Tuesday, August 23, 2016

(This article appeared on the website of Lubbock television station KCBD)

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - “I am excited to announce that on June 2, 2016 the Department of Justice certified the Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center as PREA compliant. This means LCJJC was found to be in compliance with all 41 of the audited PREA standards. We became only the 6th County operated facility in the State of Texas to do so,” said director William Carter.

“The Lubbock County Juvenile Justice Center has always provided excellent care of the individuals in our custody and achieving this certification simply confirms our commitment to provide excellent services to the youth of Lubbock County,” said Carter.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress. PREA is the first United States Federal Law passed dealing with sexual abuse of incarcerated persons.

The purpose of the act is to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations, and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.” (Prison Rape Elimination Act, 2003).

The act also created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and charged it with developing draft standards for the elimination of prison rape. Those standards were published in June 2009, and were turned over to the Department of Justice for review and passage as a final rule. That final rule became effective August 20, 2012.

“The hard work of our PREA Coordinator Mr. Regan Bullard and Facility Administrator Chris Hill along with all of our staff enabled us to achieve this certification and I want to thank them for their dedication to this project,” said Carter.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department’s Education Division introduced new technology into the lives of select youth through the deployment of the American Prison Data System (APDS) tablet in a three-month pilot program. The tablet is similar to an iPad or Android device but is encased in a tamperproof, military grade shell to protect it from abuse. The tablet utilizes an Android operating system and comes preloaded with a range of programs and services and an extensive library.

Eighty tablets, funded through federal Title 1 grant money, have now been deployed at both the Gainesville and Giddings facilities. Youth receiving the tablets qualified by reaching behavior and educational goals such as academic grades, number of responsibility center referrals, and security admittances. Points were accumulated and calculated to implement a dorm “group incentive.” In Gainesville and Giddings, there were three/four dorms that qualified to receive and use the tablets for 30 days. Youth will have to support each other to qualify as the top dorms to receive the tablets every month. They also must complete and submit educational enrichment activities every day so that achievement points will accumulate throughout the month. If the youth is referred to security and or has been issued a Loss of Privileges (LOP), youth will not be able to use a tablet until they are off the LOP.

The implementation of tablets as an incentive for youth is an example of innovative programming designed to afford youth the opportunity to make appropriate choices while participating in services directly matched with their educational needs. This program addresses the youth’s individual risk factors, especially those around skill development and demonstration. The tablets will help facilitate and shape behavior and build coping skills through targeted skill development with directed practice, positive reinforcement, and staff modeling of pro-social skills. The tablets will serve as a valuable resource for reducing boredom, rewarding good behavior by extending technology privileges, and facilitating youth education and rehabilitation. The goal is to help youth reduce negative behavior while developing corresponding protective factors to build long-term, internalized changes in behavior.

APDS is the vendor for the tablets. They support the security system through monitoring cellular data that is not connected to the Internet, but rather only activates applications. The youth have access to thousands of books through the National Prison Library, educational videos, educational applications to target critical areas, Khan Academy for Math and some entertainment applications.

TJJD will be monitoring behavior goals and academic improvement over the next 3 months and will make adjustments where necessary. The students were very excited and engaged with the tablets and have so far accessed more than 700 books so far from the online library!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In Bexar County, youth assigned to Community Service Restitution work crews are constructing free wheelchair ramps for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department has partnered with the Texas Ramp Project -- a statewide nonprofit that builds free wheelchair ramps for the elderly and people with disabilities who cannot afford them on their own. Texas Ramp Project provides training, materials and tools for the CSR work crews, as well as identifies and qualifies all ramp recipients.

Beginning in February of this year, John Laine, State Coordinator for the Texas Ramp Project, began providing ramp construction training to community service restitution staff at the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department. Since then, four ramps have been built, and thirty youth have taken part in the project. Collectively, they have performed a total of 228 community service hours. Equally important, since the ramps are constructed on-site at the home of the recipient, youth are able to meet the elderly and the recipients with disabilities, thereby rendering a very meaningful and enriching community service experience.

The Texas Ramp Project is looking for more volunteers throughout Texas. To volunteer or learn more about the Texas Ramp Project, please go to www.texasramps.org.

Monday, August 15, 2016

I’m happy to report that regional diversions efforts continue as counties across the state are utilizing local resources that will allow them to keep more youth out of the state system. Since the diversion program began two months ago, TJJD has received 61 diversion applications and approved 20 placements. Eleven youth have been placed thus far and nine others are awaiting judicial approval. TJJD staff are currently considering another four applications and expect to have 30 successful diversions by August 31, 2016.

