Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What enticed you to become a Probation Chief?
My aspiration growing up was to be a private investigator, a lawyer, a stockbroker, or a therapist. I have always had the desire to help others. After being a volunteer Big Brother and then an intern at Michigan State University with the Ingham County Juvenile Probation Department, I realized that I wanted to spend my career working with troubled youth.

What drives you to do a good job?
Knowing that we as an agency and we as a profession have the obligation to do the best we can at creating opportunity for youth to be successful while also taking into consideration the protection of the community. The youth and family “needs” change and we have to position ourselves to be flexible enough to meet their changing needs.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your career?
I have seen many changes in my 34 years of employment at the Juvenile Probation Department from advances in technology to changes in philosophical approaches to working with juveniles (rehabilitative vs. punitive), to increased severe mental health disorders in juveniles.

What is your proudest moment?
I do not have any one proudest moment, but just my overall pride in the creativity of our staff and the ability to succeed with our probationers. It is always great to have a youth approach you years later to say thanks and they are doing fine. I am happy with the relationships I have made in the legislature that have enabled us to create good laws and fight off bad bills.

What do you do in your spare time?
My favorite thing is to sit in my Lafuma chair and have a cigar and a drink. That’s how I make my best decisions. I also like to hunt and do country boy stuff.

What do you wish people knew about you?
I am a simple country boy that has been on loan to the big city for 35 years. I care about people and I know that their story is as important as mine is.

What advice do you have to young employees just starting out today?
If you don’t have the heart for working with our kids then move on down the road. Kids are smart enough to see through someone that is just here for a paycheck. They need someone who is here for the right reason and really cares.

What do you want your legacy to be?
Leaving a legacy is not important to me. Everyone can decide on their own if I did a good job or not. I put as much pressure on myself as anyone. If I walk away and know that I’ve done my best, that’s all I need. Oh, and whoever takes my place is welcome to blame me for anything that goes wrong. LOL

Friday, September 15, 2017

On June 28, 2017, TJJD hosted a Legislative Open House at the Giddings State School. About 40 guests converged on the campus to learn more about the work of TJJD and specifically about the Youth In Custody Practice Model and how it is being woven into facility operations. Guests were able to hear from the YICPM consultants, tour the facility, visit with youth and staff, and hear about how the YICPM will affect TJJD’s approach to serving youth in state facilities. It was a unique opportunity for Capitol office legislative staff and an elected official to see what the agency does, rather than simply hearing about it. Other guests included members of the Texas Juvenile Justice Board, a juvenile judge from Williamson County, the Independent Ombudsman, and representatives from partner agencies. Executive Director, David Reilly, said, “I believe that as more people ‘come and see,’ more will understand and fully support the work we do. This is in large part because guests can meet the facility staff and the youth that we serve. It’s the on-site and on the ground experience that makes all the difference.”

Guests toured several posts on campus, including the school, vocational programs, an area used for incentive activities, the newly established PAWS dorm and the security unit. They were led by facility staff and youth. Guests were also treated to lunch prepared by Principal Dennis Smith.

Staff from other facilities and around the agency also attended, to highlight the good work of each facility and several programs through informational booths that guests could visit throughout the day.

A lot of work went into planning this event and the list of people who contributed is long. They include Jorge Gonzalez, Charles Kelm, Anita Schwartz, Janet Sheelar, Frederick Horton, Dennis Smith, Donna Miller, Brenda Medack, Russell Falke, Wanona Posas, Eric Mattocks, Mark Satterwhite, Jason Stork, Tommy Ewing, Gary Clopton, Keith Kubena, Nathan Dunk, Calvin Berger, Wayne Rackel, James Mitschke, Steven Rackel, Carl Williams, Jerome Gordon, John Alamillo, Darla Michalk, David Groce, Chet Rittgers, Stephanie Collins, Boris Jumper, Thurman Sims, Monica Harrison, Barbara Moore, Tanya Ragston, Ramiro Hernandez, Terri Elliott, Olumide Ogunlabi, Victoria Evans, Ramiro Hernandez, Bennie Scott, Derrick Sneed, Ace Myrick, and Spencer Caldwell.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

TJJD, along with other agencies, will be recognized at the upcoming TIBH Industries 10th Annual Artie Hines Awards Dinner on September 27, 2017. TJJD is ranked number seven out of all state agencies in the dollars spent on products purchased from TIBH.

