Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Report: 'Understanding and Addressing Youth Violence in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department'

Got a note today from the UT-Austin LBJ School's Michele Deitch announcing the publication of her latest report, "Understanding and Addressing Youth Violence in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department."  Find her email summarizing its findings below the jump:

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to share with you a copy of my new report, "Understanding and Addressing Youth Violence in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department."  This report, co-authored with a team of my amazing graduate students at the LBJ School, was written on behalf of the Independent Ombudsman (OIO) for TJJD, and was a project requested by the OIO in the wake of numerous accounts of increasing youth violence in the state-run secure juvenile facilities during 2012.  The project involved eight months of intense work and analyzes in-depth all available data through the end of 2012.  The report was released by the OIO at the TJJD Board meeting last week.

The report is forward-looking and emphasizes strategies for reducing violence in juvenile settings rather than assessing blame.  We recognize that reforms within the agency are well underway, and our hope is that the information in this report can help guide some of TJJD's continuing reform efforts.  The report offers a number of recommendations directed to TJJD administrators and legislators.

There are several findings in the report that raise particular concerns:
--Youth violence and disruptive behavior are ongoing and increasing problems, as are non-violent major rule violations.  TJJD appears to have a problem with managing youth behavior generally, not just a problem with violence.

--To date, youth violence has been treated as a short-term crisis to be solved, rather than as a long-term chronic issue to be managed through comprehensive and proactive approaches to behavior management.

--Different types of behavioral problems predominate at each TJJD facility, suggesting a lack of consistency in the way programs and procedures are implemented across the agency.

--The Corsicana facility for youth with serious mental illness has by far the highest levels of youth violence and disruptive behavior in TJJD, calling into question the effectiveness of this setting for a treatment purpose.

--Security units are vastly overused as a behavior management tool, and the data suggest that the placement of youth in these punitive settings may in fact be contributing to misbehavior rather than deterring it.  Some weeks, in fact, there are more referrals to the security units than there are youth in the facilities.
On the positive side, despite the large numbers of violent and other serious incidents, youth generally report feeling safe within TJJD's secure facilities.  Most incidents do not result in serious bodily injury and do not involve weapons.  And of particular importance given the agency's history, youth do not report sexual assault to be a significant problem.

The report finds that the incidence of violence is unrelated to the presence of older youth in the facility, and indeed that younger youth (ages 14 and 15) are disproportionately likely to commit serious and violent incidents.  Moreover, TJJD has the tools it needs to respond to the most serious forms of youth violence, through criminal prosecution of TJJD youth and transfer of determinate sentence youth to TDCJ (the adult prison system), and these tools are routinely employed.

The report contains a very detailed chapter describing nationally recognized best practices in youth behavior management.  Drawing on the advice of top experts from around the country, we recommend the development of a multi-tiered behavior management plan that incorporates preventive elements, intervention strategies, and a graduated system of discipline that includes both intensified interventions and immediate consequences.  Such comprehensive strategies have been very successful at reducing youth violence in juvenile systems around the country.  This chapter of the report is not specific to TJJD and can be a useful resource to juvenile agencies at the state and local levels throughout the country.  Many thanks to those of you who provided expert guidance to us in our research efforts.

I hope you will find this report informative and useful in your work.  The report is attached, and may also be found at this link.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

In response to: "The Corsicana facility for youth with serious mental illness has by far the highest levels of youth violence and disruptive behavior in TJJD, calling into question the effectiveness of this setting for a treatment purpose."

Corsicana Residential Treatment Facility is the TJJD facility that has the ability to restrain a youth in a more proactive way. Other facilities cannot place 4 point physical restraints to prevent a youth from harming himself/herself. When a youth is at one of the other facilities in Texas and acts out, i.e. cutting, attempts self-harm w/ ligatures, overdoses, then that youth is sent to CRTC. CRTC has always been known to have "the worst of the worst". The "troublemakers" as well as the more mentally ill youth are sent to CRTC---therefore, Corsicana is going to be 'skewed' in their numbers when looking at the numbers of violent incidents. You cannot just look at the numbers w/o looking at the "why" of the numbers. The moderate and serious injuries are more likely to occur at the facility that houses the more violent youth.

When Mike Griffiths took over the reins at TJJD, he sent a Superintendent to CRTC (Mr Garcia) that has been consistent w/ the rules and policies. It doesn't matter which way the wind is blowing, Mr Garcia enforces said rules and policies, hence both the youth and staff starting to realize that there is no more "negotiating" for hamburgers, bar-be-que, etc. The youth are now learning that there are consequences for negative behavior, and that the consequences are being consistently and fairly enforced. The JCO staff realizes that they CAN enforce the rules and policies w/ the youth, and that the JCO Supervisors will not "throw them under the bus."

No one at CRTC will deny that negative behaviors occur and are treated at CRTC. But, to say that CRTC is ineffective is not fair. There should be different programs that address simply behavioral issues, AS WELL AS THE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. Having 'one size fits all' attitude makes no more sense than saying a person w/diabetes and a person w/thryoid disease should receive the same type of care.

JimElyce Janssen, RN
Nurse Clinician III

Anonymous said...

I agree and have a tremondous amount of respect for the staff at crtc. They do thankless job and probaly are on the chopping block due to these "numbers". Close that place down and the numbers will increase wherever those difficult students are transfered.

Anonymous said...

TYC/TJJD started losing control of its facilities when the legislature in it's infinite wisdom/stupidity took away extensions from Level II Hearings.

Anonymous said...

The ethical course to take by the Author would be to go back and collect current data and records to retract the bullet "The Corsicana facility for youth with serious mental illness has by far the highest levels of youth violence and disruptive behavior in TJJD, calling into question the effectiveness of this setting for a treatment purpose."

It is obvious that they do not have a clear understanding of how a treatment facility is ran, and does not understand that a youth who has a mental defect or disease which makes it ALMOST impossible for them to grasp the wrongfulness of his acts or, AND even if he understands them, HOW to distinguish right from wrong. Corsicana has been the dumping ground for all the other secure facilities when they only wanted to focus on the behavior of a youth and not the symptoms of the behavior for years.

Mr. Griffiths new Superintendent obviously has a reach on how to accomplish this huge task. You can not have treatment with out control, and you can not have control without treatment. I was told there has been a decrease in incidents and workman comp incidents in Mr. Griffiths select, Frank Garcia, in his 6 months at the Corsicana facility, not to mention, with dropping overtime by 80+ percent at the same time... and keep in mind as the other poster stated, that is with youth who are classified as having mental health issues. Whatever the new superintendent is doing, it is working and needs to be bench marked at the other secure facilities who may have borderline mental issues.

Mr Griffith you have shown the commitment to the TJJD mission. Kudos!

On last point is that, with the current state of the nation with all the school and public shootings, and massacres, these youth are in the right place until they can be re-socialized with all the aftercare programs the legislature is promising in their 2013-2017 strategic planning report.
However, if Senator Whitmire gets his way and closes the facilities, all we will be doing is going back to warehousing our youth, the county is not equipped to handle providing counseling, case management, education, health care (mental and physical), and social work for this population.