The initial Discretionary State Aid application process has concluded and by early August we will notify probation departments whether their applications were approved. This $1.8 million program was established by SB 1630 during the 84th Legislative Session to enhance existing programs or establish new performance-based programs at the local level. TJJD received 26 applications. TJJD staff worked with interested probation departments to develop applications to provide services through programs that are research-based, focused on positive outcomes, identify at-risk populations and reduce recidivism.

TJJD hosted its second site visit for the Youth In Custody Practice Model consultants the last week of July at Mart and I came away with renewed excitement about our future. I was particularly impressed by the candidness of the TJJD staff and their genuine desire to improve. This agency-wide effort will pay great dividends over the next few years as we continue implementing best practices and working to ensure the best days of our agency are ahead.

The 85th Texas Legislative Session is only a few short months away and our Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) will be submitted later this month after review and approval by the Board. It consists of several parts, including the base request and exceptional items (a legislative wish list of sorts). In this cycle of preparing the LAR, all agencies were required to decrease their current expenses by 4% in their base request, with exceptions for some types of programs. Those cuts to our baseline would have a dramatic impact on state and county operations and our ability to treat and rehabilitate our growing youth population. Therefore, replacing that funding will be our highest priority exceptional item.

There has been considerable talk among State leadership offices about the potential decline in available funding for the 2018/2019 biennium (state-wide), the desire to reduce state spending, and the limited capacity to support new initiatives. This does not alter the agency’s approach to ask for what the system needs to continue supporting front end services that probation departments provide and improving the culture, safety and security of our facilities, to support our staff through training
and salary needs, to address our substantial IT needs, to enhance positive programing and re-entry services to reduce recidivism.

We recently completed a system-wide salary study to support requests in our LAR related to the current market. The findings of this study support requests on both the state and county side. On the state side, we are recommending JCO and parole officer salaries become and remain equitable with correctional officers and parole officers at TDCJ. In addition, the study findings represent a strong basis for requesting the adjustment of salaries for positions other than JCOs, parole officers and teachers (whose salaries are set by local school districts) to become more competitive in the market. On the county side, we are recommending an increase in funding equivalent to 3% of case-load carrying juvenile probation and supervision officers to all departments to use for salary increases.

On August 1, the first day of the new school year, we began a flexible block schedule that will transform the way educational services and rehabilitation services are provided to TJJD youth residing in our secure facilities. The purpose for the block schedule is to increase safety for students and staff, reduce class sizes, improve instruction for students and increase rehabilitative specialized treatment. This will free up time for additional treatment and activities while ensuring education is delivered in the most meaningful environment possible.

Since it will be a couple of months before the next edition of TJJD Today is published, I’d like to take this opportunity, in recognition of Labor Day coming up soon, to thank all of you who “toil in the vineyards” of our profession and for your dedicated commitment to our mission.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The much anticipated expansion of the TJJD’s Pairing Achievement With Success (PAWS) program took place in June as the highly successful program began operations on the Gainesville State School campus. Thus far, five youth and five dogs have been paired.

The PAWS program pairs select TJJD youth with K9 partners for a minimum of 12 weeks. The dogs, which come from local animal shelters, learn basic commands, improved socialization skills, and earn a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certification. This certification is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. Youth learn responsibility and benefit from the companionship.

Youth selected to participate in the program are carefully chosen to ensure they will have the right temperament to work with the dogs. These youth are typically some of the best behaved youth on campus and have earned the right to participate in the program. All youth live in the designated PAWS dorm and, during the 12-week program, are responsible not only for training the dogs but must care for, exercise, feed and nurture the pets.

Case Manager Marsha Deeds, at 17-year veteran at TJJD, oversees the PAWS dorm and said she enjoys seeing the young men interacting with their K9 charges.

“I’m not really a dog person,” Deeds said. “But now I see how smart they are and how much they enjoy the youth.”

PAWS dorm JCO IV Laquita Mitchell, who has been at Gainesville for four years, said the youth seem very focused and relaxed when working with their dogs.

“This program is great because these kids feel like they are needed for something,” Mitchell said, “They appreciate someone depending upon them and they’re learning to be unselfish.”

Matching each youth with a dog is a thoughtful and deliberative process. Oftentimes, the young man’s needs and strengths are matched with those of his K9 partner. According the Gainesville Assistant Superintendent Deidre Reece, that is particularly true in one recently made partnership.

