Tell the kids: "Here are some areas we're going to start working with you over the next few weeks or until you've learned more pro-social and positive habits. If you refuse to comply and work on your thinking and behavior, we will put zero's on your Conextions paperwork. This may delay getting higher stages, chances are you may increase your stay, you'll have NO priviliges, and when sent to Security you'll be gone from the dorm for a matter of days, not hours. If you still continue to refuse our efforts to help you then count on heading to TDCJ... ASAP. Do what you have to do, but like it or not the following areas have been targeted to help you learn some discipline and improve self-control."


* Marching -- some staff think it's a good idea and others do not. Can we bring it back?

* All come to Parade Rest when Staff enter the dorm or be consequenced?. Some staff say yes, some disagree.

* No one leaves the dorm if anyone has cuffed pants. Period.

* No more extracirricular activities/sports. The money we save would allow 6 new outside Security Staff. They could work 4P-12A, when we need them the most.

* JCO 5-6 staff must be tasked/scheduled to hold the dorms and work a full 8 hour shift, WITH THE KIDS and should be scheduled with a stay over "*" like everyone else.  They need to hold group, help new staff, insure accountability, quit hiding out, coming late, leaving early.

* The carpeted area is a PRIVILEGE to be EARNED over a period of time, otherwise youth sit at tables.  Carpet restrictions last 24 hours.

* If youth has any referrals, no choir/snack shack/on campus work etc for at least 7-30 days.

* Bring out the chairs more often -- always for unscheduled behavior groups and snacks. Staff will be held accountable and document on the INS 110 every day.

* At Night: Zero's for sleeping on top of bedspread, wearing doo rags, head covered with blankets, no tee shirt, being in the wrong bed.

* Some Case Managers can shift work hours 2P-10P and help with holding the dorm/staffing instead of hiding out in their office, etc.

* Photo I.D. cards should be carried by all youth. Information for staff as to what dorm they are on, name, etc is needed.

* Increased patdowns, such as before going to visitation or at other random times will increase staff safety.

* Youth must be referred for verbally threatening staff. ZERO TOLERANCE means just that.

* Zero tolerance for eating before all peers are seated at the table, being in wrong assigned seat, trading food.

* Zero tolerance for using racist terms such as "nigga", throwing gang signs/handshakes, contraband, tattooing, piercing, fighting, lewd exposure, damage to State property.

* Go to 5:45 wakeup -- 5:15 is much too early for kids who often don't go to sleep until after midnight. They have better days the more sleep they get.

* Staff will work with the Adminstration to press criminal charges against youth for any and all physical assaults, sexual offenses, etc.

* JCO 5's and 6's will arrange, schedule, and document regular, frequent and complete as possible staff meetings with JCO 1-4's for feedback and updates on dorm culture concerns.

* Bring back orange jumpsuits.

* If youth have a dorm-wide pillow fight, take away all their pillows for a month.

* Get a timeclock, and take down the red "0000" days no-one -was-hurt sign. It's depressing and demoralizing.

* Give youth in Security "foodloaf" like they do in prison.

* Make the youth do their own laundry again, and have them pass it out in chairs.

* Get rid of the cable TV and give them just 3 channels. They lose TV privileges for the day if they touch it the TV. Get univeral remotes Staff will be accountable for keeping it secure and monitoring use.

* Bring back high stage "peer mentor" youth to dorms to help dorms with poor cultures

* Increase random dorm searches, binder/bookcase, storage room etc searches. Decide once and for all what is or is not contraband and document/consequence it. 

* Publish an official JCO newsletter or website.

* Increase horticulture program -- they grow it, they eat it.  Let them raise animals for slaughter or sale.

* Get rid of Conextions, and the rouge paperwork staff have to fill out.   Re-evaluate all other paperwork and streamline/simplify/standardize it for JCO's on all dorms.  Keep it simple.

