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.”

TYC: Fewer Teens Discharged Over Mental Illness

TYC: Fewer Teens Discharged Over Mental Illness
Staff Writer

During the past two years, the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) has expanded its treatment abilities for incarcerated youth and has significantly reduced the number of juveniles it has discharged because of their failure to make progress while in treatment for mental health issues, said Jim Hurley, public information officer for the TYC on Monday.

Hurley was not able to give specific numbers of releases but said that every youth who is admitted to the TYC is evaluated individually. "If they have been diagnosed with mental health issues, we have psychologists and psychiatrists and medication to treat them, and we also may send them to the Corsicana Crisis Stabilization Unit," he said.

The comments came in response to a widely distributed Associated Press story on Sunday night that stated that the 16-year-old juvenile who stabbed John Tyler High School Teacher Todd Henry in September was released from the TYC because the agency wasn't equipped to deal with his illness and had to release him under Texas law. Henry was sitting at his desk in his classroom when he was attacked.

The juvenile accused of the crime is being held in the Smith County Jail. His attorney, Jim Huggler, has requested that each of his scheduled detention hearings at the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center be waived in the "best interest of his client." The hearings have been scheduled every two weeks since the youth's arrest in September.

In July, the TYC had discharged the boy who later was accused in the killing of Henry. His dis- charge came because he had been diagnosed with mental health issues including schizophrenia, Huggler said.

The story also mentioned Jeremy Miera, now 21, who is serving a lifetime prison sentence for the fatal shooting of a 45-year-old roofer in May 2006. Records provided to the AP by 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 and mental retardation."

It was his second stint in juvenile detention after originally being committed at 15 for robbery and being returned for fighting at school.

While in juvenile custody, Miera was diagnosed with depressive disorder. His parole included intensive surveillance and conditions that required him to seek employment, do community service, remain at home in the evening and continue taking the antidepressant Prozac.

In most states, youthful offenders aren't 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 can't get proper treatment, Texas youths who are serving indeterminate sentences and who have completed their minimum required time in custody are released to their parents or guardians.

"We are required by law to discharge them if they have completed their minimum period confinement period and if they have a primary brain disorder that keeps them from progressing in our mental health programs," Hurley said. He said that because he is not a mental health professional, he is unable to determine when a youth is not making such progress.

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

In cases in which youths are being placed on parole from the TYC, he said no one is released without re-entry planning. Hurley said the Commission works with mental health providers to ensure there is a plan in place to address the parolees' needs and that they monitor parolees.

Lawmakers approved a measure last spring that allows youth released from custody due to mental illness to receive case management services like those available to parolees. But the author of the legislation, Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin, said the Tyler case has convinced him that the measure doesn't go far enough. "This has to be looked at much more globally than a little quick fix," he said.

According to the TYC, 206 juvenile offenders have been released in the past five years because of diagnosed mental illness. Of those, 43 have been reincarcerated. 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hooks found NGRI

Judge Declares Murder Suspect Legally Insane
Staff Writer

QUITMAN -- After more than four years in and out of court for murder, aggravated assault charges and competency hearings, Wood County officials say Kaleb Richard Hooks will most likely spend the rest of his life at Vernon State Hospital. The 402nd district court concluded Hooks suffers from a severe mental illness and will "likely cause serious harm to others."

After reviewing medical evidence and hearing testimony from defense counsel Monday, Judge G. Timothy Boswell found Hooks was legally insane at the time of an attack on a Wood County Justice Center inmate. The aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge, a first-degree felony, was enhanced with a hate crime paragraph, as Hooks yelled racial slurs while attacking a fellow inmate. Wood County District Attorney Jim Wheeler said the charge is in the same category as a murder charge.

Although Hooks has not been convicted of a murder charge, stemming from the 2005 beating death of an East Texas man, Wheeler said he is satisfied that Hooks will be locked away for good and unable to harm anyone else.

"The statute of limitations does not run out on a murder case," Wheeler said. "In the unlikely event that he is released, he'll still have to answer to that charge. Our commitment is to protect the public."

The trial for the aggravated assault charge began in September, but it ended in a mistrial after Hooks disrupted court by "acting up" and had to be restrained during the jury selection phase.

Prior to the trial, his defense attorneys -- Clifton "Scrappy" Holmes and David Moore -- insisted that Hooks be evaluated again.

Hooks was initially charged with murder in 2005 following the beating death of 47-year-old Steven Tinney. He was found competent to stand trial, but later released from that charge in 2007, after doctors found that he was incompetent. He was ordered to Vernon State Hospital then, but later deemed competent again by doctors. Since that time, officials say Hooks continued to disrupt court, and allegedly, was violent toward a Wood County jailer, in which he has another charge.

