Friday, June 22, 2012

Phoenix program aims to neutralize violent inmates at Texas youth prisons

CIA Phoenix Program standard (source)
According to Wikipedia, the Phoenix program was a CIA-run initiative which used "infiltration, capture, terrorism, torture, and assassination" to "neutralize" civilian non-combatants during the Vietnam War. So it's more than a little ironic that that's the name chosen for the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) program aimed at isolating (neutralizing?) violent individuals from the general population at Texas youth prisons.

Despite its inapt appellation, TJJD today voted to open up a new isolation wing previously shuttered in Mart, TX. The Texas Tribune yesterday offered up a preview of the decision. Reporter Emily Foxhall quoted TJJD spokesman Jim Hurley saying the unit would not "be considered a lockdown or isolation facility," but "would involve reopening an unused, 24-bed dorm within the already existing Mart facility" Having examined the new rules governing the so-called "Phoenix" program, however, they say "youth are assigned to individual housing units," not a "dorm." Upon further questioning, Hurley told Grits the new unit will consist of three pods, each with eight cells and a common area with two JCOs assigned to each pod.

The facility won't quite be the equivalent of juvie "ad seg" (the euphemism for solitary confinement in the adult system). At TDCJ, inmates in ad seg get one hour recreation per day and no other time outside their cells. In the Phoenix program, the rules require a minimum of five hours per day outside their cells, four of them for education. A letter from advocates to the TJJD board declared, "There are no requirements for out-of-cell time beyond 4 hours for education and 1 hour for large muscle exercise," citing proposed rules for the Mart facility. "While we have been assured that the intent is to give youth 16 hours of programing, there is nothing in the rule itself that speaks to this as a requirement. Keeping youths in cells for 19 hours per day will worsen, not improve, their behavior."

It's difficult for Grits to understand how anyone thinks 24 beds in Mart will solve security problems. The Statesman's Mike Ward reported that:
At Giddings — where gang activity and disruptions triggered a legislative investigation in April and demands for action to curb chronic violence that had left both youths and staff injured — a new report for the week ending Tuesday showed 52 youths requested to be placed in security cells for protection.

That was among 352 youths who were referred to security that week.
Beyond Giddings, according to that same weekly incident report (which Grits obtained from TJJD), the agency reported a whopping 1,388 security referrals last week, of which 72 were self-referrals (including the 52 at Giddings). Staff referrals included 12 youth-on-staff assaults and 43 youth-on-youth assaults. At those rates, 24 secure beds will fill up pretty darn quickly.

Which raises the question, with that many security referrals, how will the 24 beds be prioritized? Standards for when youth will be placed in the Phoenix program are amorphous and subjective. Says the advocate letter, "The eligibility criteria ... include a catch-all for youth who engage in 'any other major rule violation' if the placement is directed by the executive director 'or designee.'" Further, "Criteria for completion of stages in the Phoenix program are vague and highly subjective," an assessment with which your correspondent concurs. (Hurley told me there will be more rules coming soon that may fill in some of the detail.)

With 1,388 security referrals and 55 assaults in a single week (remember, there are only 1,100 youth in the entire system), will 24 new security beds make a difference? It sounds to me like whether the new wing is opened or not, Texas Appleseed's Deborah Fowler is 100% correct that real security solutions must be identified at the unit level. This "fix" is a band-aid at best, kicking discussions about structural problems further and further down the road. There are already isolation cells at the campuses. All this seems to do is add transportation logistics and management of yet another new program to all the agency's existing security issues and admin duties. Via email, Fowler commented to Grits:
Why the board is so confident that the answer is a NEW program is beyond me, when the agency hasn’t been able to effectively implement the programs that are on the ground now.
Keep in mind that the “enhanced” version of ReDirect (and by the way, “enhanced” simply means they’ve done away with the limit on the number of days a youth can spend in the program, and have done away with the requirements that youth are out of their cells for 8 hours/day) has been in place at Giddings for at least a month – and we are STILL seeing problems at that facility.
There's notably no limit on how long youth may be placed in the Phoenix program. Hurley said everyone who enters must complete Aggression Replacement Therapy (ART) which takes a minimum of 10 weeks, so that's likely the minimum length of stay for those sent there. But in the draft rules there is no maximum, just like max limits were eliminated for the "ReDirect" program (which is the new name for Behavioral Management Plans, which in turn was for years the Texas juvenile-justice euphemism for on-campus solitary confinement).

