Saturday, July 28, 2012

Montgomery County Forensic Hospital Fined for Multiple Serious Violations

Texas health officials recommended levying more than $100,000 in fines against the state's first publicly funded, privately run psychiatric hospital in Conroe for violations including the improper restraining and inadequate monitoring of patients and other infractions committed in its first year. ... Details of the violations outlined in two letters state officials sent to GEO Group and Montgomery County are "reason for serious concern about the privatization of a state psychiatric facility," said Colleen Horton, a policy analyst at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin. MORE.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reinke v. State of Texas

Reinke had spent 20 years incompetent to stand trial for attempted murder cycling in and out of jail to a state hospital. Texas law states that a defendant cannot be held, whether in a state hospital or a jail, longer than the maximum term of the sentence for the charged offense. The Travis County DA's office argued that because of previous crimes that the defendant's charge must be enhanced, thus making the possible sentence longer. The Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed. Here is the opinion. Although this may not be a monumental ruling, it will be case law to say that enhancements don't count in the maximum time the state can hold a person incompetent to stand trial. Now that he will be released, what will happen to him? Will he get the supports he needs to maintain his community tenure?

Friday, July 6, 2012

County Jails and the Affordable Care Act

With what some are calling complicated and a split decision, the only sure thing is that legal pundits and the media will be sorting out the recent U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act for months to come. This far-reaching decision will affect all aspects of the Nation, including local correctional agencies — jails and detention facilities. The National Association of Counties (NACo) has produced a publication that examines how counties can be involved in enrolling individuals held in county jails who become newly eligible for health insurance coverage in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. This document, titled County Jails and the Affordable Care Act: Enrolling Eligible Individuals in Health Coverage, examines ways that counties may be involved in eligibility determination and enrollment processes for these newly eligible individuals, focusing particularly on issues related to enrolling qualified individuals held in county jails as pre-adjudicated detainees and inmates preparing to re-enter the community. Specifically the document assesses some of the potential issues and challenges county jail and human services staff may face in terms of enrollment procedures. The brief also highlights examples of existing county-based enrollment strategies that may be able to serve as models for developing processes to enroll individuals in county jails who become newly eligible for health insurance coverage in 2014.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sunset Commission: TDCJ Can Improve

Five years ago, the Texas prison system was nearing a breaking point in terms of capacity. When the Sunset Advisory Commission was tasked with determining the future of the state prison system in 2007, the commission did not recommend the construction of more prisons. Instead, the commission recommended the expansion of parole, probation and offender treatment programs. Click here to read the Sunset Advisory's report.

When I Die … They’ll Send Me Home: Youth Sentenced to Life without Parole in California, An Update (2012)

Read Report 07/05/2012 12:43 PM EDT This report examines the sentencing of youth in California to life without parole, more or less a death sentence. This text is divided into five parts: youth sentenced to die in California prisons—troubling facts, international norms, adolescent differences from adults, financial costs, and dramatically changing legal perspectives; recommendations; parallel cases, starkly different results; changed lives; and arbitrary outcomes—plea bargaining with a teen, teens perception of time, predicting who a teenager will be at age 40, other existing sentencing law, and changes in California law reducing checks and balances. SOURCE: Human Rights Watch (New York, NY). Authored by Calvin, Elizabeth; Weir, Annie; Nahoray, Dana; Breen, Austen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support: A Guidebook (2012)

