendous failure.

BTW, I had an opportunity to step inside a Juvenile Probation department office today where I, as a tax payer who votes for this crap, was able to thank the person there for doing all that they do to keep a kid out of tyc. She told me they don’t get many ‘at a boys’ these days and seemed appreciative.

Anonymous said...

Gag me.

Ms. Townsend and Mr. Whitmire can say what they want, but sorry to say... it sounds like HOT AIR to ME.

She doesn't want to send patently incorrigable kids to unused single cell rooms in Mart because it would "disrupt" their educational and treatment opportunities?

Again -- gag me!! PLEASE, Ma'am, GO TO GSS and actually spend some time at the school. I'd say the taxpayers deserve your in-the-trenches appraisal of situations. About all you'll see is kids sleeping, fighting, talking, race-baiting the teachers and in general doing everything and anything BUT attempting to learn anything or get any semblance of an education. Don't believe me? GO CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF.

And don't EVEN suggest that putting them in cells where they belong (and will likely end up as adults eventually, anyhow, sorry to say) messes up their TREATMENT. Again and again -- GAG ME. Go to any dorm at Giddings... take a look at their treatment workbooks. Most of them are empty except for gang-related artwork. Think I'm making this up? Go check for yourself and prove me wrong, if you can.

Finally, a plea to Mr. Whitmire... please, Sir -- have some decency and hold your tongue instead of insisting... yawn... again... that you are SOOOO mortified at what's going on at TJJD and all this stuff has gotta stop -- NOW. Heard it before. Didn't believe it then, don't believe it now. Enough is enough, OK?

Anonymous said...

The Email Townsend sent out today pretty much said everything is under control lol was sent to TYC Volunteers ..

Anonymous said...


I totally agree with your recommendation of following the Blue Ribbon panel suggestions. It is where things have to move if TJJD is going to make an impact. Whitmire's mocking of rehabilitation and treatment with the "hug a thug" expression leads me to believe that is not where things are going. Sheldon seems to think that TDCJ is the answer to our problem of effectively dealing with juveniles. Treat them as adults? This is how to make the system for juveniles more humane?

While I know there are problems with EBP, I couldn't help but be hopeful that evidence for what works would make a difference in the historical roller coaster that has been juvenile justice from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

Grits said:
"Hence the blue-ribbon panel's recommendation to move away from larger, dorm-based facilities."

Move to where? Halfway houses? Not the youth I've come in contact with! Individual cells? I thought that was taboo.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:39, I realize that no matter what is suggested anons from TYC (I don't mean TJJD, I mean the holdovers) will insist we can't get there from here. But states that shifted to smaller facilities (not halfway houses) - like Missouri, recently NY - provide examples that work. Follow them.

Otherwise, do you agree that understaffing at the units contributes to out of control kids? Could six youth knock down a door and climb onto the roof - as was recounted in Ward's story - if staffers were there to stop them? Or is that impossible too and the only option is to pepper spray them and stick them in ad-seg?

Walt's Ghost said...

"we've already seen this movie: It's over-hyped, has too much violence, a crappy ending, and it goes on way too long."

So you're saying all the TYC "reforms" were Texas' version of Disney's John Carter.

Anonymous said...

You think the answer is to keep these extreme youth at the county level? It will cost you twice as much. And, who will educate them? The local pubic schools who have already thrown them out? Harris county wouldn't even let TYC build a facility there. That's why they built Al Price in the first place. Half the TJJD population is special ed. Who will pay for these special ed services? Who will provide them? You're talking about CERTIFIED teachers in their content area, special ed teachers, diagnosticians, OT and PT therapists, counselors, speech therapists. Smaller units will mean more personnel. Who will pay for this? The local local public school districts? Wanna bet? You wouldn't be able to keep most of these youth in a regular classroom for five minutes. And, who will be accountable when these kids re-offend again? These kids are FELONS, most of them many times over. Some of them were horrific crimes.

You bet understaffing contributes to out of control kids.