Further, it's unclear exactly how youth end up in the Phoenix program and how they get out. Reported the Trib:
Deborah Fowler, deputy director of the advocacy group Texas Appleseed, said she doesn't believe the new Phoenix program or the change to the Redirect program are solutions to the violence. She said the Phoenix program rules lack specifics about which youths would be eligible and when they could leave. And she said even if the Phoenix program is approved, she doubts it will live up to TJJD's promises, saying the agency has failed to adequately implement similar programs in the past. Instead, Fowler believes independent experts should be hired to assess the problems and suggest solutions.
Said Fowler, "The overriding concern is that whatever this program looks like, simply moving kids from one facility to another is not going to solve the crisis," That's also my own gut reaction, but the TJJD board voted to move forward with the idea, anyway, so time will tell. (FWIW, I sincerely hope my pessimism is unfounded.)

Finally, I just about coughed up a hairball upon reading this commentary from Mike Ward's story:
[State Sen. John] Whitmire said while he respects the advocacy groups, he's disappointed in their position.

"I think they need to let the administration and the board do their job for the people of Texas,” he said. "...We’re trying to save these troublemakers. By going to Mart it might keep them from going to the adult system.”
Was Sen. Whitmire letting "the administration and the board do their job" when he accused the executive director of a "hug a thug" mentality and enlisted an oft-favored reporter to write a one-sided hit piece lambasting Cherie Townsend's management decisions, directly leading to her resignation? I respect Sen. Whitmire, but if he wants to micro-manage agency decisions then he can hardly blame advocates for their participation. If he's not content to "let the administration and the board do their job," why in heaven's name should they refrain from comment? It's not like anybody thinks the agency is doing the job well.

MORE: See Ward's coverage of the TJJD meeting, where Jay Kimbrough was hired as the new executive director.


Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Thank you Grits for reporting on tyc tjjd. Informative and always entertaining, a true ass clown circus top to bottom. Can’t wait to read the commentary especially the ones from my fans.
I’d like to meet Jim Hurley one day. What a role he plays as cover up man for tyc. I think I’m becoming a fan.

Anonymous said...


Les Brown said...

Scott: Just shut up and sing.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Les, the "shut up" part is something I've never done that well, I'm afraid. I'm cursed with an oversensitive bullshit meter.

Real classy, 6:00, you're obviously an excellent role model.

And Sheldon, don't personalize things with Hurley. He's doing a job, it's not really about him.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, this program (which the advocates deride) may be the one thing that keeps some of these youth from ending up in the adult system. More and more youths from our facility are being arrested for assault on youth or staff.

I'm thinking that, no matter how unpalatable the advocates find this new phoenix program, it is light years better than what is waiting for the youth who commit crimes and are facing adult charges and adult time for assaulting TJJD staff or youth.

Anonymous said...

"Les, the "shut up" part is something I've never done that well."

It's about time you came to that admission. You are clueless when it comes down to it. You are a 180 degree difference of Bronco Billy and NEITHER of you are going in the right direction. Wise up.

Anonymous said...

This program is NOT A SOLUTION - it is merely a tool, an attempt to get the most aggressive youth away from the other youth and staff, and increase the opportunity for the 'less aggressive' youth to go through programming. Scott - did those stats you got give you any information on how many assaults are attributable to specific youth? (I know you didn't get names...)Generally, the stats show about 10% of the youth are responsible for 90ish% of the serious assaults - supposedly, it is this 10% that will be identified for the new programs.
Another thing the stats show - local staff don't use the other 'sanctions' available to them. I understand many think the sanctions are not enough, but not using them certainly isn't helping! I also understand the advocates not liking the new programs and the possible effects on the youth sent to them - but the agency needs another tool to protect the youth and staff that don't go into these programs.

Anonymous said...

I think if you surveyed the public, 99.9% of voting Texans that can PROVE they are here legally with a voter ID would say screw these little assholes and send them to the MAN - TDCJ - and quit wasting our tax payer dollars on these wannabe fifty cent types. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

Most of this amounts to blacks assaulting whites. They are given a free hand.

Anonymous said...

