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"As Conservator, Mr. Kimbrough has the authority to adopt rules necessary to administer his conservatorship as well as direct policy decisions for the agency. As statutory authority, please see Texas Government Code, Chapter 2104, Secs. 2104.014 and 2104.023. Policies regarding youth releases directly relate to one of the issues which led to the conservatorship, namely the possibility of holding youth beyond their minimum length of stay with no valid policy purpose. The previous policy regarding youth release was amended under Mr. Kimbrough's statutory authority referenced above, not waived, with the purpose of providing for release of youth who should have already been released."

It seems that The Conservator takes the position he can "amend" and make Law without an assistance from the Legislature or the normal rule-making process.
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Youth Commission cancels parole releases

Many had served little time for serious crimes
By Mike Ward
Friday, July 13, 2007

Red-faced officials at the scandal-racked Texas Youth Commission on Thursday canceled the release on parole of more than 150 teenage offenders after discovering that many had served little time on their sentences for serious violent crimes such as murder, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping.

They also announced a top-to-bottom review of their parole criteria as a result.

One youth on the recent list had been sentenced to 40 years in the knife slaying of a classmate, who was stabbed 15 times. He had served less than three before the agency recommended his release.

Another, serving time for molesting six children, was recommended for release even though he had numerous write-ups in youth prisons for indecent exposure and for possessing a weapon. One was a sex offender who assaulted a Youth Commission employee about a year earlier.

Two of those recommended for parole were escapees who are still at large.

"They all did meet the existing TYC standards for release on parole," said Jim Hurley, the Youth Commission's public affairs director. "But after further consideration, we are not comfortable with our recommendation, and we are pulling all of them back for a much more in-depth review. We are going to take a good, hard look at all those files."

Hurley said Youth Commission officials have ordered an immediate review of release policies.

Even so, within hours, officials with the state's adult parole system confirmed they received a new list of about 70 youths that had been approved for parole many of them on the previous list that had been withdrawn.

"Some of these crimes were horrendous. There's no way these offenders should be on the street," said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Richardson, after reviewing the first list Thursday. He demanded all the cases be sent back to the Youth Commission for review, and officials there quickly complied. [Could he make up his mind? I thought he wanted them all out?]

"It's incredulous to me that this could happen. After all the work the Legislature did last spring to clean up this agency, and now I see this, it's clear the Legislature has not gotten what it wanted." [Umm, yes, you did. You wanted them out.]

Madden and Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, head a special legislative committee monitoring the Youth Commission scandal cleanup. Whitmire could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Madden said he intends to hold public hearings soon to to check the status of Legislature-ordered reforms.

While current Youth Commission policy requires a series of agency officials from case managers and psychologists to superintendents of youth lockups to the agency's top two leaders to approve such paroles, Madden said it was not followed. Hurley said neither Dimitria Pope, the acting executive director, or Ed Owens, the conservator sent in as part of a management shakeup last spring, had approved any of the current round of releases.

Were the offenders imprisoned as adults, instead of as juveniles, they would clearly have not met criteria for release on parole, Madden and officials with the state Board of Pardons and Paroles said. [Wait, I thought you wanted the adults out, too?]

The issue came to light after officials with the state's adult parole system, who were to supervise the youths, most of them age 19, balked after reviewing the offenders' files. They warned legislative leaders that many of the proposed releases could pose a threat to public safety.

The Youth Commission became mired in scandal in February, amid allegations that top officials did little to prevent sexual abuse of incarcerated teenage boys by employees and engaged in a cover-up. Subsequent disclosures showed felons had been hired to supervise incarcerated youths, that hundreds of confirmed abuse reports had never been fully investigated and prosecuted, and that youths had been freed on parole without proper review and supervision.
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I'm just shaking my head at this. . .
Posts: 146 | Location: Dallas, Texas USA | Registered: November 02, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Well, we don't look like idiots but there are idiots involved...