You won't see JCOs using physical force to prevent youth from climbing up on the roof. JCOs rarely do takedown anymore for fear of getting fired. That's why they never could stop them at Al Price. You don't really think you would talk these youth out of getting on the roof, do you?

Anonymous said...

If more smaller facilities is the answer, then why did they close all the other facilities to begin with? The big problem was STAFF. Now, we have even less than we did.

The only reason that Giddings was the star for so long, is that their population was mostly sentenced offenders, and they could hold TDCJ over the youths' heads to make them behave. Now, all these other units (except Corsicana) have the same general offender population as Al Price and Crocket did, and suddenly they are having problems. They have fewer units, but now more youth in each unit. And, they have mixed up the population so there is no specialized units except Corsicana, who seems to be having better control of their population than the other units.

Al Price isn't looking so bad right now, is it?

Anonymous said...

"The response to the problems by this agency so far is nuts," Whitmire said. "It appears they simply don't want to be tough on the violent ones — the gang leaders and bullies. As a result they are exposing all the staff and other youth to violence on a daily basis. This must stop. Now."

I agree with Whitmire 100% with the exception of one thing: In that statement, he needs change "they" as in all the staff to Cherie Townsend and James Smith because from what I read, the vast majority of the line staff are all for alternative placement for the most violent offender.

I lMAO at this comment: "This boils down to a policy by some of ‘hug a thug' (that would be Townsend): If you just talk to the worst offenders enough, they'll be nice. That's crazy."

I agree 100%. I think Townsend should be required to have an office at Giddings and get on the floor after something goes down. Maybe then she'd see the need for alternative placements for the most violent offenders. Whitemire is right on the money here.

T. Bayes said...

Townsend is better suited for some 1970's Billy Jack residential treatment center on some Indian reservation in Arizona where they're all sitting in a circle smoking weed by a camp fire than running a juvenile justice program in Texas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:11 writes, "JCOs rarely do takedown anymore for fear of getting fired."

First, it SHOULD be rare if you're doing your job properly, and second, I understand some JCOs just don't do their jobs and I've heard all the excuses. Some are legitimate; that one's not. The mass firings all happened long before Cherie Townsend got there. Maybe it's happened, but I've not heard of a rash of line employees fired beyond the budget-driven layoffs, either for forceful take-downs or anything else. If that's actually happened under Townsend, please give examples of people who lost their jobs for cause (not RIFed because of the budget) that supposedly made everyone so fearful. There are a lot of unconfirmed assumptions in your commentary.

9:32 asks, "If more smaller facilities is the answer, then why did they close all the other facilities to begin with?" Answer: To shift most of those youth to county control, either at county detention centers, housed with specialized corrections/treatment contracors, or under intensive probation supervision with expanded programming options.

Interestingly, despite DIRE predictions to the contrary by (often anonymous) TYC naysayers who insisted those they guarded would ravage the public like untamed beasts of prey if released, juvenile crime continued to precipitiously drop after they shirfted 2/3 of inmates to counties, so changing their supervision to less than max-security restrictions did not empirically harm public safety overall, with the data showing improving juvenile crime trends in the years since TYC began de-incarcerating.

10:22, sounds like Whitmire's your man, today. Looking back over the last five years, has it always ben thus?

Anonymous said...

Grits I'm 10:22... I wouldn't say I've agreed with everything he's done during the past 5 years, but I agree with his comments now. There has to be a plan for the most violent offenders and keeping them mixed in with the non-violent offenders is just crazy. Don't you know that the non-violent offender has a right to be free from physical and psychological harm? That was written not to just protect kids from staff, but also eachother. And by ignoring this fact, Townsend is violating those kids rights.

Anonymous said...

Why does this have to be an either or conversation? The idea is that a small number of beds at Mart that are well staffed will work to help with behavior management. Of course it will.

Those are some of the recommendations that Grits talks about. Maybe not the part at the Mart facility, but in general.