If you live day in and day out in the dorms, this is a step in the right direction! Is it a final fix? Hell no! 24 beds would be for the most extreme assaultive youth that go all out and are uncontrollable! Common sense will tell you that it's not a "miracle plan", come on people! But...the worst of the worst have a bed at Mart for the time being! Changes are about to occur, and I pray every night for the Youths sake and the Staffs! It's time to clean this agency up and I'm willing to do it! I've got bruised ribs and spitting up alittle blood, but ya know, there are still a few Staff out there with hearts and are true soldiers for the well being of the youth and co-workers! Mr Kimbrough has the ability right now to get this agency set up in a right direction! I believe it can and God willing will be done! Most kids in here are good hearted, but just don't know it yet! Then again....the ones that love to assault, run the show, extort others, and have little hope, get the mats ready and wash the linens at Mart! Get the belly chains and cuffs, and get the white van cranked up! Get em out of here! Better yet, open up a closed unit, all security based! It's time to clean this shit up, so the ones that might have a chance, get a better chance at a new start! The others, tell the guards at Huntsville to get the orange jump suits ready and sorry about your bad luck son, cus you had your shot! It's quite easy!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:38, even when TYC was at it tuffest it graduated many to TDCJ. It "may" do what you say or the policy "may" have a number of other possible results, including drawing more successful litigation like the last time they went this route.

10:01, I'm sure you'd prefer if everyone who disagrees with you just "shut up." But they're doing this very fast and the policies governing the new programs are frankly vague and inadequate. I'm not going in any particular "direction" (after all, I'm not in charge), I'm raising questions about the direction the state is headed and whether they know what they're doing. It hasn't appeared so for much of the last five years, but now you want me to have blind trust?

10:14, a) I don't think the survey results would turn out as you say unless you biased the questions, but b) it doesn't matter because the main constraints on the agency come through federal law via past court settlements and Supreme Court precedents. You can say just stop spending on them and I'm sure you think it makes you quite clever, but it's not a reality-based proposition.

1:08, I DO agree that from the worm's eye view of staff this will seem welcome because they've let the situation fester for five years, and as I said in the post I hope it works. But if we look up in a year and all y'all are still making the same daily complaints (and I suspect you will), there will still need to be thought given to more fundamental solutions.

In some ways I like the idea. I've been calling for smaller units and more staff, and that's what they'e doing here. But I think that model is what's needed across the board, not just in some ad-seg lite created by people consciously mimicking TDCJ (or at least so they've said in Mike Ward's articles).

Anonymous said...

Grits - talk to the hand. Get your fat ass from behind your computer and left wing ideology and walk those halls where it's going down. I'd bet we'd see nothing but your asshole and elbows once they clucked. It's real easy for you and your hug-a-thug types to sit on the sidelines and make these comments without ever getting on the field. In that sence, you are a bench warmer.

Let them bring the lawsuits. There is ample amounts of video evidence available to a jury showing why the agency has acted in this manner, and the tape doesn't lie - which is why you are still on the bench - bra.

ckikerintulia said...

Scott, you're patience and tolerance amazes me. Some of these anonymous comments are abusive and profane. In my opinion they should not be published. But you d' man! Please don't shut up. As for singing, I've never heard you sing. Since you grew up a Baptist you could probably do pretty well with "Amazing Grace," "Just as I Am," or "Power in the Blood." :)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunatley many men in our sociey think that they are doing a service by knocking up a woman and having a child. Further, they don't nor care to raise a child.

In short, everyone else is responsible for raising children whose father view them as nothing more than a 30 second pop. Don't care how communist it sounds but such shit for brain human being need to be casterated just to prevent gene pool contamination and to stop the pain of children being born into a life where they are set up to fail.

Until that happens we, society will be en a lifelong struggle to control, raise parentless children.

Pork barrel said...

Is this a privatized program being brought on line? And if so who is beneficiary...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Some of these anonymous comments are abusive and profane"

Rev. Charles, I've learned long ago that those folks do MUCH more to discredit themselves and their positions than they harm me. All that bile is hidden from view most of the time, but given a chance anonymously folks show their true colors. Not very attractive, is it? Small wonder the agency is screwed up.

8:06, nobody forced you to visit here. If you don't like what you read here, don't visit and it won't annoy you so much. I promise not to miss you too badly.

Pork barrell, not a privatized program, this is gubmint run, at least so far.

Anonymous said...