To quote one of Mr. Newell's favorites..."Idiots Rule".
Posts: 2578 | Location: The Great State of Texas | Registered: December 26, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Imagine that !
Someone has finally figured out that these kids are not sent to TYC for traffic tickets.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for prosecuting anyone who mistreats those kids while incarcerated (aren't we all), and one of the MANY reasons for putting them in TYC is making not only the public safer but to have a safer place for some of them. But why do these guys think you can "fix" in 6 months what its taken 16 years to "break".

Paint me amazed !
Posts: 640 | Location: Longview, Texas | Registered: October 10, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It really makes you wonder who they have already released! How ridiculous to hear this whining about the very policy the legislature wanted to institute.

And the terrible reality of it is that the legislature also scaled back the size of the TYC system meaning that they will certainly be paroling people that should NOT be paroled in the near future. They also limited to two years the amount of time an inmate can spend in TDCJ after being transferred from TYC. That means that you can commit a murder at 16, get a 40 years sentence as a juvenile, serve two in TYC and then ONLY two in the pen. Ridiculous!
Posts: 146 | Location: Vernon, Texas | Registered: February 02, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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[Amazing how much gets redone after the Leg leaves town.]

TYC asks volunteers with criminal records to return
Many who've gone straight are angered by suspension as mentors
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, July 13, 2007

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN � The Texas Youth Commission will invite back more than 100 volunteers it suspended earlier this month, after many of the workers, who have criminal records, complained that the agency was turning away its most realistic, rehabilitated role models.

Jim Hurley, the agency's director of public affairs, said that TYC administrators don't know who sent the official letter to the volunteers but that it was a mistake. He said the agency is working to come up with a reasonable but safe volunteer policy, and in the meantime, all volunteers should return.

"There are volunteers who have a checkered past who have turned their lives around, and they're able to minister to our folks," Mr. Hurley said. "We want to come up with a policy that not only allows them to participate in TYC activities, but also protects the safety of our youth."

Thursday's decision doesn't change the agency's policy about not hiring felons in paid posts.

The TYC letter was a slap in the face to hundreds of volunteers, said John "Tailgunner" Taylor, national president of the Dallas-based Kingdom Knights, a mentoring motorcycle gang that ministers in Texas' juvenile prisons.

Mr. Taylor, who has turned his life around and received a full state pardon after doing time for a drug charge, a parole violation and "telling a judge to go to hell" more than 20 years ago, said he had received more than 500 e-mails from angry volunteers. He also got a letter from the Gainesville State School denying him access.

Mr. Taylor picked up the phone and called TYC headquarters, vowing to have 10,000 volunteers protesting on the steps of the state Capitol by today if the problem wasn't resolved.

"There are a lot of good people out there trying to reach these kids," said Mr. Taylor, who has events scheduled at TYC prisons on 43 weekends this year. "You think you've got problems with the kids right now, just wait and see when you take out these volunteer programs."

Mr. Hurley said that he believes it was "a staffer down the line" who sent the letter but that the order didn't come from a top agency official.

"It should not have been sent out," he said.

Regardless, Mr. Taylor said, agency officials are going to have to ask sincerely if they want the volunteers to return.

"Some of these people have been going out there for 10, 20 years," Mr. Taylor said. "They're very, very upset."
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Rearrests of freed TYC prisoners raise alarm
One of 43 held in violent crimes is accused in rape of elderly woman

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

CORSICANA � Thirteen days after Howard McJunkin was paroled from a Texas Youth Commission facility for beating and raping an elderly woman in this East Texas town, authorities say he committed the same crime again.

McJunkin is one of 2,200 offenders the TYC rushed to release this year as part of an effort to drastically reduce the population of the scandal-plagued juvenile corrections system. Nearly one in five of those parolees � 408 � have been rearrested for committing new offenses, including McJunkin and 42 others for violent crimes, documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle reveal.