The problem I have with that is to suggest such an approach could only work in a get tough administrative segregation environment to manage behavior. That would be a mistake IMO. A therapuetic approach can coexist with accountability.

These juveniles WILL reenter the community, so concerns for safety have to include the short term and the long term. A get tough approach alone is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Texans are the most NIMBY bunch in the country. Look at this article about a non-secure treatment facility in San Antonio and how the neighbors are reacting to it:

T. Bayes said...

I sent this statesman article to a friend of mine who has never been in a TJJD institution and never worked with juvenile offenders, and this is what she had to say (no kidding either):

"This sounds like Cherie Townsend could finally have what she deserves coming…I sure hope so. From what I remember you telling me, if Whitmire wants a change, he’ll get it.

It is absolutely insane to be exposing the rest of the youth population to this, not to mention the staff. She is a complete idiot.

Someone should put her in a cell with a couple of those violent ones for a bit."

That made me wonder what a public opinion poll would look like if one were to read that article. I believe we'd read more comments like the one I posted.

Anonymous said...

Grits said:

"Interestingly, despite DIRE predictions to the contrary by (often anonymous) TYC naysayers who insisted those they guarded would ravage the public like untamed beasts of prey if released, juvenile crime continued to precipitiously drop after they shirfted 2/3 of inmates to counties, "

That's because those were the less violent offenders. Now what you have left are the serious and violent offenders. Halfway houses are no place for these.

Anonymous said...


You asked why students aren't being stopped from getting up on the roof. I told you why above. And, you dodged the issue. I ask again: do you think these kids could be talked out of climbing up on the roof? Or, do you think they would have to be physically restrained?

Anonymous said...


Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

13:00 you said "That made me wonder what a public opinion poll would look like if one were to read that article. I believe we'd read more comments like the one I posted."

Please keep in mind WHO wrote the story, because we all know Mike Ward is notorious for leaving most of the facts out and skewing the ones he does include.

We all agree something needs to be done, but basing a public opinion poll on this one article would not accomplish much.

My question to everyone is where will TJJD get the funds to make the changes that everyone knows need to be made?

It will be interesting when the Leg meets in 2013!

Anonymous said...

2:20 asked "where will TJJD get the funds" to make needed and known changes?

That of course will be telling. My hope is that closing large facilities would allow for the reinvestment of savings into the system.

The rhetoric from the lege is not looking good. If anything, it seems if there is money, there will be a push to use it to in ways that will only exacerbate the problem.

Who has the lege's ear these days? Was reform ever the legislative intent, or is it just politics as usual? Was it about saving money in a down economy?

Billy R. Hollis said...

Large, medium or small facilities, it doesn't matter where you put these kids. If you don't have a viable program that provides the necessary degree of control, safety (for staff and youth), treatment, and well trained staff committed to helping kids, please explain how this system can possibly work? If a youth is constantly being violent, it seems to me that there's not a whole hell of a lot of treatment happening or what is happening is totally ineffective. A youth placed in a behavior management program has for violent behavior must receive specific, more intense treatment interventions to address these behaviors, in addition to all of the other "required" services. But that would require the caseworker to actually spend some "real" time with the kid on the program. And yes, treatment is expensive, but how much is the life of a kid worth? What will it cost to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life? Downsize Central Office to the same extent the institutions have undergone and put that money into trained staff and "real" treatment. How many executive assistants, legislative liaisons, program specialists, trainig specialists, monitors and other unnecessary, high-dollar staff does CO really need? Seriously.

Anonymous said...

It sure seems to me that the Meade board member is more in tune with running the place than Townsend is.... this is what I don't understand: she doesn't want to put the violent ones in Mart because that would interfer with their education and treatment. What? Those offenders could care less about education and treatment; instead, they typically create such a disruption that it interfers with others who are trying to work the damn program. And then this: for those who are trying to go home, they become the targets of the violent offenders. Because of this, the ones that were once trying to go home find it safer to group up with the violent ones and thus never make progress. That's the problem with Townsend's "hug that thug" policy. Whitmire is right - it is nuts and it's been nuts for a long time now. Send Townsend packing.