“Youth RT is a very sensitive young man and has a disabled sister that he is fiercely protective of,” Reece said. “We paired him with a dog that had apparently been physically and emotionally abused. The dog has responded extremely well to RT’s caretaker and protective nature. It’s been a perfect match.”

Much like the youth, PAWS dogs have undergone numerous obstacles on their way to the program. The animals are provided by Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter in Gainesville. The shelter and Executive Director Tory Ball decided to partner with the Gainesville program after being approached by TJJD PAWS creator and overseer Cris Burton. She said she is glad to be partnered with the school and is glad that the program is helping the dogs as well as the youth.

“Most of our animals have been abandoned,” Ball said. “Unfortunately, many of the dogs are harder to place in permanent homes because of behavioral issues. I get great satisfaction knowing that dogs who were less likely to be adopted are getting a second chance.”

Ball said she has checked on the animals placed in the PAWS program. She believes the program is doing a great job and that, when she visits, the youth love to question her about dogs.

Once the training program is completed, the Gainesville State School and Noah’s Ark will hold an adoption day. This is a chance for youth to help their K9 friends demonstrate their new skills and tricks and meet prospective new owners.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Guadalupe County Juvenile Probation Officer Guadalupe “Lupe” Facundo passed away in April in a car accident.  The following obituary ran commemorating her life and service:

“Msgt. Guadalupe “Lupe” Facundo, USAF Retired, passed away on April 11, 2016 at the age of 60 in Cibolo, TX. She was born September 16, 1955 in San Marcos, TX to Pedro Facundo and Maria Mosqueda.

She was raised in San Marcos and assisted with raising her younger siblings before graduating from San Marcos High School in 1974. In January 1977, Lupe joined the United States Air Force where she proudly served for 20 years.  After retiring from the Air Force in 1997, she continued her life of service. She joined the Schertz Police Department as a reserve police officer, the Comal County Sheriff’s Officer as a deputy jailer and in late 2000 joined the Guadalupe County Juvenile Services Department in the Schertz and Seguin offices as a juvenile probation officer where she was currently employed.

She was assisting with Seguin ISD’s truancy and prevention program until her passing. Lupe was a true believer of God and her Catholic faith. Her children and grandson were her world and she was always very proud of them. She was a beloved mother, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker and role model.  She was caring, thoughtful, strong, motivated and never gave up. She loved with all her heart and was the bond that brought the family together.

She was a lover of animals, especially her dogs.  She was a great woman and would do as much as she could for anyone she knew.

Guadalupe County Juvenile Probation Chief Ron Quiros added the following thoughts:

There are elements of working in close proximity to someone that makes their death even more tragic than it may already be.  Lupe’s office was ten feet away from mine, and with only one hallway, that means I greeted her daily and she in kind greeted me.  Her death in a car accident two weeks ago makes me stop and recognize the impact that death can have on a juvenile probation department however, this is not the first time I have experienced untimely deaths in juvenile probation.

I worked for Bexar County Juvenile Probation when a co-worker and friend committed suicide and I worked for Travis County Juvenile Services when two officers were murdered.  I should know how this feels but this was different for us here.  Something about having to contact Lupe’s caseload, take care of our staff and accepting the support from department’s from across the State made this one hurt differently than the other deaths. Somehow, my previous lessons of grief did little to abide the tide of sorrow and sadness felt by all of us, and especially me.

But as for me, today, I know that small departments have to deal with these deaths in a whole different manner.  After Lupe passed I was heartbroken to learn of Ernie Sertuchee’s passing in Dewitt County.  I can’t imagine what that small, close knit department is struggling with in moving through their grief. I know you join me in praying for all of the lost souls who have given their lives in service to the children of our world and I hope that the tides slowly ebbs for another day of service.

Ron J. Quiros
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer
Guadalupe County Juvenile Services

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trayce Haynes Alexander, of Cat Spring, Texas passed away in April.  She was a JCO IV at the Giddings State School and began her employment with the Texas Youth Commission on January 5, 2009, as a JCO III.  She was promoted to a JCO IV on April 1, 2010. 

Trayce was a hardworking, loyal and dedicated staff member and friend.  Her number one priority was the youth in her dorm and she would drive one hour and forty minutes everyday (even in ill health) to try to make a difference in the lives of the youth she worked with. She was well respected by both staff and youth due to her extraordinary work ethic.  The boys could always depend on her to hold them accountable. She is survived by her husband Geoff Alexander and two daughters, Kristyn and Robyn Alexander.

Trayce was born on September 3, 1952.  She earned a BS from Southwest Texas State University in Law Enforcement.