While high recidivism rates have long been a fact of life for TYC � 50 percent of parolees offend again within three years � the rapid rearrests of offenders released in a hurry this year has residents in this town of 25,000 demanding to know: Exactly who's getting out, and how are decisions being made?

"If a kid commits a rape like that when they're that young, put 'em in there and keep 'em in there," said a woman who lives down the street from McJunkin's second alleged victim, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Shane. "I had no idea (the suspect) lived on the next street. My godchildren play out in the backyard. I'm sometimes here at night by myself."

A TYC spokesman said the agency is doing as much as it can to assess the risk of offenders and releases only those who have shown themselves suitable parole candidates. But there are no guarantees.

"There are people who are going to get out and re-offend. We know that," said spokesman Jim Hurley. "These kinds of things happen in every state in the union and in every country in the world. Somebody gets paroled and they commit another crime. It is horrific that these things happen but we have to make decisions based on the law."

While the Legislature this spring enacted a series of agency-wide reforms in an effort to address a sex abuse scandal, including closing TYC to offenders between the ages of 19 and 21 and those who committed misdemeanor offenses, they left untouched TYC's current criteria for paroling juveniles.

Staff who make parole decisions can consider neither the seriousness of an offender's original crime, nor his or her sentence, just the offender's behavior inside TYC.

Officials are looking at revising the parole guidelines but Hurley said the agency is unlikely to require original offenses to be considered without lawmakers ordering it.

"If it's going to change, it's going to take a legislative fix," Hurley said.

Shorter time served

Juveniles sentenced to long terms for violent crimes typically serve just a fraction of their sentence. In contrast, violent offenders in the adult system are required to serve at least half their sentence behind bars.
State prosecutors highlight what they insist are the consequences of that policy, combined with the state mandate that TYC's population be reduced by as much as 40 percent.

In three separate incidents in Harris County, three recently released TYC parolees have been rearrested for aggravated robbery, the same crime that landed two of them at TYC, said Bill Hawkins, chief of the juvenile division at the Harris County District Attorney's office.

"I'll be surprised if we don't get more of these cases," Hawkins said.

Police in San Antonio last month arrested two TYC offenders paroled to a local halfway house who allegedly escaped, drove to Abilene in a stolen car, and kidnapped and raped a woman there, authorities say.

Greg Cloud, a detective with the Corsicana Police Department's juvenile division, remembers having a bad feeling when Howard McJunkin, 20, showed up in his office last month to register as a sex offender.

McJunkin had been sent to TYC several years earlier for beating and raping an elderly woman whose lawn he once mowed. The crime shocked the community, both because it was so brutal and because the assailant, then about 15, was so young. As McJunkin sat before him, Cloud remembers thinking: "What rehabilitation could have taken place?"

If police are correct, not much.

Accused of same crime

Less than two weeks after his release from TYC, McJunkin was rearrested and charged as an adult with aggravated sexual assault. Corsicana police Capt. Kenneth Kirkwood said that in the early morning hours of July 22, McJunkin broke into the home of a 79-year-old neighbor who lived alone and raped her.
Kirkwood said the alleged crime occurred so soon after his release that local authorities had not had time to post McJunkin's photo on the state's sex offender Web site.

McJunkin, who refused a request to be interviewed, was taken into custody after authorities say the victim identified him in a police lineup.

"I've been here 27 years. You get your typical burglaries (in Corsicana) but seldom something like this," Kirkwood said.

As a local grand jury decides this week whether to indict McJunkin, TYC is trying to figure out what to do with 150 offenders between the ages of 19 and 21 who, under the new reforms, can no longer remain at TYC.

"Just because the crime is really egregious doesn't mean we can automatically send a kid to the adult prison," Hurley said.
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Why is this a surprise to the people who cut these darlings loose?
Posts: 956 | Location: Cherokee County, Rusk, Tx | Registered: July 11, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Law could send more youths to adult prisons

Star-Telegram Staff Writer
AUSTIN -- The new law designed to rid the Texas Youth Commission of conditions that led to the widespread abuse of young lawbreakers in state custody is likely to result in more juvenile offenders ending up in jails and prisons where hardened adult criminals are housed, some prosecutors and law enforcement officials say.