Wheeler said Hooks' mental illness may be the result of abusing inhalants, which allegedly occurred after he made bail on the murder charge in 2005.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Free Summit on Mental Health and Juvenile Justice

Join Texans Care for Children and Texas Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Action Network for the:
Texas Summit on
Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
Featuring presentations, panel discussions, and more with
Texas parents of system‐involved youth and national experts from :
• The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
• The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
• The New York State Office of Children and Family Services
9 a.m. ‐ 3 p.m.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
In the Capitol Building Auditorium in Austin

Click Here For the Form

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Guillory Lynches Himself

Although Mr. Guillory claims that Judge Getz has publicly lynched him, I think that Guillory did that to himself. You know if you give a man enough rope . . .
Case in point, here's a story from KETK and Guillory's response the following day.

Story by Roger Gray:

He describes himself as autodidactic, which means self taught.

And he is the loudest element in the case of murdered John Tyler teacher Todd Henry.

And, he is a bishop to boot.

He claims to be the Ombudsman General. He claims to be a Unitarian Bishop.

Both of those titles were self-awarded by Leroy Joseph Guillory, who has now inserted himself into the case of the John Tyler High School stabbing suspect.

According to sources in Henderson, where he owns a home, Guillory made several accusations of racism there against the police department, U.S. Post Office, and the city in general.

He came from California, where he ran for congress, garnering 1.1% of the vote, and more importantly, went to prison.

Guillory was given 15 years in prison in Los Angeles for kidnapping. He was apparently paroled and formed his own governmental watchdog group, Ombudsman International.

The group has two addresses, one in Washington D.C. and one in Beverly Hills. Both are PO Boxes.

He claims to be a Unitarian bishop, but that denomination has no true ordained clergy.

And now he represents the family of the accused John Tyler stabber.

And he has made the firing of court-appointed attorney Jim Huggler his mission…

And that has earned him the scorn of Judge Jim Getz who has banned Guillory from the courthouse grounds.

Guillory has been quoted as claiming the entire process is racist, and the city to boot.

Whether he continues to be a presence in this case isn’t much in doubt.

Unless of course, he is named a Cardinal.

Tuesday we told you about Bishop L.J. Guillory, who is involved in the case of the student accused of stabbing a teacher to death at John Tyler High School.

He still says he is a Bishop in the Unitarian Church, and that the Smith County justice system is so racist, a fair trial for the accused stabbing suspect is impossible.

We sat down with him today…

He claims a doctorate of divinity from Bailey’s Temple, and Christ Paradise Church in Tyler.

“I didn’t assume it, it was bestowed on me.” He says.

“By whom?” we asked.

“By an Archbishop and 7 Bishops.”

He owns up to his time spent in prison, but Guillory has a bigger message to deliver.

He claims that attorney Jim Huggler, who represents the John Tyler High School stabbing suspect, is incompetent,

“My problem with Mr. Huggler,” Guillory says, “is the problem I would have with anyone who lies to the clients mother and other individuals about what he did and what he didn’t do.”

“I am an outstanding attorney,” Huggler told us by phone late Thursday. “I am a past president of the Smith County Bar Association. I am a past president of the Smith County Criminal Defense Attorney’s Association. I am a speaker for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. I am board certified in criminal law, and there are about 838 lawyers out of about 80,000 that have achieved that level of professionalism.”

Huggler says this is interfering with what is a very serious case…

“He’s crossed the line himself and he’s done it multiple times,” Huggler told us.

“That’s not inserting yourself,” Guillory responds. “Any American can do that. Unless you’re black…in Tyler.
And Guillory also says, Judge Floyd Getz is racist.

“For a judge to publically lynch you, to publically humiliate you…” he complains.

And he says it is the corrupt Smith County justice system that has preordained the outcome in this case…

"The Judge has already predetermined how this was going to work,” Guillory says. “That everybody was in place. Oh Bishop Guillory is coming here to change things. I don't like the way he's doing things boss. Can you please get rid of him for me? Bring that negro forward. I'll deal with that negro. Negro what are you doing here? Didn't you go to prison. Didn't we taint your name? Get your tail out of here. But, what he don't understand is that there is still people in Washington that listen to me."

Thanks, Roger Gray, for reporting on this. People like Guillory really taint those who are really trying to make positive changes in the justice system.

Extremist, Self-Proclaimed Bishop, Guillory Has His Own Blog

This man gives civil rights activists a bad name and he's created his own blog to promote himself. His rhetoric reminds me of the Turkey on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, all show, no meat. Judge for yourself: At least he admits on his blog that he is not related to the government in any way. Notice he does not allow comments to be posted to his entries.

Previous posts on Guillory:
OMG - Guillory barred from Byron Truvia Proceedings
Truvia Family Seeks New Lawyer says Family Spokesperson
Truvia Ruled Fit to Proceed (without an evaluation): Where's the Integrity in the Justice System?

