We've all heard a kid say "I go home regardless" -- and know that sometimes "regardless" is regardless of finishing out one's sentence in TDCJ, right? But -I- get to go home ANY TIME I WANT and never have to step foot in a dorm again. That's kind of a nice feeling, knowing there's an escape hatch should I need it.
And the nice things about home? Ohhh, I've been blessed because of what I've earned at TYC. Things like:
- Double-ply toilet tissue.
- More video games, movies, high speed internet and music than I can access in a lifetime.
- Someone who loves me to sleep with, in a bed with a real mattress.
- Keys to the house, car, etc, and the pride and responsibility of ownership of more than fits in a plastic bag.
- Pets, and caring for thier well being.
- Friends who call and come by or vice versa, and relationships with others in my community.
- Whatever kind of food I choose to afford, prepared with all the seasoning and spices I like.
- Power tools, and other big boy toys.
- Solitude when I want it, company when I don't.
- Getting up/sleeping when I want on my days off.
There's more, of course. What I learned early in life -- without having to be locked up, or be a victim or a victimizer -- was always playing by the rules is the best thing to do. APPEARING to go by (most of) the rules was next best, and if you want to call it cheating, lip service, stretching things a little that's OK. Sometimes if you flagrantly BROKE THE RULES and/or weren't slick enough not to get caught, well... darn... time for a Thinking Report, eh? Easy come, easy go.
What the kids here will benefit from is TRUE responsibility for their behavior. Either it is OK or not OK to do every little thing we can imagine them doing, good OR bad. So why don't the 5's and 6's make up some REAL BASIC training sheets with directives on what flies and what doesn't? Can we all say "zero tolerance" and know what it means enough to apply it consistantly, even if we're a visiting staff on a new dorm? Knowing even a few FIRM RULES would help us regain control of the dorms again.
I KNOW I can't expose MYSELF to a co-worker, say, and not get locked up. The kids do it to the female staff ALL THE TIME now and the consequence is just "TSK, TSK... oh, you naughty boy!"
Now, if I want to stay in the Free, -I- have to go by the rules... and wonder have to what would happen if a staff preferred charges against one of the kids who was just "sexually acting out" as they say here. Can't see why they souldn't have the legitimate right to do so!
Wonder how/if having another few years added to one's sentence would send an unmistakeable message to all the rest of the TYC kids and others in the community at large: If you play with yourself and don't play by the rules society has set up for everyone's benefit, you will what... will get sent to the Giddings Resort For Naughty Children?? No problem! The nice thing is that it's OK there to be a practicing sex offender, I suppose. Sure offends me, anyhow, that they get away with it nowdays.
My PATIENCE is runnng out, to be honest, and that can't be a good thing for The Powers That Be. But they've not paid much worthwhile attention to our concerns, have they? Is it getting time to throw the cat out of the bag again and see where it goes? Do they not CARE? Has NO ONE in Austin or any Giddings admin seen this site -- or, the original one -- and noticed SOMETHING IS MESSED UP? Methinks they're all just holding out as long as possible, hoping to forestall the eventual day when some kind of SCANDAL breaks. Again. As it SURELY will. Just wait till the next staff gets hospitalized... or another dorm goes bezerk and knocks out all the light fixures and cameras or who-knows-what.
I'll give 'em a week, anyhow, to come up with something -- ANYTHING -- to convince me that the Higher Up's are hip to the concept of getting the ratios to a legal and safer standard... start holding the 6's to ANY standard -- hopefully one that includes WORKING for a change... that they will vigorously address the issues of staff coming in late/calling in all the time, all these damn 12's we're being made to work, etc etc etc. We all know what we want to see acknowledged and acted upon, right? I'm TIRED of being thrown bones -- gimmie some MEAT for a change!
If there seems to be no credible changes real soon, well, I'm ready to be an Agent Of Change myself. That'll mean writing more nastygrams to the legislators, agency bigwigs, various Texas newspapers/TV stations, and standing on the corner by the light at James Turman with a BIG sign that's gonna read simply "ASK ME ABOUT TYC". And if anyone asks -- I'll share a few nuggets of knowledge and see what they think. Can I start a petition, or is that against the "best interests" of the Agency? I'll find out. I'll also try -- TRY -- not to be critical of NAMED individuals here who may have dirty little secrets and definately WOULD be in hot water if I should "name names". That's not my style... so far. We all have our little skeletons in the closet. Smile.
All I want is to be treated with respect by the organization and the individuals in the organization, which I will gladly return. It's gotta be pretty obvious I have little to no respect for the Agency... but if the shoe fits...
THINKING POINT: Talking with a staff who's been here over 20 years, I asked if there's EVER been a WHITE JCO 6? The answer? NO. Hmmmm. So if you're a JCO 5 the "career ladder" just ends THERE, huh? Wonder why that is? Have no white folks ever wanted to be a 6? Not qualified? Not educated enough? Not competent enough? Never applied for the position?? I hardly think so... but from seeing the JCO 6's we DO have it occurs to me the facility wouldn't be doing any WORSE with a white person in that particular supervisory position. Does this seem even just a LITTLE BIT strange to anyone else but me? Is there reason to try to find out the underlying reason(s) WHY and HOW this could be? Gee. Seems pretty typical of the way things go around here to ME... but then I've oftentimes been accused by both staff and youth of being the "R" word. Yeah, right. I say if the shoe fits, wear it -- and I'm blistered!
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...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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 --
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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 : ACTIVIST ACTIVITIES