At issue is a provision in Senate Bill 103, passed this year after a sex-abuse scandal that sparked a top-to-bottom housecleaning of the state agency. The provision forbids the youth commission from keeping offenders in custody past their 19th birthday.

Critics of the new law say prosecutors around the state will push to have more youths certified to stand trial as adults if the crimes they are accused of committing would make them too serious a risk to have back on the street after only a year or two behind bars.

"The Legislature really tied our hands on this one," said Riley Shaw, a juvenile crimes prosecutor for the Tarrant County district attorney's office. "We are going to be looking at seeking [adult] certification in a greater number of cases than we had been under the old system."

Shaw's concerns were echoed by a representative of the Texas County and District Attorneys Association, by an urban county jail administrator and by a criminal justice advocacy group that had championed the overhaul of the youth commission on grounds that young offenders in state custody needed stronger measures on the books to safeguard their rights.

Dangerous kids

But a lawmaker who helped craft the measure urged critics to withhold judgment until all of the provisions have been tested in real-world conditions. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said the measure contains provisions to keep dangerous youths confined or under community supervision and allocates money to local authorities to operate community detention centers and halfway houses for troubled youngsters.

"They're trying to make the new statute a booger bear that it's not," said Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "I think it would be a whole lot better if all the parties involved just worked together to make sure the statute is implemented the way it was supposed to be."

Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the county and district attorneys association, said the new law effectively undermines how young offenders are sentenced to confinement in a Texas Youth Commission facility. Under the old system, an offender could be sentenced to a certain number of years in custody. The offender would remain with the youth commission until he or she turned 21, and if time remained on the sentence would be transferred to an adult prison.

But now, if a 15- or 16-year-old commits a felony, he or she can be confined to a TYC facility only until age 19. After that, the options are supervised release or transfer to an adult prison.

"The mission of TYC is to rehabilitate these young offenders, and one year or two is just not enough time for a rehabilitation program to take hold," Edmonds said. "A lot of prosecutors are saying they don't want to risk having these offenders back in the community before they are rehabilitated, so the only way to ensure they remained confined is to opt for adult certification, which means they go to adult prison."

Unintended consequence

That might be the best answer for the community, but not for the young offender, said Isela Gutierrez, who handles juvenile issues for the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

"We think that was an unintended consequence of Senate Bill 103 that will have to be addressed," said Gutierrez, whose organization supported the legislation. "Being back in the community [too soon] isn't the right place for a lot of these kids, but neither is adult prison."

Edmonds and Shaw said it's too soon to judge how many young offenders might be tried as adults because of the new law. But the jail administrator for the Bexar County Sheriff's Department said his agency is expecting as many as 100 such cases over the next year.

Deputy Chief Dennis McKnight said that he's been advised by local prosecutors to prepare to house up to 100 young offenders in the Bexar County lockup while they await trial in adult courtrooms. It won't be an easy task, he said.

"You can't just put these kids in any bed you find," McKnight said. "They've got to be segregated from the adult population. A lot of them are going to be gang members who'll have to be segregated from each other. There's going to be mental illness issues, substance abuse, you name it. And then, you're going to have to have education programs for them. An adult confinement facility is not designed for all that.

"Last year, I had four juveniles in my jail," he added. "And I had a read hard time dealing with that many."
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Pressure mounts on TYC to release information on violent teens
About 130 have been recommended for parole

By Mike Ward
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Controversy over official secrecy surrounding the impending paroles of violent offenders from the Texas Youth Commission intensified Tuesday, with state prison officials confirming that information about the offenders is listed in a database that they usually make public but refusing to disclose the names.

Their stance means it is virtually impossible for anyone to get information about the offenders being released, including their crimes and their home counties, without knowing the youths' names.

