Yesterday, I speculated about the reasons why the TYC had a policy in place to allow for people with felony convictions or felony charges pending against them to be hired. In today's story on the roots of the TYC crisis, I see that my reasoning was correct:
Ever since the Bush-era TYC expansion began, staffing has been a major problem at TYC facilities.
Pete Alfaro, who was appointed to the TYC board by Bush and made chairman by Perry, said the remote locations chosen by the Legislature for TYC facilities was a major factor.
He said low pay and facility location have attracted some sexual predators and otherwise unfit people and that high turnover has made employee screening difficult.
"If you get a bad apple, that bad apple, like in this West Texas case, can really mess things up," Alfaro said.
The annual salary for a juvenile corrections officer ranges from $22,445 to $33,279 a year with no overtime. TYC reports that until a corrections officer has been with the system for almost two years, that individual could make "similar wages with much less stress" in either the retail or food-service industries.
Though the push to get more teenage offenders into state-run facilities began under then-Governor Bush, which is what this story is about, things got even worse thanks to that gift that keeps on giving, the 2003 budget cuts.
The Legislature ordered TYC to start closing contract-care facilities and move more youths into state-run facilities without regard to the fact that the state facilities already had trouble maintaining their staffs. The number of youths in state-run facilities grew by 500 in a single year.
Staffing ratios dropped from 1 corrections officer for every 15 students to 1-to-24. The confirmed cases of staff-on-youth abuse grew from 459 in 2003 to more than 980 two years later.
Meanwhile, Grits brings up yet another tawdry aspect of this saga:
So you're Texas Governor Rick Perry. The Texas Youth Commission is in the middle of a sex scandal that your advisers are telling you is only going to get worse. What do you do?
I'll tell you what Governor Perry did: He appointed a man to run the agency for whom the state last year paid to settle allegations in a civil suit that he (and others) ignored sexual harassment complaints from subordinates at his old employer, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Holy Mother of God, who is advising the Governor on TYC?