T. Bayes said...

I've seen very violent offenders go into a meaningful and well-rounded behavioral treatment program and come out on track and go home in a short period thereafter. That program got their attention. I know it works because I voted for their release.

I don't understand the reluctance to Mart re-opening to address violent offenders. If the numbers of these individuals drop as a result of that program, then they can close it again until the need arises again. Townsend is not making the most of the resources she has to address this problem.

I also agree with Hollis' comments. Without a viable and proven treatment program, it's all for not. CoNextions is the biggest treatment failure I have ever seen. It's really time to address that, but I have very little confidence that will happen under this administration and thus I agree with others in saying the first step to address this problem is to remove the one who fails to recognize it exist. A one-way ticket to Arizona is needed.

Anonymous said...

Mike Davis former TYC Employee;

Sending all of the most violent youth to Mart is not the answer. Granted it would provide a band-aid to the current problems facing TJJD, it is not a long term solution..

Changing the current treatment programming is needed, that stresses accountability for both youth and staff. The current program has been and is ineffective. We need to get away from this pie in the sky idea of smaller facilities, all of us know this will never happen based upon cost.

With that said bring back the BMP to all facilities with strict oversight. This would allow local facilities to deal with their own and not pass the buck to Mart. Everyone knows if you allowed Mart to become the dumping ground each facility would throw their hands up when faced with a difficult youth and send them off.

Make sure the parents are told from day one that if their child continues to act out and not follow programming they will be sent to another campus, while regionalization sounds great it can lead to administration hands being tied because no one wants to send these kids to far away from mom and dad, remember this is a choice the youth makes, this is called accountability.

Allow the JCO staff I to IV a voice at the table, allow up to 6 of these staff at each facility to meet monthly to address campus issues. This can be done via video conference for all facilities to interact together. The ones who actually do the work should have a voice.

I can honestly go on and on about how this can get turned around but it will take effort from those at the top to agree and make it happen. Also my beer is getting hot and this cannot happen.

T.Bayes said...

I agree with Mike Davis as well, but I do think Mike is underestimating the extent of violence occurring within the existing facilities. Re-implementing the BMP program at local facilities is the goal (? Not Townsends), but from what I read and from those I spoke with, it may be that Unit II at Mart needs to be re-opened to address the sheer volume of the problem. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have security beds to address the ones who don't require a BMP type program. The ones who need to self-refer and think.

Mart II addresses a short term need. Open it quick and close it as soon as possible. It's that out-of-hand.

I agree with you on the treatment programs and I stand by my previous comment that until someone realizes that the true failure of the TJJD is not limited to the treatment program itself, but rather the ones who keep this proven failure in place despite clear and convincing evidence that it doesn’t work. It's time for someone to address CoNextions. It won't be this administration, and thus it’s time to address that problem as well.

Good to banter with you again Mike.

Thomas Bayes

Anonymous said...

08:22 (Bayes)

"...the true failure of the TJJD is not limited to the treatment program itself, but rather the ones who keep this proven failure in place despite clear and convincing evidence that it doesn’t work."

Can we afford to continue indulging "the ones who keep this proven failure in place despite clear and convincing evidence?" Haven't they kept things in chaos way too long? Maybe those who want to ignore evidence need to go play somewhere else. Maybe the good Senator agrees with me.

Anonymous said...

Brookhaven Youth Ranch: a high restiction facilty? Look at the records from 2007 until whenever. Those were TYC kids placed on a ranch. They came and went as they pleased. How much did we pay them on a cost per day? That was a HWH being paid as a high restriction facility (meaning a fence and locked doors). Brookhaven never had a fense, much less locked doors. Go look at that Whitmire. Cherie knew too because she was chief then as well.

Go Look.

Anonymous said...

Mike Davis

I have no issue with anyone disagreeing with me but believe the issue is and will be lack of programs and consequnces, and that shifting youth (any youth) to Mart is just a failure on the agencies part.