The development came as a growing chorus of prosecutors, victim advocates and local officials demanded that the details of the releases be disclosed to ensure public safety.

"This is sick, because it's shielding the public and the decision makers from having information they should have," Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said.

"If they're adults, I get notice, and I get to participate in the (decision) process. I don't get any of that with juveniles who are transferred (to the adult parole system), so once they're out, it's too late for me to do anything but shake my head when they commit a new crime.

"That's just wrong."

On Tuesday, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed that most, if not all, of the approximately 130 violent offenders who Texas Youth Commission officials have ordered them to parole are listed in their offender information system.

On Monday, state Board of Pardons and Paroles Chairwoman Rissie Owens had said that parole officials could not release names or details about the youthful offenders � all 19- and 20-year-olds � because they were not in the computer.

Youth Commission officials kept the files of 10 offenders after a special parole panel approved conditions of their release Friday, she said. Owens could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

About 130 youths � all serving time for murder, manslaughter and aggravated crimes such as kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery � have been recommended for transfer from commission lockups to adult parole supervision. Commission officials first tried two months ago to transfer most of the offenders to adult parole, but parole officials balked, saying that most were poor risks and likely to commit new crimes.

Commission officials have said they are prohibited by state law from disclosing the names of the offenders or any details of their crimes. Adult parole officials are not under the same constraints, once the offenders show up in the computer system.

On Tuesday, the American-Statesman verified that at least 25 of the parole-bound offenders are in the database, listed by name and offenses. Officials later conceded that the rest were there as well.

It was unclear whether any of them were bound for the Austin area. Michelle Lyons, a spokesman for the Department of Criminal Justice, said that information is normally public. But because these offenders are coming over from the Youth Commission, "we want someone else to sign off on it," she said.

By closing time Tuesday, no one had done so, even though in the past, information on that database has been made public, including information about youths transferred to the adult parole system.

"There is a stench of collusion here, because nobody wants to let the public know just how bad these offenders are that they're releasing onto the law-abiding public," said William "Rusty" Hubbarth, legislative director for Justice for All, a national crime-victims' advocacy group based in Houston.

"The release of this information should be priority no. 1 in this extraordinary situation," said Andy Kahan, director of crime victim assistance for the City of Houston, where many of the youths are likely to go. "The people of Houston should have the right to know who these violent offenders are before they come out, and where they're going "

Bradley blamed the secrecy on a law that took effect in June. It removed the commission's jurisdiction over 19- and 20-year-old offenders, leaving officials to transfer them either to the adult parole system or to an adult prison.

"What (Youth Commission) officials should have done is send every one of these cases back to a court to determine where they should go," he said.
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Politics, privacy law and publicity combine to delay Youth Commission releases
By Mike Ward

Sunday, September 23, 2007
It started out with a simple directive: Get 19- and 20-year-old offenders out of Texas Youth Commission custody.

But four months after a law took effect requiring that only offenders 18 and younger be incarcerated in Youth Commission prisons, most of the older offenders are still locked up in youth jails as officials wrangle over how to release them and controversy rages about why the public cannot get more information about who is being released, when and where.

The criminal justice system has been making such releases for years, so why the uproar? What has changed?

� A large number of cases, more than 130, are proposed for parole, all at the same time and most involving violent-crime offenders. Previously, transfers were considered a few at a time. When a large number of violent-crime offenders was on the first list, parole board officials held back for fear of endangering public safety, though an occasional high-risk offender might have been paroled without much issue.

� Lines of authority have been blurred by sweeping reforms under way at the Youth Commission after a sex abuse scandal rocked the agency in the spring. New managers, led by Ed Owens, a conservator appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, are scrambling to put in place new programs and policies.

� Continued publicity has highlighted administrative glitches and has brought to light secrecy issues in the system that are proving controversial.

� Interagency politics has at times placed the Youth Commission and the Board of Pardons and Paroles at loggerheads, with each jockeying to avoid blame in case the parolees commit crimes after they are released.