Grits I want to ask you a question? Ok, let's say you kept getting DWIs and the Judge said I've had enough! You've injured peopled, harmed yourself, and still you get drunk and drive! The Judge says, ok you obviously cannot control yourself, you are going to the pen! While your in the pen you keep getting caught making contraband hooch and you still get drunk! You assault a staff and fellow inmates and cause injuries to yourself and others once again! You go to confinement, get back into general, and get caught once again, this time you knocked out a female staff cause you where drunk on your hooch again! At this point your uncontrollable...!! Don't you think it's time to have a place for you to go with a solitary confinement based setup, that has a proper Security plan and staff that will allow you to finally separate you from others to an extent to prevent harm to others and yourself! You see, if a youth is combative and is known to assault, it's not fun knowing you can get blind sided in a dorm at any moment for telling kids that it's time to go to bed! Or seeing littler youth bullied and beat up, having to be on a safety plan or SA( Suicide Alert) just so a JCO will be close to him cuz he's scared! And rightfully so! Nobodys whining, it's the reality of situations that occur everyday in TJJD! If you cannot control your actions, then "Ad Seg", may be your only option! OC Spray, Security Confinement, Loss of Privileges are a Joke to some of these Thugs! I say send em straight to Huntsville, the welcome party at that House is needed for some of these youths! Those Black Lady Guards will cuss you out first, strip ya butt naked, them throw you into a shower room of grown ass naked men, saying stuff to ya that wanted to make me tremble just hearing the comments! There has to be a place for the ones that cannot control themselves, pure and simple!

Bring Back Bronco! said...

I read the rules for placement in this program. It targets the non-emotionally disturbed psychopaths that are hell bent on harming people and creating chaos. The only rememdy to cure this socially disturbed thug is brick cell therapy. Lock 'em up. No sympathy here. Very nice call Whitmire and Madden. That's taking the bull by the horns.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:29 asked, "Don't you think it's time to have a place for you to go with a solitary confinement based setup, that has a proper Security plan and staff that will allow you to finally separate you from others to an extent to prevent harm to others and yourself!"

Who said otherwise? There are isolation cells on every campus right now that differ little from those proposed. But that still leaves open all the questions in the post, and also leaves the underlying structural problems unresolved. 24 isolation beds will do little to make the campuses safer. Put every kid who assaults a staffer in there and it'd fill up in two weeks. But it's a 10 week minimum program so what happens for the next eight weeks? I hope I'm wrong, but from what I can tell, moving them to a different campus solves nothing. The agency has lots of programs already, they're just no good at running them. But I'm sure all that will change now, right?

Demetria said...

Grits for Breakfast and well behind the curve....

Anonymous said...

Security is fundamental? Serioiusly, Kimbrough. Is that a part of the joke that people didn't understand at Texas A&M?Shouldn't it be safety that is fundamental?

Semantics? Maybe, but it is a mentality, and one is dangerous in principle.

In the short term, this program probably helps with safety for the 24 placed in the program. It isn't sustainable to solve the problems of the agency over the long term. The security angle is a technical solution to an adaptive challenge.

How long did it work the first time with Kimbrough's leadership? Here we go again indeed.

I had hopes that reform might be possible with TJJD. I think it is time for the counties to put an end to this and stop committing youth, and to advocate the lege for money to be moved toward local communities.

Anonymous said...

let's all give 09:30 a hug shall we?

Anonymous said...

Mart is not necessary and we all know it, the local campuses have the ability to take care of their own but did not have the programs or backing from CO these past 4 years.
By allowing all of these campuses to pass on their dirty laundry to Mart gives a false pretense that we fixed the problem. Anyone who has ever worked In this field knows, you move or get rid of the top dog on campus someone else will fill their shoes.
This also allows the campuses to just move their bad apples and not do their jobs, which is to treat and resocialize the the youth.
This is just another knee jerk reaction and pandering to the crowd. Allow local campuses to have their own Behavior Management Programs (BMP) and make sure monitoring takes place with these programs. Put in place an effective treatment program that stresses discipline must occur prior to treatment and you will be amazed at what progress you will see.


Anonymous said...

You can move the Alpha Dog to Mart and another Alpha Dog will take his place on campus. The culture will revert to its nature.

Anonymous said...

My point exactly, anyone who has ever worked in this environment should know this.


Anonymous said...

I think sending the kids to Mart is OK. Put the facility to use instead of just wasting the beds. The worst kids (as mesured by referrals, assaults, etc) can be the first to go there, and maybe staff can impress on the rest of the kids that being out of a cell (at Mart) for only 5 hours a day ISN'T something they REALLY want... is it?

Can't hurt, might help. May as well try.