CJAD's latest Report to the Governor on Diversion Funding

TDCJ this week issued its latest report to the Governor analyzing the results from expanded prison diversion funding at Texas probation departments, giving us a sense of the initial results from Texas' investments in community corrections in the 79th and 80th Legislatures. Here's the report.

Departments that received diversion funds from the 79th and 80th Legislatures reduced their revocations by 4.14%, while departments that didn't get the money saw their revocations increase by 9.79%. (Departments had to agree to implement diversion strategies to get the money and some didn't want to.) Even more startlingly, departments receiving diversion funds saw technical revocations (for rule violations instead of new crimes) decline by 14.24%, while in departments receiving no funding, technical revocations increased by 11.51%.

How did Smith County do? Well, there was a 17.1% increase in felony revocations, and 24.6% increase in overall felony placements. And, no, Smith County was not willing to implement the suggested diversion strategies so they did not get the diversion funds. So, Smith County out-revoked the state average for those counties receiving no funding. Way to go Smith County! Still sending folks to prison in record numbers! (For those of you not catching the sarcasm, having a history of sending the most people to prison per capita is not good).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Key questions in mental competency issue

From Dallas Morning News

Key questions in mental competency issue

If a judge approves the Army's request for a mental responsibility evaluation, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's sanity will be evaluated by a board that includes a physician or clinical psychologist. The board must decide four questions:

• Was the gunman suffering from "a severe mental disease or defect" at the time of the crime?

• What is the clinical psychiatric diagnosis?

• Did the mental illness make the accused unable to understand the "wrongfulness of his or her conduct?"

• Does the mental illness prevent the defendant from assisting defense lawyers?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

OMG - Guillory barred from Byron Truvia Proceedings

Family spokesperson barred from future hearings
Posted: Nov 30, 2009 5:14 PM CST Updated: Nov 30, 2009 5:14 PM CST
Video Gallery
Family spokesperson barred from future hearings
RAW: Bishop Leroy Guillory's outburst in court
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Woman, child killed in crash
Snow for parts of Texas this week. Freeze on the way to East Texas.
Road crew finds body with stab wounds
SJS: East Texan diagnosed with rare skin disease
Netflix under the microscope...literally
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Janis Demarest - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - What started as a routine hearing in the case of Byron Truvia took an unexpected turn Monday afternoon.

The scheduled detention hearing only took only a few minutes, but an outsiders involvement quickly led to some heated moments, in and outside of the courtroom. The man at the center of controversy is Bishop LJ Guillory. He is serving as a spokesman for the Truvia family. In the last few weeks he has been working to have the teen's attorney Jim Huggler removed from the case.

Monday, the judge had Guillory removed from the courtroom and barred from the Smith County juvenile facility.

"Smith County has not heard the last of Bishop Guillory," yelled Bishop Guillory. "You may take away mobility but my mentalitiy is my own. I will be back with the feds and we will be over there marching and protesting and fighting 'cause God is in control, amen."

Judge Floyd Getz also told Guillory he will consider issuing a protective order that would bar him from any involvement in this case.

"The judge certainly has the ability to control who comes into his courtroom," said Jim Huggler, Truvia's attorney. "Courts are public places and you have to ask yourself what Mr. Guillory did that got him excluded from this juvenile center."

Judge Getz also noted that the relationship between Jim Huggler and Byron Truvia's family has been strained because of Guillory's interference.

Huggler said that his relationship with his client has not been damaged.

Judge Questions Guillory:

Judge Ousts Family Spokesman
Staff Writer

The spokesman for the family of a teenager accused of fatally stabbing John Tyler High School teacher Todd Henry earlier this year was told Monday during a court hearing he would be arrested if he set foot back on the property of the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center.

During an exchange of questions after an ex parte hearing, Judge Floyd Getz asked Bishop L.J. Guillory about his contact with court personnel and a probation officer regarding the case.

Getz said he felt the contact was inappropriate and, because Guillory was not an immediate family member or guardian of the juvenile and not the attorney in the case, he should not be involved with the case.

"I understand that as recent as today you have made contact with the court coordinator and with officers of the court to gain information about the case," Getz said.

Guillory said he had made contact and was doing so in order to gain information as to the process of having the teen's attorney, Jim Huggler, removed from the case because he and the family felt Huggler had proven to be "incompetent."

Getz then asked Guillory if he had ever served time in prison and Guillory responded he had for three felonies in California.

Getz asked Guillory about Ombudsman International and his role in the organization. Guillory said the organization has thousands of members and was established to help people with injustices. Getz then asked Guillory where he went to seminary and Guillory replied, "I didn't, but neither did Jesus Christ."

After asking Huggler what he thought Guillory's involvement in the case had done, Huggler said he felt it had caused irreparable damage to his relationship with the teen's mother Denise Truvia and other family members.