The fundamentals, cultural considerations, and actions to be taken to address trauma through peer support are explained. “This guide was created for a very specific purpose: to help make trauma-informed peer support available to women who are trauma survivors and who receive or have received mental health and/or substance abuse services. It is designed as a resource for peer supporters in these or other settings who want to learn how to integrate trauma-informed principles into their relationships with the women they support or into the peer support groups they are members of. The goal is to provide peer supporters—both male and female—with the understanding, tools, and resources needed to engage in culturally responsive, trauma-informed peer support relationships with women trauma survivors” (p. 1). Thirteen chapters are in this publication: introduction to trauma and trauma-informed practices; whether one is a trauma survivor or not; peer support fundamentals; gender policies and the criminalization of women; culture and trauma; religion, spirituality, and trauma; trauma-informed peer support across the lifespan; trauma and peer support relationships; self-awareness and self-care; organizational context—working in systems; trauma-informed storytelling and other healing practices; self-inflicted violence and peer support; and reclaiming power through social action. SOURCE: National Association of State Mental Heath Program Directors (NASMHPD) (Falls Church, VA); Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP) (Sudbury, MA). Authored by Blanch, Andrea; Filson, Beth; Penney, Darby; Cave, Cathy.

2012 Reentry Skills Building Handbook (2012)

Click here for link. While the local services are Georgia based, the bulk of this handbook is contains a wealth of excellent information and resources that will help an ex-offender make a successful transition back into the community. Forms and checklists for the released individual to fill out are spread throughout this guide and make the reentry process less intimidating. Not only giving the ex-offender direction, this handbook can be used by the community corrections practitioner in making sure the reentry process is effective for the ex-offender. Chapters following an introduction about getting organized cover identification, housing, employment, careers, work ethics, transportation, money management, education, applying for social security, health and life skills, mental health, alcohol and other drugs (AOD) and recovery, family and friend relationships, child support, and living under supervision. SOURCE: Georgia Dept. of Corrections (Forsyth, GE); Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles (Atlanta, GE).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

East Texas counties find methods to cut jail populations

Steps to ease crowding at the Gregg County Jail have resulted in the smallest jail population in years — largely the result of a pragmatic plan to shift punishment from incarceration to rehabilitation or treatment.

Nowhere Else To Go

Sunday, March 14, 2010

National Council Magazine

The latest issue of National Council Magazine, “Beyond Bars: Mental Health-Addictions and Criminal Justice Collaborations” is available.

Articles focus on the crisis in our nation’s jails and prisons — men and women with mental illnesses and addictions incarcerated because they didn’t get the treatments they desperately need — and emphasize the possibilities of effective services. The magazine highlights the initiatives of National Council member organizations that are endlessly creative in overcoming financial, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers to nurture programs and services that offer productive lives to people with mental illnesses and addictions as the alternative to incarceration.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review and Comment on the DSM-5

This is your opportunity to be heard.

DSM-5 Draft Criteria Available for Public Comment through April 20

The American Psychiatric Association is seeking your comments on proposed criteria for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health and other health professionals for diagnostic and research purposes. Proposed DSM-5 draft criteria will be available for review and comment at from February 10 to April 20, 2010. Health professionals, consumers of mental health services and family members are invited to visit the site to review and comment on the draft criteria.

DSM-5 remains a work in progress: following the public comment period, the DSM-5 Task Force and Work Groups will spend two years reviewing and refining proposed criteria based on public comments and the results of field trials, which will be conducted in three phases to test some of the proposed diagnostic criteria in real-world clinical settings. The release of the final DSM-5 is expected in May 2013. For more information, visit

Monday, January 11, 2010

Truvia not fit to proceed

Evaluation: Student charged with killing teacher not fit for trial yet

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It has been three and a half months since Todd Henry was killed while teaching a class at John Tyler High School. If things go as expected at a hearing later this week, it will be another three months before his accused killer will face a jury. We learned Monday that Byron Truvia is not fit to stand trial just yet.

But, the difference this time is, since the last hearing, the court, the prosecution, and the defense have all been provided with an evaluation of Truvia that was done by a forensic psychologist. That evaluation says that Truvia is not fit to proceed.

Another hearing has been scheduled for Friday, and Truvia's attorney says that he expects both sides to agree on the assessment, and that Truvia will be sent to a state mental hospital for 90 days, during which time more evaluations will be done.

Truvia's attorney also says Truvia's mother has known that her son needed special care for a long time, and that this won't be his first time to have this kind of care.