"The implementation of the new law broke down," said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, a Richardson Republican who heads a special legislative committee overseeing the Youth Commission overhaul.

"The Youth Commission has new people in charge. ... They had a written process, and they didn't follow it. Many of the 19- and 20-year-olds were out on parole already, so why didn't they just transfer them to (the adult parole system)?"

But this was no normal transfer group. Most were serving sentences for aggravated violent crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery or assault; some were convicted of murder, manslaughter or indecency with a child. Many had flunked out of treatment programs while in the Youth Commission, and some had records of bad behavior; others had committed new crimes.

In the past, Youth Commission officials decided who would be transferred to parole, under supervision of either the Youth Commission or the adult parole system. If the officials determined that an offender should be sent to an adult prison, a judge would review the case and make a decision on the transfer.

Most offenders released on parole were supervised by the Youth Commission, officials said. Only 43 were transferred to the adult parole system between March 1 and Aug. 27, state statistics show.

But when the new law ended the Youth Commission's authority over 19- and 20-year-olds, Youth Commission officials were faced with a large group of offenders who had to be transferred out, many before they had completed programs and many who otherwise would have remained in Youth Commission lockups until they were 21 years old.

"This was not our decision," Youth Commission spokesman Jim Hurley said. "We have to follow the new law."

In the past, the Youth Commission recommended the conditions of release � such as electronic monitoring, participation in therapy or treatment programs, curfews, restrictions on people with whom offenders could associate, how often they had to check in with a parole officer � without challenge from adult parole officials.

But in June, when the first group of 19- and 20-year-olds was recommended for parole, adult parole officials balked, insisting that many seemed to pose risks to public safety, that most would not be approved for parole if they were coming from an adult prison.

Youth Commission officials decided to review the cases further.

Finger-pointing among the two agencies and lawmakers started after details about some of the potential paroles made headlines.

Then, when prosecutors, crime victim advocacy groups and lawmakers began asking for more information, officials in both the youth and adult corrections agencies went silent, insisting that they could not discuss details of individual cases because of confidentiality laws involving incarcerated juveniles.

Even though the older offenders are all legally adults, the details have been kept secret because the offenders were sentenced as juveniles. And even though those details had become public record when the offenders' information was entered into the adult parole system's database, officials maintained their silence.

"This is sick, because it's shielding the public and the decision-makers from having information they should have," Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said, echoing sentiments of other critics of the secrecy. "These are 19- and 20-year-olds who committed serious crimes."

"Had they been convicted of the same crimes as adults, all the information would be out there," said Dianne Clements, president of Justice for All, a Houston-based national crime victims advocacy group. "And it should be out there."

Critics of the secrecy say the few statistics available about recent Youth Commission parolees bolster their argument that public safety is in jeopardy.

Since March 1, at least four of 43 youths who were placed on adult parole have been accused of new crimes, including aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, aggravated sexual assault and possession of drug paraphernalia.

"I would put the blame on Jerry Madden," Bradley said of the reform bill's author, arguing that the new law should have specified how the paroles would be handled.

"I want notice, and I want to be a participant in the process if I'm going to have these people back in my community," Bradley said.

Madden said lawmakers were not more specific about releasing the 19- and 20-year-olds because they had been assured that the Youth Commission and parole board had policies to handle the releases.

However, it's those policies that are the source of disagreement.

A copy of the parole board policy governing Youth Commission releases into the adult parole system states that the Youth Commission and adult parole officials "shall provide trial officials, counties of release and victims" notice of the impending release of offenders."

The board will decide whether any special conditions should be placed on the parole, such as extra supervision, according to the policy.

In the current cases, adult parole officials have complained that Youth Commission officials mandated those conditions, which they say were too lenient.

Youth Commission procedures require the executive director to make the final decision on all recommended transfers to adult parole or prison, or for release.