Getz told Guillory he was being warned away from the building and if he returned would be arrested for criminal trespass. He added he was considering placing a protective order in the case, which would bar Guillory from any further involvement in the case and any contact with the teen's family.

Guillory, who was then escorted from the premises by Smith County Sheriff's deputies, shouted that Smith County and Getz were racists and he was not afraid of Getz or of the justice system in the county.

"Smith County is racist and has not seen the last of Bishop L.J. Guillory. What just happened is like a town hall lynching," he said, shaking his fist at the building as deputies watched. Moments later, Guillory, Ms. Truvia and her sister sped from the parking lot in the bishop's Cadillac Escalade.



Guillory and Ms. Truvia then addressed CBS19 and the

Tyler Morning Telegraph

at the television station's offices about the injustices he contends are being conducted in Tyler regarding the case.

Guillory said he would be sure to follow the law and would be questioning other judges as to Getz's decision to bar him from any further proceedings at the Juvenile Attention Center.

"We all have a responsibility to do our best to help others and that is what I am doing. I will stay away from the building until a real judge says Getz does not have that authority," he said.

Ms. Truvia said she had sought Guillory's help after her son was detained and added, "He is the family's spokesperson."

"He's only trying to help and Bishop Guillory is a good man," she said.

She added she was sorry for Henry's death and her heart went out to his widow and family members for their loss.

"My boy was and is sick and he needs help," she said.

Guillory contends Huggler is "incompetent as an attorney" because he is not communicating with the family nor asking their thoughts on what needs to be done in the case.

Guillory then leveled accusations that Huggler had been fired from the Smith County District Attorney's Office for "unscrupulous actions" and questioned why Huggler took a reporter to Ms. Truvia's home for an interview without her permission.

Smith County First Assistant District Attorney April Sykes said Guillory's inflammatory accusations about Huggler, a former president of the Smith County Bar Association, and his job performance as an assistant district attorney were false.

"Jim Huggler was not fired from the Smith County District Attorney's Office, and he certainly never committed any unscrupulous actions," she said.

Guillory said everything combined proves Huggler is not the right attorney for Ms. Truvia's son.

"She doesn't have the money to hire an attorney, but I do and I will put up everything I have to see that justice is done in this case," he said tossing land deeds and car titles on a conference table to stress his point.

Guillory and Ms. Truvia said they did not believe the teen should be allowed to go home, but having Huggler continue to waive detention hearings, as he did Monday, was not the right thing to be doing.

"We're not saying he should be released, but we are saying he needs to be somewhere that he can get the mental help he needs," Guillory said about the teen being detained.

The teen is scheduled to appear before Judge Getz on Dec. 14 for his next detention hearing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Responses to Proposed Substance Abuse Treatment Services

Click HERE for the document.

Summary Responses to Stakeholder Comments
Request for Information (RFI) on Proposed Substance Abuse Treatment Services DRAFT Request for Proposal (RFP), please see the summary response to comments that were submitted in advance of the deadline.

Jail Incarceration, Homelessness, and Mental Health: A National Study

The relationship between homelessness and mental illness in jail inmates is examined. Inmates who had been homeless before incarceration made up 15.3% of the jail population, 7.5 to 11.3 times the rate of homelessness for the general public. Mental illness increased an inmate's probability of being homeless prior to incarceration.
Click HERE for the article.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ending an American Tragedy: A National Leadership Forum Webinar

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare has organized a webinar to review recommendations for effective collaboration outlined in a recent report from the National Leadership Forum on Behavioral Health/Criminal Justice Services. Forum leaders highlight current innovative and successful programs across the country. The presenters will discuss the Essential System of Care and how it can be used in planning community responses to justice involved persons. The National Leadership Forum is co-chaired by the National Council and the CMHS National GAINS Center. To register for the webinar:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Parnham, MH Task Force Recommend Harris County Reintegration Center

Steps being taken to help Harris County mental health inmates
by Alex Sanz

Posted on November 22, 2009 at 6:55 PM

HOUSTON -- The head of the Harris County Judicial Mental Health Task Force is expected to present sweeping recommendations on how to help mental health inmates at the Harris County Jail in a report to be presented to county commissioners in December.

Among the recommendations crafted by the prominent Houston attorney George Parnham is a reintegration center where inmates with mental health problems can be transitioned back into society.

Harris County, he said, needed to provide inmates with case managers to help them secure employment, housing and social services. The process would begin at the Harris County Jail and eventually move to a stand-alone facility.

"The Harris County Jail is the largest mental health facility probably in the state of Texas and ranks, I'm sure, in the top ten in the United States," he said. "It is, without question, a warehouse whereby we just stack beds and put people that are mentally ill in them. It's something that touches everybody. Either directly or indirectly. And people have to become aware of it."