*  The KUDO's cards program shoul be discontinued.  Enough clapping each other on the backs.

*  Youth who run from staff or climb  buildings can stay in Security for the maximam allowable time.  Put the barbed wire back up.

*  Organize a youth band with donated instruments.

*  Create an "honor dorm" where youth with good behavior can aspire to move to, and they can get better privileges.

*  No more changing the paperwork to make it (or staff or the system) look better. 

*  Keep a strict 12-1 youth/direct care staff ratio at all times.  If necessary, move them to other facilities or TDCJ.

*  Employees at all levels will be randomly drug tested multiple times a year.

*  Line staff and superiors must maintain platonic  working  relationships between each other and released youth. 

~ ~ ~
I'm ALL FOR everyone being unique... or belonging to a certain group that shares common interests, or of social/political cultures etc other than my own.  I was taught that people have more in common than there are differences, and to respect individuals for who they are -- not for the color of their skin, religion, age, sex, etc etc etc.

So for me, dealing with overt -and- covert racism/bigotry is a difficult thing.  I don't respect racists and bigots, who most often are small-minded people with no spiritual understanding of their place on this planet.  When I personally am subjected to racism and bigotry, I GET ANGRY, as there's usually no way to "get through" to people who marginalize others due to their affiliations -- chosen or not.  In a work enviornment most marginalized people find it's best to just keep their mouth shut if they want to keep their job, and most of the time they do... which means there's a LOT of simmering anger just under the surface of how we all work together --  or not.  But as in with most cases of racism/bigotry, it's the MAJORITY THAT RULES... which means if racism indeed DOES exist on our campus between us adults, being a white male is just about at the bottom of the heap.  Is it racist to say that?  I don't think so.

The REAL racists (and bigots, which deal more with intolerant attitudes of others) are bad enough in us ADULTS -- but run RAMPANT and UNCHECKED among the kids.  Years ago, I asked my black JCO 6 if I could refer kids for using the term (gotta make sure to spell this right) "nigga".  Hearing this term is extremely offensive to me.  It makes me cringe.  I get tensed up.  It's disgusting to me as someone who has a history of carrying protest signs up and down major cities on the West Coast "back in the day" in support of equality... not just for the races, but farmworkers, women, gays, etc.  I don't want to hear slurs like "fag" and "bitch", either.  Not from anyone of any age.

A previous JCO 6 gave me permission to refer kids that used that term, after other appropriate interventions, of course.  But when I came to realize that no of the other black staff seemed to mind -- or notice -- the use of this term, I eventually gave up trying to change the way the kids talk to each other.  Guess it's THEIR culture and it's OK with them, so why should I mind?  I'd almost pity them.  Apparently they will have to learn for themselves to have some pride in who they are.

But I DO mind.  I mind a LOT.  I recently heard kids at the school taking racial invective to the absolute limit... one kid asked why notepaper was white; why couldn't it be black with white lines??  DUH!!  They went on and on and on, baiting her, saying the most horrible and foul things their sick little minds could come up with to this teacher who was only trying to help them.  I durn near threw up.  I certainly would not have come back to work another day if subjected to that kind of verbal hate abuse... and want to express my utmost respect for TYC teaching staff who have  been putting up with this every day for years now.   NO amount of money would be enough for me to try to accomplish anything in that kind of environment.  The poor kids!!  They'll never again be in a position to take advantage of a free education; instead,  all they do is torment the teachers to see if they can make them blow a gasket.  It's beyond disrespectful.  It's not worth the effort and is simply a WASTE of time and money to try and teach the willfully ignorant..

What needs to happen is an official policy of zero tolerance for those who advocate gang behavior or organized disruption and/or attempts to take unfair advantages in regards to race (etc).  This would apply to employees AND kids.   I'm sick and tired of it!

~ ~ ~
It can't be easy.