"He had been through a couple of facilities in New Orleans, one of which was shut down by Katrina [and] the other lost all their records as a result of Katrina," explained James Huggler. "[He has a] lengthy mental health history, and that continued once he got here to Texas."

Huggler says that after that 90 days, if doctors at the hospital believe that Truvia is fit to proceed, the trial process will resume. But, Truvia will stay in the state's care until he is fit to proceed, and Huggler says that could take years.

Huggler added that the family is very happy with the decision because they know that something is wrong with Truvia, and want to make sure he gets the best treatment possible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Some Youths Need Access To Services Outside TYC

Article published Jan 10, 2010
Posted on
Sunday, January 10, 2010
On The Scene: Some Youths Need Access To Services Outside TYC
Staff Writer

In a recent article, I reported on an Associated Press story that discussed current state law mandates that the Texas Youth Commission release juveniles who have served their sentences and are not making progress in the Commission's mental health treatment program.

The story specifically mentioned the stabbing death of John Tyler High School Teacher Todd Henry, and how the youth who is accused in the stabbing was released from the TYC without receiving follow-up mental health services.

My goal here is not to specifically discuss the Tyler youth, or to criticize the TYC. The job the professionals have there can be enormously challenging. I want to get across how crucial it is for these juveniles to have access to these services once they are discharged from the system.

Jim Hurley, public information officer for the TYC, said the agency is required to release juveniles to their parents or guardians who have completed their minimum confinement period and if the youth have a primary brain disorder that keeps them from progressing in treatment. He said it is up to the TYC mental health professionals to make the determination of whether or not the youth is making that progress.

It was one comment Hurley made in the course of my interview with him that really hit home:

"Even when they are discharged, we cannot force a parent to make sure they get treatment," he said.

My first reaction upon hearing this statement was a feeling of utter hopelessness and futility. And then I felt worried, both as a parent and as a member of the society in which these youth will be released. My worry stems from the kind of world in which we are all going to be living when these young people, who do not receive appropriate follow-up care, continue to commit crimes which will affect us all. Some of these crimes may be vicious, such as the one in which the Tyler youth is accused.

Although there are no guarantees that receiving such follow-up care will stop a crime from happening, it certainly can help a troubled youth to get on the right track. It could also mean the difference between life and death for a potential crime victim.

Of course, there are a million different circumstances -- many of the youths who serve their time and are released still needing these services may not go home to parents at all. They may be returned to homes and situations where there is a guardian, perhaps an older sibling or other relative who must work at more than one job in order for the family to survive. It can be a struggle in such families just to put food on the table, much less see that a child receives follow-up medical care, no matter how badly it is needed.

But the mission of the TYC is unique from the state's adult prison system -- first, because it serves youths, and second, because it focuses on rehabilitation, education, and medical treatment.

In fact, the agency's mission statement on its Web site states in part "the juvenile corrections agency, promotes public safety by operating juvenile correctional facilities and by partnering with youth, families, and communities to provide a safe and secure environment where youth in the agency's care and custody receive individualized education, treatment, life skills and employment training and positive role models to facilitate successful community reintegration."

The key words are "partnering," "families," "communities" and especially "successful community reintegration." It takes parents or guardians, institutions, and communities working together to see a youth successfully rehabilitate so that he can be a productive and contributing citizen in society, if such rehabilitation is possible. The only other choice is for the child to go back to the same behavior which put him in the TYC in the first place.

It would appear there is a bright spot on the horizon. Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin, authored HB 4451 in the last legislative session. The legislation authorizes a child with mental illness or mental retardation who is discharged from the TYC after having served his sentence to be eligible to receive continuity of care services from the Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments.

But McReynolds, who is a retired educator, admits that the issue is complex and in his words "has many moving parts." As the Chair of the state's Corrections Committee, he said he has plans to hold interim hearings on the topic before the legislature meets again in 2011.