Make each facility accountabale for their own ability or inability to work with youth with proper programs. Hell it is sooooo easy for me to move 2 or 3 bad asses to Mart because the programs or lack of or not effective at my facility or ineffective.

If anyone really belives this is the cure or fix then you have spent very little time working with youth. As soon as you ship 2 or 3 youth to Mart you will have 2 or 3 more at your facility to take their place. This really is not rocket science.

Billy R. Hollis said...

Just for the record, BMP was a facility program that was intended to address chronic behavior problems (including violent behavior). AMP (Anger Management Program) was located at Mart and was intended to serve those kids of a more violent predatory nature after all other interventions failed. As has been the case with most of the well intentioned initiatives to address this serious concern, it was allowed to degenerate to the point of sterotypical TYC/TJJD ineffectiveness because of a lack of real oversight and well-trained, dedicated juvenile justice professionals at all levels. Administrators, psychologists, program administrators, case workers and first line supervisors need to be actively engaged in "the program". Realistice standards have to be in place and enforced consistently from the top down. The point about Mart II becoming a dumping ground for the kids the facilities can't or don't want to deal with is well taken. But if it was not allowed to happen, there would be no problem. Everything comes down to accountability, for both staff and kids. Clear expectations consistently and fairly enforced is, in my opinion, will go a long way in resolving a good portion of the problems in TYC/TJJD. And above all else, you have to truly care about helping these kids. Another of my pipe dreams? Probably. But it's worth a try.

DeathBreath said...

When cretins are at the helm of the correctional board these kind of things happen. I am curious. When Pretty Boy Perry appointed the buffoons on the board of corrections what did he expect? Do those making these decisions have a background in criminal justice? I seriously doubt they possess the expertise to command such a position. Theirs is a working canvas of incompetency. When offenders smell weakness, they will pounce using treatment & management manipulation as a weapon.

Anonymous said...

You can crow all you want about how you think the local entities can do a better job and deliver better services to these youth, but the local entities aren't about to deliver the most needed (and legally required) service of all. That is a public education under FAPE. This element is strangely absent from the discussion. It appears to be the elephant in the room that you all don't want to acknowledge. I can tell you that the local school districts won't touch these youth with a stick, and the counties aren't about to pick up the responsibility for delivering the special education services these youth will need. It will all end up being the responsibility of the state. So, by moving them back to the local counties, all you are doing is adding another tier in the economic chain and driving up the cost of dealing with these youth.

And, if they really though that smaller populations in more units was a good idea, then why did they close units? All they had to do was staff them properly with the right personnel. Oh, that's right, that would take MORE MONEY.

Anonymous said...

You will find education is a high priority in county detention centers and RTC's that counties utilize. County facilities know the value of education and will go to great lengths to assure the youth in our care are educated. Charter schools are in several RTC's across Texas and I hear tell county detention centers are exploring this option as well.
As for the "hug a thug" program I agree fully with Senator Whitmire and Mike Meade. There MUST be consequences for bad behavior. My kids and my grandkids all know they will be sent to their room if they misbehave. Same should be for youth in TJJD. Allowing them to run free and cause more havoc only empowers them to continue. I doubt "solitary confinement" is the case at all with this proposal but to isolate the ones who are the most violent is a great option. If this doesnt work to get them under control send them to TDCJ.
Smaller facilities of 100 bed facilities is agreat option but make sure they are spread across the state. It is a long way from most East, West and Panhandle counties to the closest state facilities.
I am so glad I retired as chief of a county operated facility but if I was still active I would state to the ledgeslature " give us more money to serve kids in facilities that are responsible and treatment orientated and shut down the state facilities now".!!!!!
Retired but still active.

Gary said...