The best thing the youth can get from staff is consistancy. If they screw up with the rules, they have a consequence, a penalty, call it what you will... just like "real" parents would exact from them. Find SOMETHING, SOMEHOW, durn near ANYTHING that will change their behavior for the better, and JUST DO IT.

I'm not suggesting using tasers, spray, physical/emotional violence is the answer, but treating children like children is one thing. Treating 3-time youth felons like the criminals they are is NOT inappropriate in my mind... and may actually help them if they are made to answer for their crimes to authorities, correctional officers, and victims. Remember the victims?

Oh, yeah... "Them". The victims. Remember them?? THEY are the ones that should perhaps have the loudest voices in what to do with these kids who refuse to follow societys' expectations, regardless of age

Anonymous said...

The current "hug a thug" program obviously did not work so why not try this approach? Can't hurt. Kids in the free get sent to their room for bad behavior, why not the "thugs".
Maybe it's time we sent all the violent youth to TDCJ and let the county operations handle the rest like they say they can. Shutter the state run facility doors. Problem remains you have the kids with mental health issues that need somewhere to go and TDCJ is NOT the answer for them. Regional Mental Health Facilities have been proposed in the past. DO IT!!!!

Anonymous said...

I applaud the TJJD Board for not allowing advocacy groups to sway their decision. IMO, seperating the most dangerous juveniles from the population is a no brainer.

All those opposed need to go work at a youth prison for a month, that would shut them up for good!!

Excellent fact, the only decision that would solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

A young criminal is convicted for one murder (no telling how many he committed). At TYC/TJJD, he gets to go on a non-stop orgy of assaults, intimidation, disruption, threats and disrespect. He is referred to security almost daily. Why do we allow this? Why do we afford him easy access to people that he can victimize to his hearts content. I know that when his term is up the intellectuals will say, "He’s paid his dues to society and we must now welcome him back into our community."

Excuse me. He didn't pay any dues--he just kept assaulting people. He just kept doing what he did when he was in the hood. What did he learn? He spent his time in security, not in classrooms. He did curse six or eight teachers so I guess we have to give him credit for that.

Anonymous said...

Do whatever you have to do to decrease the number of assaults on staff and shut the kids up from mouthing to the staff all the time. I think all locations need to be run like a boot camp. Speak when you are spoken to. Work hard, no down time to create trouble and consequences for every action. For the kids who follow the rules and do as they are told give them extra positive reinforcement. The one's who won't conform should go straight to prison.

Anonymous said...

You must have little experience working in corrections. Moving 20 or 30 of the mot assaultive does not fix anything. When they leave the campus their lieutenants will fill their void and you have the same issue. At some point local facilities must be given the authority to deal with their own, passing the buck to Mart is extremely short sited and is not the cure.


Anonymous said...

I don't see the Mart 24 beds having a great impact but I hope it does. All juvenile facilities need to go hard line and instill a military type of disciplinary process. If it's great for our service guys and gals then why not the thugs?

Anne Roberts said...

The comments are kinda hard-hitting for me to read as well. Just goes to show that you're one tough cookie to break.

Anonymous said...

If the choice is either boot camp for juveniles or TDCJ, shutter the doors. The evidence is clear that boot camps are ineffective, and in many cases cause recidivism to rise.

It seems like the answer for those that work with these youth in TJJD is to do whatever is possible to protect staff. That is commendable, but not at the cost of making offenders worse. At a minimum there are cheaper options. At the worst, the costs to society upon release are too great.

This is the problem with the security model. It is seen as an either/or dichotomy, instead of a security & rehabilitation model. You start at one end of the continuum with a goal towards moving to the other.

Col. Hardnast said...

I'm a Former Marine and I disagee with your conclusion. We opened the Sheffield Bootcamp and many of our graduates went on to serve and later received funds to pay for their eucation in which many received a BS or BA degree in several fields. It took taking them out of their hood and straighten their ass up to serve and overall, the majority did.

Many of us who served in Iraq back in 1991 saw the opportunity to open the eyes of these boys and we did. Many went on to serve despite knowing there are many flag burning pieces of shits out there that just want to sound off but never had the balls to back it up. Hence - kiss my ass - liberal. Inside of every boy, there is a man. They want and take pride on being in that winning bunch.

Anonymous said...


Calm down. Stop taking it personal. No one is challenging your manhood. No doubt there are resilient kids in any setting who will overcome the odds and do well.

