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Teen inmate to be freed
Girl had pushed hall monitor; more releases likely in TYC overhaul
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, March 31, 2007
By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN The newly appointed conservator of the Texas Youth Commission will release a 15-year-old girl from a high security juvenile prison today, making her the first of what could be hundreds of kids set free as part of an agency overhaul.
[This message was edited by JB on 03-31-07 at .]
I'd like to hear from juvenile prosecutors on this issue. We can all agree that there is trouble in TYC. But, by what law does a conservator order the release of individuals adjudicated by a judge and sentenced to TYC?
Tex. Human Resources Code
Section 61.081. RELEASE UNDER SUPERVISION.
(a) The commission may release under supervision any child in its custody and place the child in his or her home or in any situation or family approved by the commission [after child has served mandatory minimum of confinement, as set out by statute]...
(g) The commission may request the approval of the court under this section at any time.
The Government Code authorizes the appointment of a conservator if there is gross fiscal mismanagement. Has anyone found such a thing before appointing a conservator for TYC? For the statute, click here
[SHOULD PROSECUTORS JOIN AN INVENTED PANEL ESTABLISHED TO RELEASE JUVENILES EARLY? THERE IS NOTHING IN THE LAW AUTHORIZING SUCH A PANEL. WHY NOT HAVE THE LOCAL JUDGE MAKE THE CALL AFTER PROPER NOTICE AND HEARING?]
April 3, 2007, 12:21AM
New TYC chief strives to calm fears over releases
By LISA SANDBERG
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN Several prosecutors voiced concerns Monday about the release of 550 juveniles from Texas Youth Commission facilities beginning this week, saying the decision sets a bad example and could spark an increase in crime.
Jay Kimbrough, the TYC's new conservator, ordered the releases, saying the youths had served their sentences and were being warehoused in a system that failed to free them at the proper time.
And as early as today, a special panel will begin reviewing the cases of at least 1,500 additional offenders to see if they've had their sentences improperly extended.
"I don't want anybody here past the time they're supposed to be here," Kimbrough said.
The panel, which includes representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will examine which offenders have completed their minimum sentences but are still being held because they failed to complete a resocialization program.
Kimbrough has said that in many instances it appears that the guidelines for determining whether to keep juveniles incarcerated have been applied in an arbitrary, retaliatory or inconsistent manner.
Meanwhile, several prosecutors questioned the decision to release so many juveniles.
"To me, it's too many," said Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal.
"You just about have to break into TYC to get there. It's difficult to get sent there," Rosenthal said. "Now we're saying, 'All right, we're going to release all these offenders.' It's certainly not a good precedent for the kids, (who'll say): 'We can do what we want with impunity ? they'll release us.' "
Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley called the plan "a political move, not a criminal justice move," adding: "There's no question in my mind that crime will increase."
Cliff Herberg, Bexar County's first assistant district attorney, took issue with some of the probable releases, saying the state appeared eager to "shift (its) problem to the local level."
"I'm worried," he said.
Herberg said he has no problem with the release of offenders who have served their sentences, but he questioned freeing those who in some form or fashion "were found to have not followed the rules."
Nervous district attorneys should "relax," said Kimbrough, a former aide to Gov. Rick Perry and once the state's deputy attorney general for criminal justice.
"Ain't nobody ever called me soft on crime. You think I'm going to release people I'm afraid of?" Kimbrough said.
"There are no murderers on the list and no sex offenders ... ," he said, adding that no one would be getting out unless a "home plan" for them had been established.
"They aren't being dumped out on the street," he said.
The offenders to be released this week include 30 who are being held for assault; two for aggravated assault; 18 for theft; 19 for unauthorized use of a vehicle; three for unlawful carrying of weapons; and eight for criminal mischief. The TYC currently has 4,700 incarcerated youths, including 725 who are being held on misdemeanor charges.
Kimbrough was appointed TYC's conservator last week. He is charged with revamping the agency in the wake of allegations that incarcerated youths have been sexually and physically abused by staff and that administrators did little or nothing about it.
He will remain conservator through the end of the session, which adjourns May 28.
Looking for support
Kimbrough said he was eager to gain the support of prosecutors, and added that the first person he called to discuss the review panel was Robert Keppel, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.
Keppel said he was "relieved" there would be input from prosecutors into future decisions regarding releases.
How does one find out which juveniles are being released? Seems like the public, law enforcement, victims, etc. would have an interest in that sort of thing.
Lee Hon posts a very interesting question. These youths are being released without any input, apparently, from the sentencing court or even from the DA's office who prosecuted them. And Rosenthal is right...you do just about have to break in to TYC to be sent there.