TIBH Industries is a non-profit corporation that markets the products and services of thousands of Texans with disabilities, linking them to meaningful career options. Their WorksWonders program helps Community Rehabilitation Programs employ over 6,000 people, making them productive taxpayers by keeping them in the workforce. The State of Texas has a set-aside program with TIBH in which state agencies can order products and services without the need for competitive bidding.

TJJD made over $600,000 in purchases through TIBH between October 2015 and September 2016, a tremendous success for the agency purchasers: Dorene Corsentino, Central Office; Jackie Schmaltz, Gainesville; Brenda Medack, Giddings; Deb Baize, Mart; Shande Vaughan, Mart; Brittany Williams, Ron Jackson; Patrick Koll, Evins. TJJD has been one of the top ten purchasing agencies for the last four years.

Monday, September 11, 2017

On May 30, 2017, the Edna Tamayo House was visited by Becky Lee Meza, who portrayed young Selena Quintanilla in the 1997 movie Selena. Meza told her life story and shared how she pulled herself out of poverty, being a victim of bullying as a teen, and turning to drugs and away from her family to cope with these problems. Meza shared with the boys how finding a spiritual solution, helping others, and turning her back on negative influences in her life helped her change and become the successful person she is today. She was very inspirational, positive and uplifting. The boys where excited to have a star come and talk with them and were very respectful and attentive while she gave her talk.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

On Monday, July 24, the City of Mart notified the TJJD McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility (MCSICF) that the town’s water pump station was out of service. The Mart facility immediately began instructing staff to pick up water from the warehouse for their areas on campus. The city advised the facility’s maintenance supervisor, Jimmie Jenson, that it would take approximately six to eight hours to repair the water pump. The following day, it was clear the problem would not be resolved so easily, and 18 portable toilets and handwashing stations were delivered to the campus for staff and students to use.

On Thursday morning, the facility was blessed with much needed relief. The Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief program (TBM), a unit sponsored by the Austin Baptist Association, delivered a portable trailer equipped with four showers and five washers and dryers. The City of Riesel Water Department supplied the facility with approximately 7,500 gallons of water hauled in a fire truck by the Mart Volunteer Fire department.

TJJD staff and five TBM volunteers put a plan into action. The tanks were filled and showers began, taking a day and a half to shower over 250 boys. By the end of the first day, over 288 loads of laundry were washed, dried and folded. The volunteers continued to work Friday and Saturday until the late evening. They were back to the facility first thing Monday morning and continued with showers for the boys and washing laundry. On Wednesday, August 2, at noon, the water situation was under control and the volunteers were able to return home. Facility Superintendent Bill Parks said, “We will forever be grateful to Bob Andrews, Director of the TBM Disaster Relief Team, and the TBM volunteers for their generosity with their time and equipment. The assistance received from the City of Riesel and the Mart Volunteer Fire Department is more evidence that we live and work in a true community.”

The Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief Program trains volunteers and coordinates efforts to provide prompt assistance to disaster victims and emergency support in times of disaster. TBM has been involved in disaster relief in Texas and around the world since 1967. The organization has 5,000 trained volunteers around the state and a $3 million annual budget.

PHOTO: (L to R) Bob Andrews, Director of the Baptist Disaster Relief Team and Area Coordinator for the TBMDR Central Texas Area, and Bill Hyden.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

After their participation in a national survey last year, the El Paso County Juvenile Probation Department’s Drug Court staff was selected to contribute to a focus group on family engagement. During that time, the case managers and probation officers were instrumental in providing feedback and input as to operations and policies.

Their participation in the survey included a 28-page brief. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges are now distributing that brief nationwide. Out of 157 different drug treatment courts participating from 38 different states, the El Paso County Juvenile Drug Court program was one of only two that were highlighted as having a strong commitment to family engagement as part of their design.