Look at the statistics. Heck, do a google search on juvenile boot camps and recidivism. They didn't work. on a large scale, for most kids. Boot camps have proven successful for training young men for discipline and war, but not so much for transforming delinquent youth.

This approach with young people has been attempted, and failed most of the time for most of the kids.

Anonymous said...

Actually the new policy says they get 1 hour out of cells a day...

Col. Hardnast said...

March your ass up Victory Hill in Sheffield, Texas 10:07, and get it done in 3 and I'll make you a man. There were a a whole lot of boys that dropped their balls and grew up on that hill. They came out of there proud - as they should have.

Anonymous said...

We all know this isn't going to solve all the problems. It is going to solve a few of them and that's a start.

I, for one, am glad to see that we're at least trying to do that for a change. The pendulum has got to swing the other way and I hope Mr. Kimbrough is the person that is going to get it done.

The only people that can even fathom what really goes on in these facilities are the ones who work there. The others have no clue and wouldn't last 15 minutes. If you have seen the news lately about the abuse the lady on the bus took with all the terrible remarks, etc. then you've seen what TJJD staff deal with most of their day every day and not just one bus ride. This needs to stop. What do young people learn from being able to treat adults like that day in and day out. Only that it's ok to treat people like that.

If Mr. Kimbrough would get rid of this crazy Connextions and PBIS and bring back what we used to do where the youth had to come to terms with their crimes, show empathy, learn all the thinking errors, etc. (Resocialization)and get us back to the day where a youth could actually lose his stage for something less than nearly killing staff, we'd be headed back in the right direction. Now, they get their stages way too easily and since they can't lose them, they give staff hell until they go home.

I'm praying that we get this agency turned around and really make a difference in some of the lives of these youth. We're the last chance they have and they aren't seeing reality the way things are being done now. Most will be doomed when they get back into the "real" world with the attitudes and actions they have learned are ok while they have been locked up.

Anonymous said...

TJJD lacks trained staff to make this Program work. I see more lawsuits and legitimate claims of abuse in the future of TJJD.

Anonymous said...

As long as the architect of Conextions is still a Director for this agency (Rebecca Cox) do you really believe you will see any change?

Anonymous said...

too many bleeding heart liberals and advocacy groups out there. why dont you come down and work a dorm for a day and bet you would change your mind. these juvenile punks beat up on staff and weaker kids

Anonymous said...

People like Rebecca Cox have been allowed to put their stamp on the agency and they have been allowed to promote their own loopy programs and get away with it for years. If we looked into her background, we would take the keys to the agency out of her hands. That also goes for those who cluster around her.

Anonymous said...


The Grand Jury did not return a True Bill

The Lee County Grand Jury met on Friday, June 8th, to consider allegations raised by Texas Juvenile Justice Department Independent Ombudsman Debbie Unruh over ongoing problems at the Giddings State School.

Unruh's April 13, 2012 report, about conditions at the Giddings State School, has caused a stir at the State School facility. The situation has resulted in the ousting of Superintendant Stan DeGerolami and a retirement announcement from Cherie Townsend, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

The allegations made their way to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG). OIG investigated Unruh's allegations then turned the report and their investigation over to Lee County Attorney Martin Placke for Prosecution - with assistance from the Texas Special Prosecution Unit of TDCJ/TJJD.

The Grand Jury considered the matters raised in the report but did not return any True Bills of indictment for any felony or misdemeanor offenses against any alleged offenders.

County Attorney Martin Placke said, "I do not intend to present these matters to another Grand Jury unless new information develops warranting presentation." Placke added, "The allegations in the report of bullying, terroristic threat, and assault constituted possible misdemeanor offenses. This was an experienced Grand Jury and all that I will surmise is that they concluded that the allegations did not rise to the level warranting a True Bill of indictment."

The Lee County Grand Jury did return True Bills of indictment against two Giddings State School students. Shawn Vasquez, age 17, and Louis Byers, age 18, were both indicted for separate incidents where they are accused of assaulting staff members at the Giddings facility.

Assault on a public servant is a third degree felony with a range of punishment of up to then years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice adult prison system.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Cheri Townsend's last message to staff sent out this afternoon:

Dear TJJD Employees and Chief Juvenile Probation Officers,

Whether we have worked together for only a few months or for many years, it has been my honor and privilege to work with you to create positive youth outcomes and safer communities. Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to reflect on your many accomplishments over the years, the friendships that were made and that sustained us during challenging times and the youth who have benefited from the educational and treatment programs, the work and care of both professionals and volunteers and the business services that supported agency-operated programs and services as well as community-based programs, services and collaborative efforts.