All the makings of a mess for local communities throughout the state. These are not children who wouldn't go to school or who committed some minor violation of the law, for the most part, those incarcerated have had to work long and hard at criminal behavior to be sentenced to TYC.
And then what happens when the term of the legislature ends? Everything is wonderful?
And just when I thought I had my juvenile docket under control before summer break.
Why is the question / topic being phrased as releasing juveniles "early"? So far everything I have seen indicates that ONLY juvi's who have served at least their minimum sentence are being reviewed for release - that is they are eligible to be released anyway. As far as "with no input from the sentencing court or the prosecution" isn't that the way juvi's are normally reviewed for release? I don't recall our office ever getting notice that juvi X was being considered for release. Our opportunity for input is when the juvi is sentenced.
FYI...the law requires Notice of Pending Discharge in the Human Resources Code, in case you do want the list of who's coming home.
� 61.078. NOTICE OF PENDING DISCHARGE. As soon as practicable after the commission makes a decision to discharge a child or authorize the child's absence from its custody, the commission shall give notice of its decision to the juvenile court and the office of the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the adjudication that the child engaged in delinquent conduct was made.
Dear External Review Panel Members:
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this very important endeavor. The work of this External Review Panel will affect the lives of many youth and families; we appreciate your commitment to them.
The meeting will be held at 9:00 am tomorrow, April 4, 2007 on the second floor of the Brown-Heatley Building at 4900 North Lamar Boulevard in Austin. We will be meeting in the Texas Youth Commission�s Executive Conference Room.
You are being asked to review a total of approximately 500 files of youth who have completed their initial minimum lengths of stay (MLOS) to assess the legitimacy of any disciplinary extensions to their stay and to examine the effects of the agency�s Resocialization programming. Following your review, you will be asked to render a decision regarding the youth�s continued confinement, specific treatment parameters, and the time-frames for his or her continued confinement, transition to halfway house, parole, or discharge.
At tomorrow�s meeting, the panel will determine how best to approach its task. After the criteria for the different recommendations are determined and your timelines are established, you will begin reviewing the available files and offering your recommendations. As background information, links to TYC�s current release and discharge policies are attached. TYC staff will be available to provide other information as needed.
You will receive reimbursements and per diem for your travel expenses. If you have questions about your travel expenses, please call Dimitria Pope at (512) 424-6001.
We will be conducting criminal background checks on all panel participants. By 5:00 pm today, please email Tracy Levins (email@example.com) the following information:
* Your last name,
* First name,
* Date of birth,
* Social security number, and
A map to the agency is attached. You may park in any of the visitors� spaces in the parking circle in front of the Brown-Heatly building or in any unreserved space in the garage. Please enter the building at the south entrance and sign in with the security guard at the front desk.
Thank you again for your commitment to the youth and families of the Texas Youth Commission.
Acting Chief of Staff
As an example of some of the Rules adopted by TYC (and presumably STILL THE LAW), for release of offenders, click here.
How can TYC circumvent the rule by creating a "panel" of nonTYC officials?
In addition, why wouldn't the nonTYC members of the panel be in violation of these rules on confidentiality?
Who gives legal advice to the TYC? Is the AG's office their counsel, or are they strictly limited to the counsel employed by TYC?
Many district attorneys oppose TYC releases
24 youths could be sent home to Travis County
By Mike Ward
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Legal questions began building Tuesday about the scheduled release of more than 550 incarcerated juveniles � more than a tenth of those being held by the scandal-racked Texas Youth Commission � as several prosecutors raised issues about the new freedom process.
The concerns surfaced as Youth Commission officials made public the first details about who will be released.
Offenders expected to leave Youth Commission facilities were convicted of crimes including aggravated sexual assault, truancy, arson, graffiti, burglary, prostitution, drug possession, terroristic threats, engaging in organized criminal activity, resisting arrest and many probation violations.
"I do not think it is legal," said Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, echoing sentiments of other prosecutors statewide. "There's no question in my mind that crime will increase."
Jay Kimbrough, who was appointed conservator of the troubled agency last week, said he was shocked by the criticism.
"What do they want us to do with them? These kids have all completed their sentences," he said. "The suggestion that we can't change a policy is at the heart of all this. Of course, we must change policies at this agency."
On Monday, Youth Commission officials said more than half of the 550 already approved for release in coming days were eligible because of a Friday order to waive the full completion of some rehabilitation requirements.
Kimbrough said he is confident that he has the authority to make that decision.