The program was also recently featured in the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges “What’s New From the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Information Center” newsletter.

The program continually surpasses goals and improves lives, thanks to the dedication and commitment of the El Paso County Juvenile Drug Court treatment team: Rafael Hernandez, Cindy Marquez, Erika Gomez, Aurora Tafoya, Rosie Medina and Judge Sam Medrano.

Friday, September 1, 2017

I am happy to announce Lou Serrano as our new Senior Director of Probation and Community Services. Lou has served in an interim capacity to liaise with the field since the end of February while continuing his role as Regional County Administrator. Lou was Director of Juvenile Services for Ector County for 15 years and was Chief JPO for Deaf Smith County for 11 years before joining TJJD. Lou will be headquartered here in Austin. I am particularly excited about Lou’s collaborative spirit, leadership skills, and productivity. I heard from many in the county juvenile probation field, receiving input for the selection process, and that feedback was very helpful. I owe thanks to Chiefs Homer Flores, Roger Martinez, and Edeska Barnes for sitting on the interview panel and providing county perspective to the interview process.

We all recently gathered for the Post Legislative and Budget Conferences. That is a favorite of mine because it truly brings the whole system together. This year was no exception. It was a wonderful opportunity for the Texas juvenile justice system to learn about the changes made during the Legislative Session.

During the conference, I met with the Regional Presidents’ Council. We discussed a number of things, one of which is our need to foster the partnership between the
agency and the county field. I know Lou will help with this significantly. But I, too, am committed to being as present as possible in the field. My Chief of Staff Chelsea Buchholtz and Chief Financial Officer Mike Meyer made the same commitment. We also discussed our need to begin thinking of our unified message for next legislative session. It seems too early to talk about but it is not at all. The next session will be here before we know it and, in fact, our LAR development process will begin in earnest early in 2018. I look forward to these Regional Presidents’ Council meetings—they are instructive and collaborative and go a long way in improving the communication linkage that is so important to the whole system.

In other news, beginning September 1, 2017, all juvenile supervision officers will be required to successfully complete a competency examination before being certified. We started this for juvenile probation officers last year. This is a significant milestone for the juvenile justice field to help ensure competency is demonstrated. It has been in the works for many years and I am glad to see it coming to fruition. It will lend additional credibility to the certification process. I am proud of our Juvenile Justice Training Academy for accomplishing this
great milestone.

We have had a few pieces of excitement on the state side. We had a youth escape late on Friday night, July 21, from one of our secure facilities. Our Office of Inspector General (OIG) apprehended the youth the following day. The hard work of the OIG mitigated what could have been a much worse situation. I am proud of the hard work of OIG and the facility staff and am determined to ensure that the incident is used to make us better.

We also were the beneficiary of great kindness and service by the Disaster Relief Division of the Texas Baptist Men’s Group. They served our Mart facility for several days recently when a city water pipe failed and caused the Mart facility to endure days without any water at all and other days with sporadic outages and directives to conserve. This service group provided laundry and showers at a time when we greatly needed the help. We are forever grateful for their gift to the agency in our time of need.

In July we moved our male youthful offender program from Ron Jackson to Giddings. All indications show that the move was successful. This provides relief for Ron Jackson who has seen an increase in commitments coming through Orientation and Assessment. By moving these young men, we freed capacity at Ron Jackson and diversified the population at Giddings.

It has been a busy summer around here, as I am sure it has been for all corners of our juvenile justice system. Schools are now starting and there is excitement in the air for the new beginnings that many will experience. I look forward to what lies ahead.

PHOTO: David Reilly

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Saturday, October 7
10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Bob Havins Fields (Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park)
12138 North Lamar Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78753

Come out and enjoy this day in honor of the fantastic work you do every day in service of our youth. 


Featuring:
  • The 2nd Annual TJJD Softball Tournament (Contact Carla Bennett-Wells at carla.bennett.wells@tjjd.texas.gov or 254-297-8273 for more info)
  • face painting 
  • moon jump
  • silent auction
  • door prizes
  • complimentary bar-b-que plates
  • and much more!