"I would like to see us do the best we can to redeem these young lives," McReynolds said. On that point, all of us can agree.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Putting Public Safety First -- 13 Parole Supervision Strategies to Enhance Reentry Outcomes

Organization-level and individual-level strategies for improving the supervision of offenders in the community are described. Sections of this report include: introduction -- background and focus of this paper; define success as recidivism reduction and measure performance; tailor conditions of supervision; focus resources on moderate and high-risk parolees; front-load supervision resources; implement earned discharge; implement place-based supervision; engage partners to expand intervention capacities; assess criminogenic risk and need factors; develop and implement supervision case plans that balance surveillance and treatment; involve parolees to enhance their engagement in assessment, case planning, and supervision; engage informal social controls to facilitate community reintegration; incorporate incentives and rewards into the supervision process; employ graduated problem-solving responses to violations of parole conditions in a swift and certain manner; and repositioning parole supervision -- looking ahead.
Click here for the pdf.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Webinar Archive: Individuals with Mental Illnesses in the Criminal Justice System: Addressing Both Criminogenic Risks and Mental Health Needs

During the webinar, held on November 18th, Dr. Jennifer Skeem provided an overview of how criminogenic risk factors contribute to the involvement of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, discussed the need to develop approaches that take into account individuals’ criminogenic risk factors and their functional impairments, and presented an intervention model that does both. The webinar concluded with a question-and-answer period.

Click here to download or listen to the webinar.

Click here to download the powerpoint presentation.

Just to note, I have been trying all day to listen to the webinar archive with no luck. Admittedly, it could be the operator. Update: Use Internet Explorer, not Firefox.

Truvia case continues as options weighed

Post from Tyler Paper:

State Trying To Certify Alleged Teacher Stabber As An Adult For Trial
Staff Writer

Another detention hearing was waived on Monday in the case of the juvenile who is accused in the stabbing death of John Tyler High School teacher Todd Henry. The stabbing took place on September 23 while Henry sat at his desk inside of a special education classroom.

Jim Huggler, the youth’s attorney, said there are two ways in which the state may proceed—through discretionary transfer, or through a determinate sentence. He said the state has already filed a petition for discretionary transfer, which could lead to the accused juvenile to be tried as an adult.

“The state is in the process now of performing a court transfer study, which has been happening for the past few weeks,” he said.

There are several factors to consider when making that determination, according to the Texas Family Code. The first consideration is whether the alleged offense was against person or property, with the greater weight given in favor of offenses against a person. The other points to evaluate in the court transfer study are the sophistication and maturity of the child; the record and previous history of the child; and the prospects of adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of the rehabilitation of the child by use of procedures, services and facilities currently available to the juvenile court.

Huggler said he did not know when the process of the court transfer study would be complete.

The other possibility for the accused juvenile will be for a determinate sentence, which means that the youth’s case will be handled by the juvenile court system.

Watch and the Tyler Morning Telegraph today and Tuesday for more details on this story.

Post from
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Another hearing has taken place in the case of accused murderer Byron Truvia, 16. Truvia is accused of fatally stabbing his teacher at John Tyler High School in September.

The state has asked for Truvia's case to be moved to adult court. But, we learned prosecutors are also asking for something called a determinate sentencing.

Truvia's attorney says, if that happens, the court could find enough evidence to hand down a sentence of up to 40 years.

"That is one of the options," said Jim Huggler, Truvia's attorney. "That'll be up to the District Attorney to determine which road to take."

Truvia is still being held at the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center. Another hearing is scheduled in two weeks.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Evaluation of the Individual Process Ward for Juvenile Offenders Who Are Not Suitable for Group Treatment: Summary

“The aim of the investigation is to acquire knowledge of the possible effects of the ITA [Individuele Trajectafdelinfg or Individual Process Ward] for juveniles in respect of whom a group approach within regular treatment wards has proved unsuitable” (p.1). Sections of this summary are: background of the investigation; aim of the investigation and formulation of the issues involved; structure of the investigation and working method; findings according to the ITA in theory (i.e., intended approach, effective methods and technologies, principles of effective interventions)and ITA in practice (i.e., the target group reached, implementation and realized preconditions, realized approach, incidents, sickness, absence, and staff turnover, targets attained by the juveniles; conclusion, and points for attention. It does not appear that risk of violence or recidivism is reduced by ITAs. Click here for the pdf.