Mike Davis and Billy Hollis got me in all sorts of jams before I retired from this business after nearly 45 years, but both of them exemplify something when working with kids that I don't think they address in their postings. While it IS necessary to look at structure, staffing, facilities, etc. to get our "correctional" problems solved, I watched these two guys (and several hundred more staff over the past 47 years working with problem youth) do a lot of good things with kids using the common identifier, which I don't see being addressed. It is that APPROPRIATE staff-student relationships are present in programs that are effective. Around 1970 I had the privilege of being around Dr. George Beto during a conference and heard him say in several instances, "The key to recidivism is education." When confronted inappropriately and rudely by an aspiring TV reporter who said: "The people of Texas are tired of you making the prisons into country clubs. What do you have to say?" and then shoved a microphone in his face. Dr. Beto paused, then gently pushed the microphone aside and said something like "Let me tell you something, young man. Even if it is a country club, if you can't leave, its's still a prison." Come on, folks, let's figure out how you build those APPROPRIATE relationships educate the youth, and how you maintain those "country club" facilities and stop worrying about board makeup, locations, or whose toes are being stepped upon. Remember: You can gain compliance by using force and structure, but to change behavior you need relationships. OK, GRITS, I'm going back into seclusion.

Anonymous said...

Any comments on this weekend's violence and destruction at Giddings here? No? How about the newspaper? Haven't looked yet, but bet not. Will the PUBLIC ever get wind of it... or care? Will the kids be held accountable? Or, as usual, will the incident be glossed over?

Keep tuned. EVENTUALLY someone who REALLY MEANS it will say "Enough is enough. This has to stop... NOW" -- and mean it, and take some kind of action to save us parents and taxpayers more heartache and expense.

In the meantime -- don't hold your breath.

Anonymous said...

5/28/2012 01:59:00 AM

What happened at the Giddings State School over the Memorial Day weekend?

Billy R. Hollis said...

For whatever "jams" I got you in, I am truly sorry. It was never my intention. And you are absolutely correct about the need to build and maintain "APPROPRIATE", profesional relationships with the kids. They understand being cursed at, threatened, belittled and physical force. They've had that all their young lives. I always found that they responded better if you took the time to listen to what they had to say and treated them with a modicum of respect and dignity that ALL human beings are entitled to. One thing I always told them at orientation, was no matter how many times they screwed up (as all of us are wont to do), they would always have the opportunity to start over. There is a better chance of changing behavior if we just treat people (all people, kids included) as we want to be treated. You'll never know unless you try.

Anonymous said...

The voices heard in this great discussion are too absent from the public debate. The public - and especially those in decision making positions - need to hear some of the points being made here by long time and retired staff, many of which seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Bill Bush

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5/27/2012 08:41:00 PM said...
"You will find education is a high priority in county detention centers and RTC's that counties utilize. County facilities know the value of education and will go to great lengths to assure the youth in our care are educated. Charter schools are in several RTC's across Texas and I hear tell county detention centers are exploring this option as well."

If education is such a high priority, then charter schools wouldn't be the way to go. Charter schools are in business to make money. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but charter schools in Texas are so hamstrung that the only way they can make money is at the expense of educating the youth. For starters, charter schools aren't required to hire state certified teachers. (In comparison, TJJD does.) And, it's much harder for charter schools to obtain funding for programs like special education. (This is one way the state keeps a reign on charter schools.) This is not good, because almost half of TJJD is special ed. In comparison, TJJD itself is a state school district, and has no problem with this.

So, if you think county-run charter schools will have the same ability to educate youth as TJJD, your living in a pipe dream. I bet they are exploring this option, since it's just another way to cut costs at the expense of the youth.

Wandering Aimlessly said...

Is there a violence or aggression assessment for youth of some kind? Place youth at facilities and programs specific to their level of aggression or violence rather than throw everyone into the same program.

Surely there is a neutral 3rd party who can come in and assess, and map out an effective overhaul of TJJD. AND make recommendations how to better integrate local juvenile probation departments.

Anonymous said...

There is a current assessment, administered upon entry, where criminogenic needs are identified, and aggression is one of those needs identified.

These needs are ranked, so you are able to see if aggression is a prioritized need.

Anonymous said...