I considered that this last message would be an opportunity to highlight the successful transition and creation of a new agency, the accelerated rollout of JCMS, the implementation of prevention and early intervention pilot programs in twenty-four counties, the many positive changes within the Texas Youth Commission over the last three years (ACA accreditation, compliance with Special Education requirements, implementation of PBIS, reduced medical costs and improved services as well as a positive relationship with UTMB, college credit opportunities for youth and staff at Navarro College, increased specialized treatment and vocational training opportunities for the many youth who need them, the remarkable 50% reduction in re-arrest rate for gang-involved youth participating in the GitRedy re-entry program and the new programs and services available in halfway houses to re-connect youth to their communities—just to name a few) and all the people who have made these things happen. I considered telling the stories of Jeremy, Pearl, Jose and Zac, who benefited from all the efforts of so many probation officers, TJJD employees and volunteers. I considered acknowledging the challenges we have faced together to reduce youth aggression and staff injuries, to complete six facility closures, and to realign and reform the juvenile justice system in Texas. And, I considered pointing out the obvious, that all of our work requires partnerships and collaboration which require time and commitment internally and externally, including families.

In the end, I decided to simply say “thank you”. There is a quote from a Dr. Seuss book that seems appropriate at this time, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I leave you with a smile, because I had the chance to work with all of you, to learn from you and, together we made a positive difference in the lives of youth. I am able to move on to the next chapter in my life with confidence that you will continue to serve youth, families, and communities throughout Texas in ways that reflect best practices and that achieve the best possible outcomes.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Cow paddy justice, should we have expected something different?

Anonymous said...

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”


Cherie Townsend will go down as the wost administrator in Texas history and should be a candidate for Texas Monthly's Bum Steer award.

Good Riddance!!!

Anonymous said...

No, the Pope has her beat by a long shot. The Bum Steer award should go to SB103 and the idiots that passed it. They meant well, but anyone who works with youth would tell you that they could see that the kids 'just doing the minimum' has brought about what we have now.

Anonymous said...

Folks just because Cherie left does little to change this agency. The staff she placed in administration positions over the past 3 years will continue to be the down fall. After awhile they will have to quit changing their stripes whenever a new administration takes over, and yes we know who you are.

Anonymous said...

Cherie Townsend wanted to paint a picture of some fairy tale crap with that comment “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened," and paint this picture of love, caring, honesty in a theraputic setting.

I love DR. Suess and read his stories to my children all the time. He had some seriously good messages for children all over the world.

But the fact is, under Townsend, her story is more fitting of a comparison to a Steven King Horror movie.... MISERY.

It is what it was but now get it right.

Anonymous said...

Well we have had new leadership for a couple of months even with Cherie on board and nothing has really change. Tallk of new uniforms, talk of the Mart facility, but the youth still have total control.
It really does not take a genius to figure out that the programs we continue to run have been broke. Who in the hell came up with conextions, why would anyone pander this useless piece of crap?

Anonymous said...

Who in the hell came up with conextions, why would anyone pander this useless piece of crap?

Conextions is Rebecca Thomas Cox's creation/creature. Not many people in TJJD are willing to take her on despite the dismal history of that misbegotten fiasco.

Anonymous said...

My question is very much to the point, why does Jay Kimbrough keep the top management that he inherited from Ms. Townsend?
If they have been employed in these positions for the past 2,3,4, years or more should this not tell you something about their abilities.
I cannot tell you how much pain and suffering that has taken place over these past few years and we cannot bring new leadership?

Anonymous said...

1:59 - why? I don't know either but I suspect it may have something to do with the upcoming elections in November and the fact the board really just turned their back on these hug-a-thug liberal groups. But who knows. I know this.... James Smith needs to go because he was huge in bringing in the problems.

Anonymous said...

Majority of the problems are not the youth; until the agency focus on justice and not correction, the agency may make some head way if you will. The agency will not change until Whitmire and Madden conduct a hearing on the reason staff are getting fired. Review all grievances from staff in the last seven years. Why is everybody turning their head when it comes to Allen Walter---he has a responsibility to the reason TJJD is a mess now. Make it a safe place for staff and the staff will make it a safe place for the youth. Everybody is looking at the wrong problem. Focus on the staff---if the staff is from the administrators---they will ensure the youth are safe...This is the approach...