Traveling from out of town?
Take advance of a secured group rate of $119/night with the TownePlace Suites Austin North/Tech Ridge. Reservations must be made by September 15. Click here to make your reservation.

TownePlace Suites Austin Nortth/Tech Ridge
12427 Tech Ridge Blvd., Austin, Texas 78753
Phone: 512-643-7445
Fax: 512-339-4203
Reservation Deadline: September 15
Start Date: October 6
End Date: October 8

Advisory Councils (DYRAC) A.R.T. Program for youth at Cottrell House. A.R.T. stands for Assessing Real Talent. The program is meant to teach youth how to improve their talents as well as give them resources to pull from for future use.

Wachelle Williams, DYRAC Chairperson stated, “Many of the youth at Cottrell House are so talented in music, cooking, sports and many other areas. I want to make sure that they have resources and contacts to help them pursue their talents.” With that goal in mind, DYRAC applied for and received a grant from the State Volunteer Resource Council to help youth reach their potential in the A.R.T. Program.

Cherika (Che) Roundtree of Strictly DFW Radio is an active member of DYRAC. She also mentors youth at Cottrell House and knows firsthand of the talent that many youth have. Che stated, “Youth have talents that need to be guided. I want to help youth that are interested in the music business.” Lavator (Ms. T) Jefferson, Artist Manager, also wanted to help those who are interested in music. Ms. T. stated, “I have always wanted to help people build their music careers because they need to know the basics and how to pursue their career without being taken advantage of.”Ms. T arranged for the youth to tour local radio stations, K104.5 FM and K105.7 FM. Youth had the opportunity to meet the morning teams of both radio stations, to ask questions, and see the radio personalities live on the air. Youth, ED stated, “Man this is a dream and I am so happy to be here. I really want a career in music and this is so exciting.” After the radio tour, Ms. T and music rapper SoloTX spoke with youth and encouraged them to always do what is right because continued negative actions will follow them for life. Ms. T stressed that each youth has the opportunity to change their lives. Ms. T and Che informed the youth that Kaotic of Kaotic Tracs will take youth in a six-week program to teach them about producing music. Both Ms. T and Che stressed to the youth that to work in music is a commitment, when means that they must be coachable, stay out of trouble, and be on time for the class.

Three youth expressed an interest in music and met with Kaotic at his studio, Kaotic Tracs, to start the music program. Kaotic inspired youth with a tour of the studio. He then encouraged them to always be themselves. Kaotic stated to the youth, “Never be afraid of fear because fear can help you make the right decisions. Always be you and always believe in yourself. Only sing or rap about your life, about things that are true. Do not rap or sing about things you do not know about, because if you do, you are not being yourself.” Kaotic has been in the music business about 20 years and admits that if there was a program in his past that could have helped him with his music career, he may not have made so many mistakes. Kaotic and boys worked together to pick out a beat in order to start their program. Youth, T.M. stated, “I am so serious about music and this is good because it will help me know what direction I need to take once I am released from Cottrell House. I am excited that someone wants to help me get started. This is a chance of a lifetime.”

Phillip Jones, Assistant Superintendent of Cottrell House, stated, “This is a good program that motivates youth. Kaotic is very motivating to the youth and has a powerful story of how his career began. He has the ability to grasp the youths’ attention and boost them to improve their lives.” This is just one section of the A.R.T. Program that is teaching youth new skills. The A.R.T. Program is designed to build youth resources while teaching them how to recognize talents they may not know of or how to build talents they may already have.

PHOTO: KJ Midday talking with youth while she was on the air with 105.7

Monday, August 28, 2017

On Monday, July 24, the City of Mart notified the TJJD McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility (MCSICF) that the town’s water pump station was out of service.  The Mart facility immediately began instructing staff to pick up water from the warehouse for their areas on campus. The city advised the facility’s maintenance supervisor, Jimmie Jenson, that it would take approximately six to eight hours to repair the water pump. The following day, it was clear the problem would not be resolved so easily, and 18 portable toilets and handwashing stations were delivered to the campus for staff and students to use.