He and other Youth Commission officials insisted that the youths who are set to be released had completed their sentences; some have been held for weeks after their scheduled release date.
In Houston, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said he intends to be in Austin today to discuss the issue, and others, with lawmakers.
"In my mind, a kid almost has to break into TYC to get there," he said, suggesting that the mass release � at least 143 of the 550 are from his county � might be "too many."
Prosecutors in San Antonio were quoted by The Associated Press as expressing similar concerns.
Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe did not return a phone call for comment.
Late Tuesday, Bradley officially questioned Kimbrough's plan to convene a special review panel today to begin reviewing for release as many as 2,000 additional youths.
"What legal authority does TYC have for forming such a panel? My understanding was that only TYC officials or a local juvenile judge could make such a decision," Bradley wrote in an e-mail to Youth Commission officials.
"Why doesn't this approach violate TYC's own rules, which have been adopted and have the force of law for TYC? Why won't this violate confidentiality laws? Juvenile and criminal justice records are subject to numerous laws protecting the confidentiality of the defendant and the information. I'm not aware of any laws that permit TYC to suspend the operation of those laws."
Kimbrough said the reviews fully comply with state law.
"I've got a law degree, too, . . . and we're not going to do anything that will violate any law or confidentiality," he responded. "Here would be John's problem: He doesn't know what we're doing. You can quote me on that."
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, whose county faces the return of 24 youths in the initial release, offered a different view.
"Ultimately, these kids are the responsibility of the community from which they came, and they will return home � and the question is whether that'll be sooner rather than later," he said.
"The way things have been working (at the Youth Commission), there's not much difference."
Until Mr. Kimbrough cites with specificity the authority under which he purports to act, Mr. Bradley's concerns continue to be persuasive. Mr. Kimbrough states, "Here would be John's problem: He doesn't know what we're doing. You can quote me on that." I believe anyone who is paying attention knows what the panel intends to do; however, the question Mr. Bradley asked remains unanswered. Under what legal authority will this panel be acting when releasing these juveniles back into the communities from which they were committed?
By what authority do they act, you ask? By the best authority of all -- moral authority.
At the risk of being forever banished from the forum, I completely and totally disagree with the stance being taken by John Bradley. TYC has the continuing authority to monitor these children and to subsequently review them and determine whether or not they still need to remain in TYC once the period of their initial sentence is over. There seems to be proof positive than in a great majority of instances, these childrens' sentences were being extended for bad reasons or no reason at all.
To me, that seems a violation of their due process rights.
Plus, there is the fact that many children were subject to terrible abuses that went ignored for far too long.
People have had it and this is their reaction. These children deserve every consideration and every benefit of the doubt, in my opinion.
While I appreciate your passion on this topic RTC, you failed to address the legal question at hand. Undoubtedly, there are moral implications at play with regard to the TYC scandal but I ask you, "What is the appropriate legal means to address the moral issues presented?"
I have not read reports that a significant number of TYC committed youth have been extended beyond their MINIMUM length of stay for arbitrary reasons. I realize that even one is too many; however, there are some legitimate reasons why a youth may be extended beyond the MLOS after having completed the program. If I have missed something indicating significant numbers of youth have arbitrarily been held past their MLOS, please point me to the report. I agree that due process implications arise if youth are held past their MLOS for reasons other than that they failed to engage in the rehabilitative programming within their first nine months. Simply being held past the nine-month MLOS is not a per se Due Process violation.
The children that were subjected to abuse should be afforded every opportunity to have justice in their individual situations but I see this whole situation as a bureaucratic, political overreaction and when the bureaucrats and politicians get involved, the pendulum usually swings too far the other way.
Let us not fail to remember that many of the youths that fit the legal definition of child committed a significant crime or demonstrated a pattern of criminality that warranted their having been committed to TYC in the first place. Please look at or review the Progressive Sanctions Model of processing a juvenile through the Texas Juvenile Court System. It's atypical to "sneak" into TYC. A TYC commitment is usually well-earned.
Now look at the other side of the coin. TYC has a responsibility to the citizens of Texas to continue to incarcerate committed youths until they:
(a) Engage in and successfully complete the rehabilitative programming,
(b) Turn 21
(c) Are released pursuant to HB 1550
(mental health discharge)
(d) Are transferred to TDCJ-ID
People may have had it and this may be their reaction but is it the right thing to do legally and morally for all Texans? Is it a mere reaction or an overreaction?