Imagine you're 19 years old, and have spent a few years locked up in TYC.  Say you CAN go back to the family home you came from, if you came from one... everything you owned back in the crib has probably been stolen, pawned, or broken by now.  The adults have gotten on with their lives... other family members may have moved in or out of the house.  You're an interloper or a stranger, at best.  You've changed.  You're a "grown man" now.

Uh-huh.  We've all heard THAT line.

What did you learn at TYC?  Well, you didn't learn a whole lot that will help you now that you're back in The Free, as it's ironicly referred to... and whatever knowledge you did get doesn't go far and won't do you much good.  Most likely you did NOT get a GED or high school education or develop any marketable skills or any kind of work ethic since no one really expected much from you.  You let yourself be led around by a 16 hour schedule -- and have become lazy and self-indulgent.  The notion of actually having to EARN ANYTHING -- especially a living -- is a totally alien concept.

So you spend a couple/few weeks hanging out on the couch in the living room, playing video games that belong to your siblings, sleeping till noon.  You stay home to eat and eat and eat, and in the evening try to hook up with your old homies... maybe do a little drinking and doping, too, while trying to convince your new peers how tough you are and what a Big Man you were while locked up.  They probably don't much believe it, and as soon as they get tired of turning you on to their drugs you find yourself with no one left willing to get you high.

Maybe you tap the till in a convenience store or rifle through Grandma's purse to get some money to buy your own dope. Maybe you get away some other crimes, maybe not, but situations on the home scene get tense, real quick.  Most kids at 19 would be happy to get an entry level job just to get out of the house, I would think, but oh, no -- you don't wanna flip burgers.  Besides, those teardrop tattoos under your eye don't impress potential employers... so you give up even looking for HONESTwork.  Screw 'em.  Tine for another hit.

Pretty soon you're kicked out of the house, because Grandma is too old to be putting up with your bratty man-child behavior and feels threatened by the gangbangers you've been hanging out with.  You might do some couch surfing around the 'hood for a while, but that never lasts long since you have nothing worthwhile to offer in return.  Back under the bridge.  Another hit.  Another hold up.

Sounds grim, eh?  But it doesn't HAVE to be that way.  What we need to do to help TYC youth to succeed is not rocket science.  It's simply a matter helping them see the value of PROSOCIAL ADULT BEHAVIOR before they pass through the gatehouse once their sentence is served.  This would include getting an education, with all the college credits they can get.  Teaching them to be self-reliant by challanging them to reach out and learn the limits of what they are capable of... instead of giving them a free pass to act however they choose without consequence.  Patience is a virtue -- make them wait for "the good stuff" and it'll mirror the reality of The Real World instead of the La La Land atmosphere of the State School.  Make the kids WORK -- at ANYTHING.  Make them SWEAT.  Make them see the advantage of using self control instead of being out of control, and how this behavior will help them get along with others -- and make SURE they understand that out in the Real World there's no time outs, 225's, thinking reports, or frivolous grievances.  Bottom line?  The more we make their TYC experience mirror Real World realities, the better off everyone will be.  Failing to do so will almost inevitably result in swift recidivism -- surprise, surprise!! 

But no, no, that would be so very cruel to these "troubled" youth... NOT!!  We baby them, we spoil them, we coddle them, we snow them under with psychotropic drugs.  WE don't have any expectation that they'll succeed, other than staying behind the fence for their alloted sentence.  That isn't enough!!

For youth who are compliant/willing to work with us, we need to give them as normal as a life as possible while locked up.  They need to have the opportunity to make meaningful choices and decisions and we need to back them up with whatever resources available.  For the kids who do NOT try to comply, do NOT care to take advantage of the benefits of expected behavior, or do nothing but be violent, disruptive, and STOOPID -- the best we can do is prepare them for an institutionalized life spent in TDCJ. 

A harsh choice, perhaps, but a realistic one.  They deserve that much.  If they want enough rope to hang themselves, GIVE it to them --  it's THEIR CHOICE!!