From the Jerusalem Post:
Six Ways to Ruin Your Child.

Here's number 2:

Lack of Discipline – If your child acts up, throws a fit or bullies another child, you do nothing. Lack of discipline in parenting often stems from not wanting to look “mean.” Many parents don't know the correct way to discipline a child, so they choose to do nothing instead.
This type of ghost parenting can lead to serious problems, like delinquency. Children thrive with boundaries and rules for interactions with others. Without consequences, the line between good and bad can become blurred or even non-existent.

Those who support lack of discipline have academic theories to justify their approach.

Anonymous said...


Who exactly is advocating a lack of discipline?

I'm guessing your are indicating that this is the approach of the current administration.

For the uninformed, what does that mean? I'm seriously curious about what is different about accountability now vs.before. What could be done that is no longer allowed?

Reading between the lines, it seems that this is related to being able to separate someone from the group (i.e. sometime of solitary lockup for a certain amount of time). Is that it? Is there more?

Anonymous said...

3:24 - in the past, when a youth would assault a youth or staff, one of the possible dispositions from a Level (fact-finding) hearing was an extension of their Minimum Length of Stay for those youth who have indeterminate sentences. In other words, you assault a staff, you get a 3-month extension of your MLOS. The consequence was swift and meaningful. Also, in the past, you could demote a youth's phase in the Resocialization program if their behavior warranted it.

But in 2007 or 2008, the option to demote a youth's stage or add time to a youth's MLOS was discontinued. So now if a youth assaults another youth or staff, there quite frankly is very little consequence - maybe the youth would lose their daily points, lose their extra privileges for 30 days, and maybe spend 24 hours in administrative segregation.

Anonymous said...

"5/28/2012 09:05:00 AM"
You are so wrong. Charter schools train teachers to deal with the students we have in our centers. I currently have misfit teachers trying to teach misfit students and it is a pain. I am trying to go charter because they have the capability to really teach, not just draw a paycheck. They will find a way to teach our students, credit recovery, GED if needed. So, back off and watch. Charter Schools in county detention centers are the wave of the future.
And I too support Whitmire and Mike Meade and the confinement of troublemakers.

Anonymous said...

Charter schools don't train teachers. Colleges that have teaching degree programs train teachers. Charter schools in county detention centers may be the wave of the future, but it won't be for the betterment of the youth. What's the point? All you would be doing is adding another tier to the economic cost to the state of educating the youth, and the programs will likely not be as effective. Have you forgotten how "wonderful" the contracted out mental health care is for TYC/TDDJ?

Anonymous said...

Nobody ever hears of the things (like the Memorial Day weekend SNAFU) that go on at Giddings because of the code and doctrine of silence they operate under.

So what if no one outside the campus ever hears of all the pepper spray used and the window broken out to dislodge the youth who locked themselves in the kitchen area and trashed all the appliances etc etc? It's just another regular day... and one that'll never make the news and the public will never know about.

Dangers at the State School are like an iceberg -- there's only a little bit you can see that sticks out... the majority of the monster lies hidden. Here to tell y'all, they're heading towards some problems of TITANIC proportions.

Time to man the lifeboats or learn to swim -- this movie ALWAYS ends the same way.

Billy R. Hollis said...

Dr./Mr./Senor/Bwana/Herr./etc. (forgive my lack of knowledge regarding properly addressing you),

I agree with your assertion that voices of former and retired staff need to be heard in the public debate by those with decision-making authority. Unfortunately, they don't really care to hear what we have to say and chalk it all up to us just being "disgruntled, former employees, or trouble makers. It was pretty much the same as when we were working there. My only regret was giving up and retiring before I really wanted to. But after five years as an administrator, there's only so much "shit" a person can take. The hardest part has been the feeling of abandoning the kids. I once got in trouble for having the Marine Corps slogan "Death before Dishonor" included in my email address. I was told by the "decision making authorities" that it was inappropriate to espouse a personal philosophy that spoke to a willingness to give everything for what I believe in. That, to me, is the difference between me and them. I'm done now. Peace.