On Thursday morning, the facility was blessed with much needed relief. The Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief program (TBM), a unit sponsored by the Austin Baptist Association, delivered a portable trailer equipped with four showers and five washers and dryers. The City of Riesel Water Department supplied the facility with approximately 7,500 gallons of water hauled in a fire truck by the Mart Volunteer Fire department.

TJJD staff and five TBM volunteers put a plan into action. The tanks were filled and showers began, taking a day and a half to shower over 250 boys. By the end of the first day, over 288 loads of laundry were washed, dried and folded. The volunteers continued to work Friday and Saturday until the late evening. They were back to the facility first thing Monday morning and continued with showers for the boys and washing laundry.  On Wednesday, August 2, at noon, the water situation was under control and the volunteers were able to return home. Facility Superintendent Bill Parks said, “We will forever be grateful to Bob Andrews, Director of the TBM Disaster Relief Team, and the TBM volunteers for their generosity with their time and equipment. The assistance received from the City of Riesel and the Mart Volunteer Fire Department is more evidence that we live and work in a true community.”

The Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief Program trains volunteers and coordinates efforts to provide prompt assistance to disaster victims and emergency support in times of disaster. TBM has been involved in disaster relief in Texas and around the world since 1967. The organization has 5,000 trained volunteers around the state and a $3 million annual budget.

PHOTO: (L to R) Bob Andrews, Director of the Baptist Disaster Relief Team and Area Coordinator for the TBMDR Central Texas Area, and Bill Hyden.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility is hosting their 1st Annual Golf Tournament at Battle Lake Golf Course on September 16, 2017. Entry fee is $80 per person and includes green fees, cart, catered lunch and beverages. The funds raised will benefit the McLennan County Community Resource Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitating the youth in TJJD. Payment to Tanya Rosas at MCSJCF due no later than September 8. Contact Tanya at 254-297-8289 for more information.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TJJD would like to recognize the following employees who have received a tenure award since March 2017. On behalf of the agency, we extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation for their dedication and service to the State of Texas.

March 2017


FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE
Michael Reta, Evins
Enrique Moreno, Evins
Mary B. Crocket,t Gainesville
Rosezetta V. Candley-Audu, Gainesville
Deborah L. Brackee,n Gainesville
Kristy R. Kauffman, Giddings
Lucas C. Stringfellow, Giddings
Arthur D. Balfour, Giddings
Chester D. Rittgers, Giddings
Calvin M. Hill, McLennan
Monique J. Brown, McLennan
LaTesha T. McGinnis, Schaeffer HWH

TEN YEARS OF SERVICE
Benjamin Ramire,z Evins
Kymberli L. Parks, Giddings
Marsha J. Killgore, McLennan
Karen A. Conner-Vergari, McLennan
Earl W. Mason, McLennan

FIFTEEN YEARS OF SERVICE
Gloria D. Riley, Gainesville
Rosa M. Montes, Gainesville
Latonji R. Brown, Giddings
Francis A. Phillips, McLennan
Elida P. Garcia, McLennan
Evy G. King, Ron Jackson

TWENTY YEARS OF SERVICE
Emily E. Childs, Austin–Ombudsman
Charles Harrison, McLennan
Robert S. Wagner, McLennan
Benny W. Dew, McLennan

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE
Mary Olugbuyi, Gainesville

THIRTY YEARS OF SERVICE
Ernestina Saenz, Evins

April 2017


FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE
Laquita W. Mitchell, Gainesville
Queleshia Q. Foster, Giddings
Lisa M. Hale, Austin–Ombudsman
Destiny A. Jackson, McLennan
Roberto C. Ramos, Evins
Kyle J. Planinz, Ron Jackson
Edwin J. Todd, Ron Jackson
Blas Rodriguez, Evins
Eric Serna, Evins
Melinda J. Hughes, Ron Jackson