There are as many as 10,000 inmates, on any given day, at the Harris County Jail. About 20 percent have a history of mental problems. Statistics show the vast majority of them will reoffend and end up back in jail.

"We're [finally] talking about it," said Parnham, who spent much of the past year working with the mental health task force at the request of Sheriff Adrian Garcia. "There are systems in place in the county jail that answer some of these issues but we're not going to let go of this."

Final cost estimates had not been finalized but Parnham said the proposed reintegration center would ease jail overcrowding and become a model for other law enforcement agencies in Texas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hogg Foundation 2009 Legislative Update

The 2009 Legislative Update is the latest in a series of reports published by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to inform stakeholders about mental health-related laws considered by the Texas Legislature. The 53-page online report summarizes the most significant mental health-related bills introduced during the 81st legislative session, which ended June 1, 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Veterans' Courts

From Marc Levin at the Texas Public Policy Foundation:

Veterans Are Frequently Incarcerated. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found in a 2000 survey—the most recent information available—that 12.5 percent of state prison inmates reported military service.1 Similarly, 11.7 percent of county jail inmates reported military service. All told, more than 200,000 veterans are behind bars. Of veterans in state prisons, 30 percent were first-time offenders, compared to 23 percent of non-veterans. Veterans were more likely to have a history of alcohol dependence than non-veterans. Of veteran inmates, 30.6 percent reported alcohol dependence compared with 23.6 percent of non-veterans. Additionally, 70 percent of veterans in state prisons were employed prior to being arrested, compared with 54 percent of non-veterans. Veterans behind bars were more likely to be mentally ill, with 19.3 percent reporting mental illness compared with 15.8 percent of nonveterans. More than three-quarters of veterans behind bars were honorably discharged.

Read the rest HERE.

Overview of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in Texas from SAMHSA

SAMHSA Reports
OAS States in Brief Report for Texas

The report below contains a brief overview of the substance abuse and mental health issues within the state of TX, including the prevalence of substance use and abuse, treatment resources, mental health indicators, and SAMHSA grant funding. To review this state’s information, click on the PDF link below.

OAS State Report for Texas

The report below contains a brief overview of adolescent behavioral health issues within the state of TX, with a focus on the differences between girls and boys ages 12 to 17. To review this state’s information, click on the PDF link below.

OAS Short State Report for Adolescents in Texas

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center is pleased to announce its seventh webinar in the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program Series, sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance

Individuals with Mental Illnesses in the Criminal Justice System: Addressing Both Criminogenic Risks and Mental Health Needs
Community corrections and mental health professionals need to make the most effective use of limited resources when they respond to people with mental illnesses involved in the criminal justice system. They must ensure that supervision strategies and treatment interventions are both tailored to individuals' risks for future criminal activity and their clinical needs.

Dr. Jennifer Skeem will provide an overview of how criminogenic risk factors contribute to the involvement of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, discuss the need to develop approaches that take into account individuals' criminogenic risk factors and their functional impairments, and present an intervention model that does both. The webinar will conclude with a question-and-answer period.

Jennifer Skeem, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior
University of California-Irvine

November 18, 2009 at 2:00-3:00 PM, Eastern Time
For more information and to register, please click the link below:

*This webinar requires registration. Please use the participant's e-mail address to which the appropriate sign-in password and instructions will be sent. A confirmation e-mail from Webex will be sent upon successful registration with additional details.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ending An American Tragedy: Addressing the Needs of Justice-Involved People with Mental Illnesses and Co-Occurring Disorders

The National Leadership Forum on Behavioral Health/Criminal Justice Services (NLF) was established in 2008 to address common barriers to successful diversion and reentry – the lack of accessible, quality and appropriate services that help individuals remain and succeed in the community. Forum members represent leading experts in the fields of criminal justice, consumer advocacy, and mental health. These individuals are consumers, directors and CEOs of national consumer organizations, judges and public defenders, mental health practitioners, state mental health agency representatives, state department of corrections directors, and other national leaders in the field. Meetings are used to review the condition of the criminal justice and mental health systems, draft methods for improving key areas of these two systems, organize materials and documents created by the NLF for dissemination, and review the impact these documents have on fostering change in criminal justice/mental health policy and practice at the federal, state, and community levels.

The goal of the NLF is to go beyond previous efforts to address diversion and reentry for persons with mental illness that become justice involved. To do this, the NLF is developing an annual report that will identify several methods on how to improve current practices in these two systems and will make clear that:

* The increase number of persons with mental illness in the justice system is a public health and a public safety crisis that demands urgent attention;
* We know how to successfully address the needs of people with mental and substance use disorders who come in contact with the criminal justice system;
* The information that is already available needs to be put into practice; and
* The time for action is now!

