Posted below in mad-as-hell RED are some rough draft emails I've sent to various people, without any real response. Maybe making these emails public now will have some effect? I do hope my efforts have not been in vain. The letter to "Nanci" was sent to KXAN TV Investigative Reports... and like the other ones, seemed to go no where. Guess it's time to ratchet things up a few notches...
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Hi Nanci --
Below is the rough draft of an email I sent a while back; I also sent a similar one to the director of TYC. Mr. Madden's office sent me a canned "very interested in your ideas, one of my staff will be contacting you soon" email and that was it. Situations on campus have only gotten increasingly worse since then with the influx of kids brought in from other facilities that recently have closed..
The letter is kind of an overview of what we're dealing with, however, and you're welcome to ask my co-workers if they agree with it or not. NO ONE I showed it to has DISAGREED with ANYTHING, so I feel it's pretty accurate. Please visit my blog for the latest updates, or call me if I can clarify any questions you may have. I don't know where things will end up due to my speaking out as I have to you, but trust you'll respect the potential of TYC deciding throw me out on the street. This is something I'd rather not happen, as I really AM interested in seeing the institution get better and recover... AND... I like having a roof over my head and food to eat for a while yet, anyhow. I'm working on building a business my wife and I have recently started, and hope to be leaving TYC within a few months, for better or worse. If I can help leave TYC a better place than when I started, we can have an amicable parting of ways and everyone comes out ahead. THAT would make the downside of all my 6 years here worth the effort.
Thanks for your interest --
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April 1st, 2011
Dear Representative Madden:
Thanks for taking the time to read this email. I've been intending to write to you and your colleague Congressman Whitmire for a number of years now, and, after coming home from working my shift at the TYC Giddings facility and reading the paper -- I finally feel I am obligated to do so in order to keep a clear conscience. Mr. Whitmire received this same email earlier and I figured it a good idea re-send pretty much the same screed to you as well. NOTE: This enhanced version has been edited since getting a few hours sleep and some coffee.
The problem I'm having now, besides being tired from work, is that I'm tired of TYC, too. I'm tired of being part of a system that's indefensibly and undeniably NOT WORKING. I'm tired of trying to make the shift between the Real (and "free") World at home and the La La Land that my job has become since I started as a JCO in 2005. While I can't speak for my co-workers, of course, it's been my experience during the past few years (especially since the sex scandal in 2007) that pretty much NOT ONE of my fellow JCO's is proud of what goes on at the State School -- not proud of their supervisors, the programs, or the discipline (and lack thereof) in regards to the youth AND staff. Morale there across the board, in a word, is SHOT. The only thing holding the whole stinking, putrid, festering sore together is the fact that as long as pretty much everyone comes to a consensus that The Emperor Has No Clothes, well, hey -- we can all continue to fake it and play "Let's Pretend" that everything really is OK.
Well, everything is NOT OK. After reading the article in the Austin American Statesman about the practice of paying incarcerated youth to do "jobs" on campus I've just gotten fed up to the point where coming home and venting to my poor spouse about my last shift simply isn't enough anymore. Forgive me for sounding bitter and angry, but MY tax dollars are helping fund a sinking ship called TYC, and I want off!
For the record: I'm a parent, and have many years experience working in commercial daycare/respite care/Head Start/Big Brothers, etc. I've been a State worker elsewhere, and have managed an independent supported living facility with disabled adult clients, etc etc -- AND worked in the medical field for 20 years. In short, I've seen what works and what doesn't work in terms of providing meaningful and responsible care for a wide range of folks who really need it. Due to the mismanagement, waste, and outright corruption I've encountered at TYC my attitude has been degraded to the point where... guess what? I SIMPLY DON'T CARE ANYMORE.
I don't care to be told, without any explanation, that I must do the youth's laundry for them even though I wasn't hired for that job. I don't care if they break up their new flat screen TV's, or tuck in their shirts or if they lose their privileges for 72 hours or 72 minutes -- either way, they rarely end up learning any discipline, self-control, or respect for authority or anything/anyone else. "All staff are ENEMY" a youth told me once... but I'll bet I was a lot more considerate than those dealing with him now at TDCJ (if he's still alive). So WHAT if the youth adopt a non-caring attitude -- is it my fault? Who's problem is it?