TEN YEARS OF SERVICE
Tammy A. Sparkman, Gainesville
Tracy L. Loftis, Gainesville

FIFTEEN YEARS OF SERVICE
Pamela G. Gereau, Austin-Administrative Investigations
Stephen D. Roman, Austin-General Counsel
James Sanders, Giddings
Elijah E. Chambers, Ron Jackson
Kenneth R. Black, McLennan
Jon A. Filip, Gainesville
Jack W. Stanke, Ron Jackson

TWENTY YEARS OF SERVICE
Marcus J. Recek, Austin-Fiscal Affairs/Budget
Tamu M. Steptoe, Evins
Victorina C. Lopez, Evins
Tommy Hutchinson, McLennan
Israel Saenz, Tamayo HWH

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE
Jimmie K. Hurley, Austin-Executive
Michael K. Jones, Gainesville
Susan E. Werner, Austin-General Counsel

THIRTY YEARS OF SERVICE
Terry E. McHargue, McLennan

May 2017


FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE
Glenda E. Kelly, McLennan
Sonya R. Branch, Giddings
Anitra L. Tusie, Giddings
Daniel Garcia, Evins
Cynthia A. Karras, Austin-Financial Services
Barbara F. Todd, Gainesville
Paul B. McMichael, Gainesville
Crystal E. Gallardo, Ron Jackson
Robert N. Green II, Ron Jackson
Eldon R. Lopez, Evins
Billreshiea J. Williams, McLennan

TEN YEARS OF SERVICE
Patrick O. Nelms, McLennan

FIFTEEN YEARS OF SERVICE
Kenneth R. Black, McLennan
Dinah D. Wallace, McLennan
Betty P. Kirven, McLennan

TWENTY YEARS OF SERVICE
Maxine Gibbs, Mcfadden Ranch
Kenneth W. Marten, Gainesville
Timothy D. Falke, Giddings
Rosa L. Moreno, Evins
Antonio Cepeda Jr., Evins
Kim A Bullard, Austin-Youth Placement & Re-Entry
Michael R. Turner, Austin-State Programs & Facilities

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF SERVICE
Daniel W. Fauve,r 41 Region 1 North
Shirley B. Phillips, Gainesville

THIRTY YEARS OF SERVICE
Glen T. Knipstein, Austin

Friday, August 18, 2017

For the 65th Annual National Day of Prayer, Willoughby House’s special guest was Reverend Kathy Mack. Reverend Mack met with the youth and discussed how prayer can be essential, especially during the times that we’re living in. She gave a very interactive presentation, providing youth an opportunity to speak openly. Several youth reached out to Reverend Mack regarding areas of their lives that were troubling them and creating barriers, asking for her help to have peace within themselves.

Willoughby House Superintendent Diane Eunice said, “It was such a moving presentation. One youth even stated that having National Day of Prayer should take place all year long, rather than just once a year! The youth have been dropping their prayers in the prayer box that was provided for them and Reverend Mack was able to acknowledge their prayers. Although our youth are from various religious backgrounds, they were open to learning about prayer and how it can be individualized or expressed for others. Some of the youth shared that they are uncertain about the political climate and what’s going on in the world, so they were going to pray for peace.”

PHOTO: Kathy Mack I – Reverend Mack prays with a Willoughby House youth.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TJJD’s Juvenile Justice Training Academy offers Motivational Interviewing (MI) as a course for departments or regions to assist in the development of skills necessary to facilitate positive change in the thoughts and behavior of individuals. MI is a client centered, evidence based program that allows effective prosocial communication between people. This training provides a thorough introduction on how to use the program techniques to enhance communications between staff and youth and among staff. The 16-24 hour course begins with an overview of basic communication skills and principles of effective interventions. It is followed by stages of change models and the fundamental principles of MI. This interactive course was developed so participants engage in active listening with others, identify target areas for further exploration, and have the tools needed to respond in nonconfrontational ways.

If staff have already been trained in MI, TJJD also offers an 8 hour MI Booster training. This course serves as a review, update, and practice session to ensure sustainability of the skills developed in the initial training. In addition, participants will also receive training in advanced MI skills associated with evidence-based practices.