The first report, Ending An American Tragedy: Addressing the Needs of Justice-Involved People with Mental Illnesses and Co-Occurring Disorders, provides 4 recommendations for immediate action. These recommendations include:

* The President should appoint a Special Advisor for Mental Health/Criminal Justice Collaboration;
* Federal Medicaid policies that limit or discourage access to more effective and cost-efficient health care services for individuals with serious mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders should be reviewed and action taken to create more efficient programs;
* All States should create cross-system agencies, commissions, or positions charged with removing barriers and creating incentives for cross-agency activity at the State and local level; and
* Localities must develop and implement core services that comprise an Essential System of Care;

Each year the report will be updated to provide details on the state of the field and make further recommendations for action. The NLF will meet once a year to track the progress of the recommendations made from previous years and suggest areas for improvement. Click the following link to download a copy of Ending An American Tragedy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

TYC to stop Psych discharges

It's a shame that a teacher had to die for change to happen! Maybe we will start funding community mental health treatment now (as opposed to just throwing pills at the kids and hoping they catch them)!

TYC: Mentally ill offenders won't be discharged without proper services
by Emily Ramshaw | about 14 hours ago | 0 Comments

The Texas Youth Commission will stop releasing young offenders who are too mentally ill to rehabilitate until the agency is sure they’re receiving proper treatment in the community, officials said Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bizarre History of Truvia Family - Murder, Mental Illness and the Innocence Project

Truvia's uncle, Gregory Truvia, killed his mother (Byron's grandmother) and pleaded insanity though unsuccessfully. He received life in prison. Click here for a link to a new release on that.
Here's more info on that murder.

Earl Truvia, another uncle, was convicted of murder, but later the conviction was overturned and charges dismissed after the Innocence Project found evidence that another person did the crime. Here's info on that.

Truvia family seeks new lawyer says spokesman - UPDATED

Who is this guy (Guillory)? Why is he going after the attorney, when he should be griping about the judge's impropriety? Well I did a search and it appears that he is is from Compton, CA. He appears to be into self promotion and has little to do with advocacy. It looks like he is running for Congress in California, so what's he doing here? It looks like he just shows up where ever there's a story to get some "air time." If I were the Truvia family, I would be weary of this guy - he's probably going to exploit the situation for a book deal or other self promotion ops.

Here's his bio from his myspace page:
Bio of The Hon. Bishop L.J. Guillory He is a Published Author, "I Know Why The Caged Lion Roars" Million Dollar Political and Entertainment Consultant, Bishop over a National Unitarian Prison Ministry, and most of all, an autodidactic [self taught] non-compromising Ombudsman General. He holds a Doctorate Of Divinity in religious counsel from Bailey’s Temple and Christ Paradise Church, Educational Institution at Tyler, Texas. As a Special Events Consultant, Guillory has met numerous Hollywood Entertainment Executives as well as most Washington, D.C. Political Insiders. With his Hollywood contacts and his humanitarian ideals, he is destined to be everyone’s … “Hottest New Discovery”. www.Ombudsmaninc.Org The truth is Guillory is no stranger to Hollywood as a savvy Music Industry Insider or to the rest of the nation as an Advocate Against Human Injustices. In 2000, the Honorable Bishop L.J. Guillory, Ombudsman General , established the Ombudsman International, a 501 (c) (3) [Government Oversight Agency] Non-Profit for Public Benefit Organization. www.Ombudsmaninc.Org The Office of the Ombudsman General was founded based on the firsthand experience of the Honorable Bishop L.J. Guillory, who suffered at the hands of a corrupt police department, an unfair and unbalanced judicial system, as well as corrupt public officials. After becoming a free man and a Mason, the Ombudsman General began exposing corruption from the city hall to the capitol of the state of California, and to the halls of Congress, the Ombudsman General felt compelled to write the story of how the institution was founded and why the Caged Lion Roars.

He holds a Doctorate Of Divinity in religious counsel from Bailey’s Temple and Christ Paradise Church, Educational Institution at Tyler, Texas
WHAT THE HECK IS THAT? And I hold an autodidactic PhD in Tauris Faeces from Stir Crazy educational institute right down the road. Here's a picture of Bailey's Temple and Christ Paradise Church, 2715 N. Tenneha Ave., Tyler, Texas, a 501c3 institution.

Who's investigating this corruption? What a fraud! Looks like the Truvia Family has a fool for a spokesperson.

UPDATE: It appears that Guillory said that Dallas attorney, Gerald Smith, is interested in the job; however, Gerald Smith denied this and states that Jim Huggler is a very competent attorney. Furthermore, the criminologist that Guillory speaks of had never contacted Jim Huggler. Is Bishop Guillory lying? He probably needs to spend more time on his knees instead of on his soap box.

