Pasted below are the prepared comments I "ALMOST" read at the Town Meeting earlier this year when The Powers That Be were deciding which State Schools to shut down. Didn't do it then, but now I wish I had...
"I've worked at the Giddings State School as a Juvenile Corrections Officer for the past 6 years. Due to the possibility of this facility being selected for closure later this year, I've decided it's as good a time as any to express a few of my opinions, for better or worse. I'm not going to mention any names. I speak only for myself. And just for the record, I've always answered to my preferred middle name. But nobody has ever addresses me by name at the school... no one ever calls anyone by their actual first name there, even if they've worked 20 years together. It's always Mr. this and Miss that. Is this the same custom where other people work? As long as we're not in earshot of the Youth, FYI, folks, it's OK to call me by my actual name. I think it sounds a LOT more friendly than "Mr. X". Y'all can call me whatever you you're comfortable with today.
To my fellow dorm staff JCO IV's and below, in particular, I have a few questions. "Are you PROUD of what goes on at the school? Are you proud of the conduct and ability of your supervisors, the CoNextions program, and the discipline of disruptive (to say the least) Youth? How about your immediate dorm co-workers? How's Staff Culture holding out on the dorm where YOU work? Is morale of the rank and file at the school just SHOT?
Frankly, everything is NOT OK... and from what I've heard and shared with others on campus, I know I'm not the only person who thinks so. Personally, I -DO- know what -I- have to deal with every shift, every night, no matter what anyone else may experience.
To be perfectly honest, I don't care much any more if the youth destroy their expensive new flat screen TV's, or, actually lose some of their other numerous privileges for a few minutes or days. The consequences for pretty much whatever they do rarely seems to end up with them learning any improvement in discipline, self-control, or respect for authority -- or anything --- or anyone --- else. So what if the Youth adopt a non-caring attitude -- is it MY fault? Where did they learn it? Whose problem is it? As long as they make their bed, don't figtht, and properly wear the uniform of the day -- they've got their day MADE. What a deal.
Speaking of which, I do know it's been MY problem ever since starting work here that the same staff habitually come to work late, if at all, and at 6:10 A.M. I'm told I need to pull another 4 hours for a 12 hour shift on dorm "X", without a break, without warning. It MIGHT BE a problem when undersupervised Youth violently assault each other and us JCO's ... or are found with drugs and weapons... and are not even given a slap on the wrist for additional crimes commited while here. It's EVERYONE'S problem when our Youth are pushed back into society without having learned the most basic necessities of how to survive in the "Free". It's OUR problem when they end up in TDCJ for a 5 to10, or life, or on Death Row because WE lacked the tools and resolve to do what's right. We all know this. It happens, right? And who's to blame? WE are.
As TYC Texas State employees, from top to bottom, we ALL share in the responsibility of the Agency's effectiveness, or lack of it. We're ALL CULPABLE. Some of us have given much in blood, sweat, and tears here -- and look what we have to show for it: Scars and high blood pressure meds. I've got the blood and sweat parts covered, but have no tears for TYC. And I'm not willing to shed another drop of my blood to the State on behalf of what we turn out. Been there, done that, and I've had enough. Trust me, if you haven't -- it's not worth it. When the legislators and inspectors come to visit, all they see is smiling State workers and happy young men... but that's all they WANT to see, I think. Who would tell them otherwise? Makes me wonder what they thought when -- or if -- they were told of all "pillow fights" that have been going on after lights out? Probably a topic that got passed over during lunch. I'll say this for the situation on campus, though -- for being the institutional food they serve, it's not bad, is it? I'VE had WORSE...
It pains me to say I'm sad. Sad I've increasingly lost faith in an Agency that downplays and/or neglects the legitimate and critically important needs of convicted youth felons, allows employees to get paid for basicly doing nothing for as long as possible, and asks I burn off an earned vacation day every few weeks due to the new 4 on, 2 off schedule. Don't get me started on the overtime situation.
Not that I'm complaining, of course, because we all know it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Many of us JCO's seem to prefer NOT to squeak as they've seen what can happen and know what to expect. Maybe the saddest and frustrating aspects of working here -- especially since the 2007 sex scandal -- is that even the least conscientious JCO's are unable to do the job expected of them anymore... because no one really expects to be allowed to hold each other OR the Youth accountable and provide meaningful consequences for their negative behaviors. We've become toothless old tigers, and the kids know it. I can't do the paperwork fast enough to take care of business sometimes, you know? From what others have told me over the years, grievances seem to cause more problems than they solve. I've never written one -- I've got no reason to stick my neck out if the effort of face to face negotiations.doesn't work, or can't happen. Sigh.
As dismal as things may seem so far, I'm not yet quite prepared to bail out and pull the ripcord. But if conditions don't sharpen up I'll be increasingly willing to take my chances on the lousy economy, give up the "security" of health insurance, retirement, and a Regular Paycheck, maybe, and find out what the future holds. What I really want is the opportunity to do honest work for a fair wage... work that I think I'm good at and enjoy doing... right here at the Giddings State School. I want to regain my lost sense of self worth and diginty as a JCO.
Sorry I didn't come prepared with a list of pat, easy answers to the problems facing us here. Sorry, too, that I've waited so long to express my heartfelt concerns... and most of all, sorry that my speaking here today probably won't change a thing in the long OR short run. Sorry, sorry, sorry I've got not much more to offer or show for having worked here all these years. The first few weren't so bad; the past few have been nothing but downhill. Where do I go, or where will WE go from here if Giddings stays open and we really want to do a good job for a change?
Just for starters, in my opinion, a shameful amount of our tax dollars have gone to incarcerated Youth with the very latest video game consoles, inappropriate DVD movies, inappropriate TV programming, pizza parties, kites, slip-n-slides, sports gear and other assorted BRIBES -- simply to keep them quiet or gain compliance. Were anyone to ask me how I feel about this, I'd have to say it's a slap in the face to see this amount of unaffordable extravagance being wasted on spoiled children who most often don't express any appreciation or show any pride in what's been given them, and will often destroy these things at will ... and, will be given more THINGS when they do. For no more than what comes out of MY wages, it's still an unacceptably hefty price to pay to keep them entertained for the duration of their sentences. Don't lose sight of the fact that none of the youth at Giddings are here for just stealing a sixpack of beer or singing too loudly in the choir, OK? If what we want to do is motivate the kids AND/OR each other, or, give someone kudos --- there's a lot of ways to do so. It can be accomplished in a meaningful manner without the need to hand out cards and certificates and scores and awards for Youth who chew their food well or get their shoes on the right feet, or whatever else they're offering them nowdays as incentives.. Anyone else have any ideas? I do, but will cut to the chase.
The bottom line is that by now most everyone on the campus, including the Youth, and, the community of Giddings at large, probably knows there's a chance that the school -- and many jobs -- may be on the chopping block later this year. Big changes are heading our way, no matter even if we DON'T get axed. That's the stark reality we need to face up to. Our facility won't be made any more relevant if we remain open like we are and continue " business as usual". The future of the State of Texas, the future of this community we all care about, and, the future of the Youth we serve -- all deserve better chances for success. Let's all get serious for a change and just do the best we can."