Anonymous said...

While I will not state the past of TYC was ever so great, it was a lot better thatn what you currently have. The problem with the past was lack of oversight with the Resocialization program, not to say the program was bad, it was justlacking in oversight and some facilities used it to keep youth longer than they should. This could be the case for any program with little to no oversight, so it was thrown out.
In the past staff were encouraged to know the youth but with the Brookins scandal this was taboo so the ledge said every 6 months you must rotate your JCO staff. This was completly ignorant and allowed youth to play their games based upon lack of consistent (knowing) staff. The reforms brought about were good and bad, the bad was the rotation of staff, everyone who know juveniles realize you must have a consistent approach by staff who know what there dealing with. The lack of discipline via the CoNextions program, Resocializationn was a better treatment tool. The non-stop dribble that youth must remain in their region, this is great when their following the programs, but when they asault their peers and staff they should lose this right.
Due process and the ability to hold youth accountable via a due process hearing went out the door. Now you will be told it still remains, but this is a lie. When you take a hard core youth and all you do is take their privledges away for a day or even a month, they consider a joke. What they wont tell you is the fact that facilities do not have enough staff to give privledges to those who earn it and those who are on restriction away from the privledges, so all youth get the same privledges, even if you assaultede a staff the day before, this is what you call, "The Rest of the Story".

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that Townsend is resigning.

Anonymous said...

If there was a problem at Giddiness over the weekend, I guess Alan Michael isn't the solution to the problems there.

T. Bayes said...

That rumor is confirmed. Her departure date is June 30.

Anonymous said...

From her resigination memo:

"Over the last two months, it has become clear that the focus on my values and principles related to best practices in juvenile justice are detracting from the mission and work of the agency."

Last few months? Try the past 4 years!

Now that Kimbrough is in charge, you can expect another house cleaning. My bet is James will be next.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water this time. We need some careful cutting, but I fear that the only thing Jay knows how to use is a chain saw.

Anonymous said...

It's hard not to feel a certain sense of relief and even a twinge of vindication in regards to Ms. Townsend leaving her post at TJJD.

I emailed her on a number of occasions over the past couple years, left messages on the TYC "Suggestion Box", and offered to have her visit my work-related website... but no replies or acknowledgements were ever forthcoming. It seemed like she was resolutely determined to keep her head in the sand when it came to what rank-and-file JCO's had to say that might have been -- JUST MAYBE -- worth paying some attention to. Meanwhile, the Gidding campus sank deeper and deeper into an abyss and it seemed to myself and most of my co-workers that she JUST DIDN'T CARE about anyone or anything but herself and her job.

Even though I left the Agency this past January, I still care a great deal about the futures of the incarcerated youth, my ex-co-workers, the State of Texas and all us taxpayers in general. The kids deserve better than what Ms. Townsend's assumption of "best practices" were, and with her gone I hope things will get back on track to make the juvenile justice system in this State something to be proud of again.

THANKS, Grits, for providing us all this forum, and, offering me a ray of hope that situations may improve. Still -- I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hollis,
I plan on joining you next February for the same reasons. I hope that things can be improved, but I'm worn out trying to deal with the incompetent people who just don't seem to ever go away. Not just the ones at the top, but the ones locally who keep being recycled-see The Peter Principle", taking the positions that could go to someone who would actually make a difference. I hate to leave the students, but it's time to do something for myself.

Anonymous said...

Stop talking and get it fixed Mr. Whitmire. Every time something happens you start yelling and pointing fingers. Get off of your ass and roll up your sleeves and get to work old man. You were elected to public service. Do some service instead of sitting and talking. If you have the answers go to work. Change things. Pushing your weight around is the typical Texas good ole boy system of which you are a big part of. Mr. Whitmire stay out of it if you don't want to do the work let someone who can control their tongue and temper take over and get er done. Most of the people who are in these facilities come from your District. If you can't control crime in your back yard why do we think you can make a change in this agency??????