If you are interested in receiving additional information, or to schedule a training for your department or region, please contact Andy Fazzio at 512.490.7696 or Andy.Fazzio@tjjd.texas.gov.

TJJD’s Juvenile Justice Training Academy also offers a plethora of regional training opportunities to assist departments in providing employees with a unique training experience to enhance their professional development while attending training with peers from other probation departments. Each region has its own unique needs, and this training would allow regional representatives the opportunity to select from a menu of available training. The primary mission continues to be to advance organizational performance and individual development. Training options include over 30 topics to choose from. If you are interested in scheduling a regional training in your area, please complete the Regional Professional Development Training Request Form online, or you may contact John Kinsey at 512.490.7697 or John.Kinsey@tjjd.texas.gov.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Chaplain Rachel Ellington from the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Brownwood created a blog to share her experiences and reflections from her day to day interactions with youth at the facility. The following is an excerpt from her blog regarding the observance of National Day of Prayer, earlier this month.

None of us have the answers we want. We all crave to understand why things happen the way they do, the way we don’t want them to, the way they always have. The National Day of Prayer is a day that was set aside in 1775, before the United States was even a nation. The founding fathers knew that we didn’t have the answers, but prayer was the solution.

This year, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department knew this as well. Every state school (the politically correct term for maximum security juvenile detention center) was tasked with proving that prayer still works. On May 4th, all five institutions participated in this incredible event where staff, students, and volunteers implored a God in heaven to hear us.

My partner, Chaplain Rongey Madlock, and I had set it up so that each dorm would rotate through the chapel based on their lunch schedule (since the cafeteria is right across the street). We instructed the students to file into the pews, sit if they did not want prayer, and come forward if they did. Around twenty volunteers and staff lined the front of the chapel.

The first young man who walked up to me said this was only his second day on campus. He was worried about his mom who had just had surgery to remove a tumor from her intestines. After we prayed together, I asked him to hold out his hand. I took a small container of oil, and made the sign of the cross in his palm.

Back in Bible times, men were anointed with oil to signify that God was with them, and that He had a purpose for their life. It was considered a blessing.

I then handed him a Kleenex.

And this is so you don’t get it everywhere.

His eyes widened.

But Miss… If I wipe it off, does it go away?

Oh no, honey! Of course not!

I brushed tears away as the next kid stepped forward. One young man I prayed with asked to pray for his sister that she not go down the same path he had. Another asked to pray for me. Then, when we were just about to wrap up with the last group of boys, three young men were led in. Rongey asked if they wished to be prayed for. All three said yes. One walked up to me. He was nervous. He asked for me to pray for his mother in Mexico. After they sat back down with the rest of the group, we asked if there was anything else the boys needed to say before we dismissed. This same boy raised his hand.

I want Jesus.

The room went silent.

I want Jesus!

And he got Him.

After we had prayed over each boys’ dorm, there was a break in the schedule. We took this opportunity to proceed into a prayer walk all the way around the perimeter of campus. We prayed aloud as we walked. Someone even said:

Jesus, as we walk around this city, let the walls fall like Jericho.

Once we arrived back at the chapel, we released balloons as a sign of our prayers ascending to the throne of God and the spirits of oppression and depression being driven out. Ironically, one balloon got stuck in a tree. Chaplain Madlock laughed.

That one just don’t want to leave! Let’s go pray over it again and send it on its way.

So he and another volunteer went to get it unstuck. Next came the females.

I don’t think words would suffice to describe what happened when those girls stepped into that chapel. My prayer for this day had been that God would overwhelm them. And from where I was standing, that is exactly what was happening. Kids that I had seen throwing punches at correctional officers were on their knees weeping. They were literally crying out for God to move and change their attitudes. To change their lives.

Only God knows if they were sincere, but according to the Bible, the people who turned the world upside down were prisoners. The most impactful stories of all time were written in cells. Simon Peter committed assault, David committed murder, Rahab was a prostitute, and Paul was arrested several times. But prayer has a knack for setting the captives free.