It's been a while since I updated the blog here, and part of it is due to plain old being BUSY making a living. It's been 8 months now since leaving TYC/TDDJ and working a new business of my own selling tattoo equipment... and while there's been some up's and down's, we're still making our bills, and, overall, having a pretty good time.
This past weekend my wife and I went to Sommerville, about 35 miles away, to sell at a motorcycle rally. It was pretty cool... and oh yeah, really beats sitting in a doorway listening to kids cuss and fart all night. We camped out a couple nights, and in the evenings got to hear drunken bikers bullshit and hoot 'n holler pretty much all night. During the day, cheerfully topless/painted bodied young women strolled around and checked out our piercing jewelry... grizzly old bikers tromped about with their bros in their leather vests... no kids, just us Old Farts. Saturday there was a free luau feed and a concert (among many other acts) by the band SKID ROW. Check out the video below; lyrics are provided. The song is called "18 AND LIFE TO GO" -- if you've never heard it, take a listen and think of what it has to say about situations at Giddings and elsewhere.
Not always easy to see things from a Young Person's perspective, but this song does a pretty good job, eh?
One of the highlights of our vending weekend was when a young kid asked me "Didn't you used to work at TYC?" -- and sure enough, we clicked. I remembered Jon as pretty good kid. He'd gotten out in 2009, stayed out of trouble (so he says), had a pretty and affectionate girlfriend, and was working on getting training for welding. Jon was not a Problem Child, as I said... he was respectful and did as asked. He also managed to get out of TYC before The System fell apart and began turning out spoiled little monsters instead of young men ready for the challanges of the future. Jon was lucky. He got out when things like 225's MEANT SOMETHING, and things like PARADE REST and MARCHING and CONSEQUENCES were the order of the day -- NOT flat screen TV's and snow cones and slip'n'slides.
Jon and I had a chance to talk a bit, and I'm sure he felt as happy to see me under those circumstances as I was to see him. Being 22 now, he had a beer in his hand... and that's OK. Seems like he had a LIFE ahead of him, OUTSIDE of an institution, and that my efforts years ago may have actually paid off somewhat. I can't even IMAGINE the kids who came to get locked up after he left as having a shadow of a chance of success like Jon seems to be enjoying. The System has let them down, let the (working) staff down, and let the State down.
So... when I read in the paper that the BigWigs in Austin recently got what seems to be illegal pay raises... and that the touted "Phoenix Program" in Waco ISN'T QUITE working out as smooth as they'd like -- am I surprised? No, I'm not. Those kids in that program know no matter how "hard" it is, it's STILL easier than having to "make it" out in the Real World. Sure, they have to put up with a stricter environment, but with a 4:1 staff/kid ratio -- who can complain?? Look at all the ATTENTION they get!! OOOOH!!! How nice!!! But look at the cost, too... over $131K a year, compared to about $20K for an adult (who gets very little attention). My thinking is that if a kid in the Phoenix Program screws up ONCE -- it's off to the Big House. Let them know that from the minute they walk in the door, and stick with it. Otherwise, they may as well stay at GSS and be coddled there.
Without meaningful consequences, there's no hope in seeing more Jon's... and that would be a shame. I can use more customers like him.