But a copy of the transmittal document on one of 10 cases approved a week ago by the adult parole board showed that acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope noted only that an agency panel had approved the transfer and that she was simply forwarding the decision.

Hurley has insisted that the agency is carefully following its policy, despite criticism from some lawmakers.

As of Friday, adult parole officials were processing the paperwork of the 10 Youth Commission offenders whose parole was approved the previous week � with all the details still secret.

The files on more than 130 others, held up for more than two months by red tape, still were being processed, officials said.

Officials refused to release any names or details.

Bradley and Andy Kahan, head of the City of Houston's crime victims advocacy office, said the entire process should be more open to better inform � and protect � the public.

But Youth Commission officials say they are limited by confidentiality laws.

Depending on who is asked, the secrecy is required by either a federal law or one of several state laws.

"People are concerned about releasing the records, yes, but this issue has nothing to do with the management of TYC," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, who is co-chairman of the special committee with Madden. "There's a lot of people out there trying to scuttle some of the reforms, for whatever reasons.

"We're just three months into the reforms. You can't change everything overnight."

Reforms are not the issue, say critics of the secrecy.

"There's no question that the public and the public's representatives should know who is coming out � and that they're being considered for parole," Bradley said.

Whitmire countered, "If John Bradley and Andy Kahan think the names should be released, then they probably need to run for Congress, because Congress will have to change the law that covers this."
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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TYC won't transfer many 19-year-olds
Acting leader says AG cleared decision that runs counter to reforms
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN Texas Youth Commission officials say they will not parole or transfer almost half of the 19-year-olds remaining in their custody, despite legal reforms passed this year that prohibit anyone older than 18 in youth prisons.

Acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope said Tuesday that the state attorney general's office backs her decision to keep 79 such inmates in youth prisons to finish their programs or fulfill their minimum sentences. An additional 80 19-year-olds who remain in the system will either be discharged, overseen by juvenile or adult parole officers, or transferred to adult prisons.

The decision, which Ms. Pope said is the best option for those youths, follows weeks of political bickering over why the older inmates hadn't been released, whether they are a danger to the public, and who is responsible for overseeing them.

And though it appears to fly in the face of a TYC reform bill passed this summer, one that dramatically downsized the agency by calling for the release or transfer of all youths over 18, lawmakers were generally supportive.

"Some of those juveniles have not finished their programs, their counseling is not completed," said Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, the McAllen Democrat who sponsored the original TYC legislation this spring to reform an agency rife with physical and sexual abuse. "So I don't see anything wrong with it, as long as the primary factor is public safety."

Ms. Pope said the attorney general's office ruled in August that wording in the reform bill allows the agency to grandfather these particular 19-year-olds through the system [even though there is absolutely nothing in the new law creating a grandfather provision]. She said it's best that the youths, who haven't yet served their minimum sentences and have more serious crimes, finish their rehabilitation programs at TYC, rather than move to an adult prison midstream.

The ruling won't apply to anyone currently younger than 19, she said.

The 19-year-olds "got caught between the old law and the new law," she said. "We looked at every case individually. ... The attorney general has signed off on every one."

Ms. Pope said the lawmakers who wrote the TYC reform bill have been briefed, and they haven't expressed serious misgivings.

"They're abiding by their legal counsel," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "The legislators that have been so involved need to allow this agency to operate by listening to their attorneys and using their own good judgment."

[This message was edited by JB on 09-26-07 at .]
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Couldn't there be a lawsuit against the TYC based on a violation of Equal Protection?

It is my understanding that other children (those under 19?) have already benefited by the new law in that they were released from incarceration. So why should those over 19 be treated differently? What is the rational governmental interest? If it is "public safety", then could that also not be said about those under 19 who benefited by getting released? If so, then that claim should not matter.