Truvia family seeks new lawyer says spokesman
Posted: Nov 03, 2009 6:19 PM CST Updated: Nov 03, 2009 6:42 PM CST

Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A spokesman for the Truvia family says the family is looking for other representation. Bishop L.J. Guillory says Dallas attorney, Gerald Smith, has expressed interest in representing Byron Anthony Truvia. Truvia is still in custody for allegedly stabbing a John Tyler High School teacher to death. Guillory claims 16-year-old Byron Truvia's court appointed attorney is incompetent. He says that makes it impossible for the young man to receive a fair trial.

"In Smith County, if you don't have good representation, more than likely, you're going to prison," said Guillory. "You can't win a case like this. The only thing that you can do is ask for justice to prevail which means that this young man gets the help that he so desperately needs and that the victims get the help that they need at this time."

Guillory says he's also contacted a criminologist and mental health professional to help in the case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Truvia Ruled Fit to Proceed (without an evaluation): Where's Integrity in the Justice System?

Surely this will be contested/appealed, but I'm not certain what the process for this is in the juvenile system. It's a shame that Judge Getz would risk not having an evaluation for fitness to proceed. The whole nation is watching this and the prudent action would be to err on the side of caution. A report from Terrell State Hospital in May as evidence that he is fit to proceed? A six month old report about crisis stabilization is an inadequate substitute for a fitness to proceed evaluation. Rather, it is evidence FOR the evaluation. Are they so anxious to prosecute this child that they risk the case by not utilizing integrity and prudent protocol?

In a bizarre twist, Bishop LJ Guillory, founder of Ombudsman International, a non-profit government oversight agency (whatever that is) accuses Truvia's attorney, James Huggler, of being incompetent. He premises this by suggesting that Huggler has refused assistance from a criminologist from Wiley College. This just distracts from where the focus needs to be. According to Texas Law, only a psychiatrist or a psychologist with a specific forensic training can evaluate fitness to proceed. Mr. Huggler is smart to be weary of free expertise from a criminologist (is there a licensure for this in Texas?) Free expertise is often the costliest of all, when it comes to the future of this child's defense. There is nothing to suggest James Huggler is incompetent; Guillory's argument is just fallacious. Providing documentation from the state hospital and TYC are perfectly acceptable means of providing support for the motion to evaluate for fitness to proceed.

By the way, the state has petitioned to try him as an adult.


Judge: John Tyler Stabbing Suspect Fit To Stand Trial
Staff Writer

Smith County Judge Floyd Getz today ruled that the 16-year-old youth who is accused of fatally stabbing John Tyler High School teacher Todd Henry in September is competent to stand trial.

Henry, a special education teacher, was stabbed in the neck and chest inside of his classroom on Sept. 23, allegedly by the youth who is in custody at the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center.

Defense Attorney Jim Huggler said he filed the motion to determine competency on the day the youth was arrested in the stabbing, after spending six hours speaking with him.

“I have spent about 30 hours with him since then,” Huggler told the judge, "and most of his answers are monosyllabic, and he doesn’t understand or remember our conversations.”

In a recent meeting with the youth, Huggler said he commented on the color of the orange jumpsuit the youth was wearing, telling him it was a nice orange color.

“About 15 minutes later, I told him I thought he was wearing a nice red shirt, and he agreed with me that it was red.”

Huggler said his client does not comprehend information, adding that he does not know why Judge Getz waited until Monday to issue the competency ruling. He said that his client had been in the custody of the Texas Youth Commission, which diagnosed the youth with schizophrenia in 2007 or 2008 for other issues which he did not name. The TYC sought and got a civil commitment for the youth to Terrell State Hospital in May. Huggler said the youth returned from the hospital and was back with the TYC in June.

Huggler said he had requested documents from the TYC for the hearing repeatedly, but had never received them.

Smith County Assistant District Attorney Taylor Heaton read from documents provided by Terrell State Hospital from May, which stated that the youth’s mental status was “alert and oriented, and his thought process seems goal-directed.”

Judge Getz, who took some time before the hearing to read the documents from the hospital, said that the records showed some manipulative behavior on the part of the youth.

“What you’re telling me is not consistent with what I am reading,” said Getz.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Latest on Byron Truvia

From the Tyler Paper:
Detention Hearing Set For John Tyler Student
Staff Writer

There will be another detention hearing at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning for the juvenile accused in the stabbing death of John Tyler High School Teacher Todd Henry on Sept. 23. The hearing will take place at the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center in Judge Floyd Getz's courtroom. The youth, who is 16, has been held at the center since the stabbing.

The defendant, a special education student, allegedly fatally stabbed Henry, 52, in the neck and in the chest before class started that morning in his classroom. Randy Reid, Tyler Independent School District Superintendent, said at the time the attack was entirely unprovoked.

It is not known if the state of Texas has filed a formal petition charging the defendant with the crime of murder. The state had until Oct. 22 to do so, Defense Attorney Jim Huggler said earlier this month.