Consider the three components of the TYC program:
(1) Academic rehabilitation
(2) Behavioral rehabilitation
(3) Correctional rehabilitation
A lack of progress in any of the three could result in a youth's commitment being extended past the nine-month MLOS. We look to legislative intent as one guide in matters of law. As set forth above, our legislature clearly intended for court-committed juvenile offenders to remain in TYC until one of the four circumstances above were met. To release juveniles from TYC custody under any other circumstances, without a clear legal avenue, would be violative of our legislature's intent, IMO.
Consider the case of a youth incarcerated in TYC who is a phase zero out of four possible phases with zero being the lowest. This is indicative of a youth not engaging in rehabilitation. This youth is being interviewed for release even though he is not a phase four, going to TDCJ-ID, 21, or a 1550 release. He asks the interviewer, "How much of my time is this gonna take?" The youth eventually falls asleep during the interview. Isolated case? Maybe but the mere fact that this youth was being interviewed for release is indicative of an overreaction, IMO.
Consider the many youths incarcerated in TYC who purposely do not engage in rehabilitation because TYC is safer than the home they may be released back to or TYC has a little less gang activity than the community they'll be released back to, or they get to eat three meals a day and have heat and A/C in TYC. There are youths in TYC like this and some are even willing to admit it.
Consider that you've likely only read media reports that infrequently do not include the perspective of the many professionals that diligently and faithfully work with these troubled youths. You may only be getting one side of the story from entities that have a vested interest in selling papers or advertising. The more sensational the story...
Consider that some TYC facilities are quietly being converted to TDCJ facilities because it's politically expedient to gain prison beds (there must be a need) without building new units.
TYC needs to be overhauled but it seems to me that it's being done in an over-reactionary manner under questionable legal authority. A moral basis should require a legal means or we haven't accomplished a thing. Doing the right thing in the wrong way is simply redundant; however, many within TYC would be comfortable with that as that's been the TYC MO for quite some time.
Please review the following website and see if you can spot the hypocrisy:
Consider the youths that may be engaged in rehabilitation that if released prematurely, have been failed by the system just the same as those who have been failed by abuse. Throw out the bath water but leave the babies in to complete the program. Will we dishonor those engaged in rehabilitation by releasing them prematurely?
I don't pretend to have solutions but there are good,law-abiding, professional, faithful employees of TYC who have no voice in this. People whose reputations have suffered by the alleged cover ups at the top and mistreatment of youths by bad apples nearer the bottom of the rung.
New temporary signs placed at TYC facilities inspired by Mr. A.P. Merillat read, "Exit Only."
Twelve scheduled for release were already gone from Youth Commission facility
Officials don't know where the escapees are
By Mike Ward
Friday, April 06, 2007
Twelve of the 550 youths listed as ready to be freed from the scandal-racked Texas Youth Commission won't be leaving early after all.
The reason: They escaped, some many months ago. And officials have no idea where they are.
"Yes, there are 12 who disappeared earlier," Youth Commission spokesman Jim Hurley confirmed Thursday, as other officials adjusted the number of possible releases downward by as many as 100 � from 550 to 450 or less � because of other newly discovered paperwork miscues.
House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, said others were dropped from the list because they were found to be in solitary confinement for new infractions or were ineligible because of their crimes.
The escapees this week were identified as serving time on escape charges, but the story changed Thursday after further review. At that point, Youth Commission officials conceded that the youths had, in fact, escaped and were not locked up.
How did the escapees get listed in the first place?
"They pulled a list of everyone that was past their release date, and the escapees were on there because they were past that date � because they were gone," Madden said he was told. "It's a records problem out there. Another one."
Hurley said Thursday that the number of potential releases had dropped from 550 "because some kids have acted out (extending their stay) and for other reasons. That was the number on that day. It's different today."
Number of incarcerated kids to be freed now 473
Escapes, new charges, parole violations take names off the list.
By Mike Ward
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Texas Youth Commission officials on Friday reduced the total number of incarcerated youths who are to be released in an initial step designed to downsize the scandal-racked agency.
Agency spokesman Jim Hurley said 473 youths who already have completed their sentences are to be released, down from 550 announced earlier this week. More than a third of the total have already been freed.
Agency conservator Jay Kimbrough earlier ordered the release of all youths who had completed their sentences, waiving some elements of a rehabilitation program if they had a good behavioral record and were otherwise cleared to leave.
Hurley said the reduced total does not include 77 youths who never should have been on the list, among them 12 escapees whose mistaken inclusion on the list was disclosed Friday by the Austin American-Statesman.
Among others removed from the list are youths incarcerated on new charges, including violating parole, and at least 25 whose release had to be approved by a doctor.
They had subjects included on the list who had escaped? Someone is really putting a lot of thought into this.
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