The statute seems pretty clear in that those 19 and over were to be released from custody. All of the back-pedeling in the newspapers by various members of the Leg. doesn't change the mandatory, non-discretionary wording of the statute.
Posts: 234 | Location: Texas | Registered: October 12, 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The simplest lawsuit would be a writ of habeas corpus by any juvenile who should be released on parole but for this memo keeping them in TYC for "rehabilitation." The black letter law does not draw an exception for those juveniles mentioned in the memo. That exception is the result of negotiations between the various political and agencies heads.
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Leaders' views on Youth Commission diverge
Former pals now seems to disagree about Legislature's role in monitoring.
By Mike Ward

Friday, October 12, 2007

Last spring, state Sen. John Whitmire and Rep. Jerry Madden � the heavyweight co-chairmen of the special legislative committee overseeing reforms at the Texas Youth Commission � seemed to agree on most everything. So close were they, the veteran Whitmire joked during a Capitol hearing, they were "almost dating."

Six months later, the relationship appears to be on the rocks.

Today, Whitmire's Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hold a public hearing to delve into how dozens of privately run prisons in Texas are monitored � touching only in part on the Youth Commission's recent abrupt closure of a West Texas lockup for reports of squalid conditions.

On Wednesday, Madden's House Corrections Committee will hold a separate hearing focusing on how top Youth Commission officials could be unaware of squalid conditions if they were doing their jobs properly.

So why are there separate hearings when the special Senate-House committee has presided over such matters in past months? Madden has continued to question Youth Commission missteps. Whitmire has softened his criticisms, which critics blame on his longstanding friendship with Dimitria Pope, the agency's acting executive director since April.

Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, said he and Pope, a longtime official with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, have known each other for years. They worked closely together when he, as chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, pushed for more treatment and rehabilitation programs and she headed the prison system's division that oversaw many of those programs.

"I've never had a problem holding agencies accountable, and I'd do that in this case if I didn't have such confidence in the fact they were doing a good job," Whitmire said. "People in the Capitol should not be micromanaging."

Madden insists he's just doing his job. [By the way, Madden is an engineer. Don't they micromanage by profession?]

"I'm asking the questions that need to be answered, the questions that I have a duty and a responsibility to ask," said the Richardson Republican. "If someone considers my questions to be micromanaging, so be it. I consider that a compliment."

In recent days, the chill between Whitmire and Madden has surfaced publicly, a rarity at the Capitol, as Whitmire has criticized unnamed House members for second-guessing Pope and for being too friendly with Geo Group Inc., the Florida firm that operated the just-closed West Texas lockup. That incensed several House members, who privately accused Whitmire of protecting Pope.

Geo Group was a sponsor of a fundraising reception Madden held Thursday night. He said "they signed up months ago, before any of this (West Texas) stuff came up."

Whitmire was scheduled to introduce Madden at the reception but backed out earlier this week. Whitmire said the involvement of the company, which he has harshly criticized in defending Youth Commission officials, had nothing to do with his nonparticipation.

"I have work to do for my constituents in Austin. I have a hearing to prepare for," he said.

Could the schism between the two powerful lawmakers cloud the future effectiveness of the Senate-House committee? The panel has been monitoring agency reforms in the wake of last spring's sex-abuse and coverup scandal. Could the disagreements affect a new joint legislative criminal justice committee that is supposed to begin work next spring to oversee other state corrections programs? Madden is chairman of the new panel, and Whitmire, as head of the Senate criminal justice committee, is expected to be the ranking Senate member.

Madden says he intends to hold Youth Commission officials accountable.

"That means I'm going to continue asking questions," he said.

Whitmire's reaction?

"I was in the House for 10 years, so I can say this: Someone needs to remind them that they're just House members."
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Scores of youthful offenders are being sent straight into the adult criminal justice system - 246 of them last year alone - for crimes they committed as juveniles. Juvenile justice advocates are blaming last year's 22 percent spike on a reform effort launched two years ago that was designed to protect younger offenders. They say young people who are easier to rehabilitate are being forced into a harsher adult setting that can't meet their needs.

Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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