Repeat Offenses in Texas Raise Questions Over Release of Mentally Ill Juveniles

From the NY Times:
Repeat Offenses in Texas Raise Questions Over Release of Mentally Ill Juveniles

Published: December 20, 2009

TYLER, Tex. (AP) — A 16-year-old former juvenile detainee was accused of stabbing a high school teacher to death with a butcher knife. Another teenager was convicted of killing a roofer during a robbery spree.

Both were released by the Texas Youth Commission because the agency was not equipped to treat their mental illnesses, and under the law, had to let them go.

The cases highlight what some juvenile justice experts say is a loophole in the way Texas treats under-age offenders with severe psychiatric issues. Data obtained by The Associated Press reveal that the commission has released more than 200 offenders because of mental health issues in the last five years and that more than one-fifth of them went on to commit new crimes, some of them violent.

“All these cases are failures where we should have done something different,” said Richard Lavallo, legal director for Advocacy Incorporated, an organization in Austin that helps children with disabilities.

In most states, young offenders are not discharged from custody because of mental illness unless they are being committed to hospitals. But under a 1997 law meant to keep mentally ill juveniles from being held in detention centers where they cannot get proper treatment, youths in Texas who are serving indeterminate sentences and who have completed their minimum required time in custody are released to parents or guardians.

While some experts said Texas should be commended for not warehousing such offenders where they cannot get treatment, they questioned the logic of releasing them without ensuring that they receive supervision.

“Without some requirement for supervision, it doesn’t seem like a sound policy to me,” said Gail Wasserman, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and the director of its Center for the Promotion of Mental Health in Juvenile Justice.

The issue gained notoriety in September after the fatal stabbing of a special education teacher at John Tyler High School in Tyler. The teacher, Todd Henry, 50, was sitting at his desk in his classroom when he was attacked.

The Texas Youth Commission had released the boy accused of killing Mr. Henry in July because of multiple mental health issues, including schizophrenia, said his lawyer, Jim Huggler. The teenager, whom The A.P. was not identifying because he is a juvenile and has not been charged as an adult, had been committed in 2007 for aggravated assault.

Mr. Huggler said he had seen nothing to indicate that the boy’s family, which had moved to Tyler from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, had received a plan from officials on how to deal with his mental problems.

“This case is sad on so many levels,” he said.

The commission makes sure offenders released because of mental illness receive referrals to their local Mental Health and Mental Retardation centers. But there is nothing that requires the youths or their families to avail themselves of those services.

Cherie Townsend, the commission’s executive director, declined to comment about specific cases. But she acknowledged that it might be time to limit some of the releases for public safety reasons or require that some releases have conditions attached.

“We’ve got to find a middle ground where we assure public safety and accountability for actions that have taken place and at the same time find better ways to provide treatment for these youth,” Ms. Townsend said.

Any changes would have to be approved by the Legislature, which is not scheduled to meet again until January 2011.

Lawmakers did approve a measure in the spring that allows youths released from custody because of mental illness to receive case management services like those available to parolees.

But the author of the legislation, Representative Jim McReynolds, a Democrat, said the Tyler case had convinced him that the measure did not go far enough.

According to the youth commission, 206 juvenile offenders had been released in the last five years because of mental illness. Of those, 43 were incarcerated again. Most were returned to custody for burglary or robbery, but some were convicted of more serious offenses, including two for arson and two for sex crimes involving children.

Among those discharged was Jeremy Miera, 21, who is serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of a 45-year-old roofer in May 2006.

Records provided to The A.P. by Mr. Miera’s family show that he was released on parole from a Texas Youth Commission facility in May 2005 and discharged entirely four months later for “inability to progress due to mental illness/retardation.”