It's MY problem when staff habitually come to work late, if at all, and I'm required to pull a 12 hour shift without warning. It's my problem when virulent, never-ending, campus wide simmering racial tensions cause co-workers to leave for less stressful jobs and for youth to violently assault us and each other. Because I love Texas and fellow Texans it's my problem when we release a youth back into society who goes on to anally rape a child to death BECAUSE I HELPED THEM GET AWAY WITH IT by not speaking up sooner about the shoddy "product" we routinely turn out. These TYC youth, by and large, are NOT being helped/rehabilitated/cured as far as I can tell... but what do I know? It's not really my problem, I guess. Maybe it's a community problem, maybe it's a Texas problem... and, if I'm really lucky, maybe no "troubled youth" will end up killing or injuring me or anyone I know or care about when we're walking down the street. If not -- NO PROBLEM! So WHAT if so many of us JCO's are on high blood pressure medication, right? The monthly hazardous duty pay covers the cost, more or less.
It's sad, yes. Sad I've lost faith in The System that neglects legitimate and critical needs of convicted youth, allows some State employees to get paid for doing NOTHING for years and years on end, and gives bigshots in Austin big fatty raises when I'M forced to burn off an earned vacation day every few weeks due to the nutty 4 on, 2 off schedule that's been implemented. And I'm sad that publicly speaking up against the insanity of it all is THE QUICKEST way to get escorted out the gate and lose your job... or at least suffer some inevitable manner of retaliation from certain supervisors and administrators. Sad, sad indeed. So sad I can't and won't identify myself at this point. I'm sure we BOTH understand why and how "whistleblower" is a dirty word, and the consequences of being frank. Sigh.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. If I wanted to, or, wasn't so tired right now, I could go on and on... but hope you get my point. If there's anything I can do to help be of service to the State of Texas other than show up for my next shift as a disgusted and burnt out old JCO employee, let me know. My current situation dictates I should try to keep my job for at least another few months if possible, but I assure you I'm making plans, and as soon as I'm able to bail out of TYC, I'm GONE. I'll take my chances with the lousy economy as it is and throw away the "security" (HA!) of a regular paycheck for the opportunity to do HONEST work that I'm good at and enjoy doing if that's what it takes to regain my sense of self worth and dignity. Sorry I can't offer any easy solutions to these problems... sorry I waited so long to write... and sorry that this letter probably won't change a damn thing in the long run. Sorry, sorry sorry -- I've got nothing more to offer.
The math bothers me. The newspaper states the 2011 budget for youth working at lockups was $167,642 and that high restriction facilities were allocated up to $50,000 a year EACH and $10,000 per halfway house. I can't say right off hand how many TYC facilities exist, but would appreciate an accounting breakdown for all money paid to these many institutions. It's too embarrassing to count, probably. In all the time I've been here, NOT ONCE have I heard of a youth earning any sort of "special vocational certificate" for working in the kitchen or picking up garbage, etc. It's almost a crime that it costs taxpayers as myself over $131,000 a year to allow healthy TYC teenagers to sit around and not be expected to do pretty much of ANYTHING for 16 hours a day except make their beds and maybe properly wear the uniform of the day. For that kind of money we should be providing them an apartment, food, and bus passes for getting to and from college! A disgustingly large amount of "funding" (?) already goes to providing them with the latest video game consoles, movies, TV's, pizza parties, kites, slip-n-slides and outright BRIBES to gain their compliance. Were anyone to ask my opinion, I'd have to say it's a slap in the face to see this type of extravagance being accorded to children who most often don't express any appreciation for what's been given them and will often destroy these things at will. And will be given more. At MY wages, that's a hefty price to pay to keep them entertained for the length of their sentences.
To be honest, I do have "some" ideas on what it might take to GET REAL with TYC youth and promote positive changes in their lives. I'd really appreciate a substantial raise to oh... say... $45,000 a year to help implement an official TYC program I have in mind that might earn these same juveniles WAY more than my salary would cost. I'm free to travel, so you could keep me busy earning my keep. The program would involve pro-social, therapeutic, creative and cost effective elements to encourage PRIDE in what we ALL are trying to accomplish. Selected youth would have a maximum of only one year to participate in this program, but they'd potentially be able to earn enough of a nest egg to keep things going soon after their release. Just an ideal... or, idea, maybe? Does anyone care to hear more?
By now, everyone knows three TYC facilities and many JCO positions are soon to be on the chopping block -- so that's what has prompted me to screw up the courage to finally write you gentlemen today. So far, I haven't decided if I want to, or need to, or should speak at the upcoming public meeting to discuss the facility closing where I work. If I were to read this letter aloud (after eveyone else was done slapping each other on the backs over how GREAT everything was going, they would probably not have much to say afterwards, you think? OK, well, call me crazy and I'll sit down and shut up.
Even as dismal as MY job is, I'm glad I don't have the responsibilities YOU do, even if it means me LOSING my job. The Agency as it exists today is already a complete and utter failure, and it CAN'T be made any worse by continuing "business as usual" the way it is now. The future of our State deserves a better chance for success, so we better get serious for a change.
A Disgruntled Constituent
In : RANTS