Smith County Assistant District Attorney Taylor Heaton declined comment, and phone calls placed to Huggler's office were not immediately returned.

The defendant signed a waiver to waive two detention hearings which had been scheduled for Oct. 5 and Oct. 19. Huggler said on Oct. 5 that the decision was "the best one for his client."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Human Rights at Home: Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Issues surrounding inmates with mental illness are discussed. This website provides access to a webcast (archived) of the hearing, Subcommittee member statements, and witness testimony.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dallas News Reports on Byron Truvia (and the TYC response to "psych" discharges)

Here's a link to a press release on Truvia's uncle who killed his mother (Truvia's grandmother).
Student held in Tyler teacher's stabbing had long history of mental illness

01:03 AM CDT on Sunday, October 18, 2009

By LEE HANCOCK / The Dallas Morning News

TYLER – Todd Henry's phone call was chilling, Mitch Shamburger would later recall. His friend had an instinct for trouble.

A bear of a man, Henry had worked in prisons and now taught kids with behavioral issues at John Tyler High School. He was seldom rattled. Yet Shamburger, a Smith County justice of the peace, could hear the worry in his friend's voice.
Also Online

TYC defends release procedures

Download: Byron's TYC discharge certification

Download: TYC case plan for Byron

Henry described a student in his special-education class with a menacing vibe. The student was a "Katrina kid" – shorthand for New Orleans transplants blown into Tyler by Hurricane Katrina.

"This kid – he's got serious problems," Henry told Shamburger. "If somebody doesn't do something, soon, this kid is going to kill somebody."

The JP recalls advising his friend to document his concerns and alert his bosses. Henry said he already had.

Days later, on the morning of Sept. 23, Todd Henry, who was 50, lay bleeding to death in classroom A23 of John Tyler High. In the hallway outside, a wraith of a boy named Byron was hustled away to face charges of stabbing his teacher in the heart with a butcher knife. A Texas Education Agency spokesman says it is the first teacher slaying in a Texas classroom that anyone in the agency can recall.

Smith County prosecutors are considering whether to ask to try the 16-year-old as an adult. He's being held as a juvenile, so his court files are sealed. The Dallas Morning News is not using Byron's family name because the newspaper generally does not publish names of juvenile defendants.

Troubling descent

Records and information from Byron's family and others familiar with him, from public sources and from people close to the ongoing murder investigation, offer a portrait of a long spiral into mental illness and violence. Byron's lawyer and others say the case spotlights deficiencies in how Texas handles its most disturbed and violent juvenile offenders.

Byron's mother says her youngest son was first diagnosed with problems in kindergarten. By 12, she says, Byron had been in mental hospitals in Texas and Louisiana. At 14, he was in a Smith County juvenile lockup and then in a Texas juvenile prison for stabbing his sister with a steak knife.

TYC often held him in isolation and at one point sent him to a state mental hospital. He was diagnosed schizophrenic and psychotic and transferred to the state's most acute mental health facility for juvenile offenders. Last July, the agency declared Byron too disturbed for reform school. TYC sent Byron home to his mother without parole or treatment plans, according to records the family released to The News.

In mid-August, Byron was arrested again for marijuana possession and Tyler police tried to return him to jail. He was released to his mother because Smith County's juvenile detention center refused to take him back, according to a police report.

Even Byron's mother says he shouldn't have been in Henry's classroom. He sees and hears things other people don't, she says, and he needs help. Henry was a caring teacher, she says, and Byron regrets "what all he did. He said, 'Mom, just tell everybody that I'm sorry.' "

A life coming together

By all accounts, Todd Henry's life was coming together as Byron's imploded.

Henry was a teenager when his family moved to Huntsville from Chicago. Henry's oldest brother, Jody, says he found his identity playing guitar.

After college and out-of-state interludes, Henry came home to live with his mother after his father died. He had music and psychology degrees and certification as a music therapist, so he took a state prison job. He worked longest at the Skyview psychiatric unit in Rusk.

Friends and family say Henry grooved on using music to connect with prisoners others labeled unreachable. But he wearied of work behind bars. "He started to feel like he was in prison," Jody Henry says.

Equally adept at jazz, country and rock guitar, Henry was in demand as a side man with bands across East Texas. He decided to quit his prison job and focus on music until something better appeared.

It did in 2003. He started teaching special education and took a job in 2005 at John Tyler High. There, he taught kids with behavioral issues, assisted by a teacher's aide. "He absolutely loved it," his brother says. "This was what he was meant to do."

He was 6 feet tall and 300-plus pounds, his bald head offset by owlish glasses and a beard. Colleagues say he was easygoing yet firm. "Just do what you do," read his MySpace motto, "and don't sweat the small stuff."

His wife, Jan, says he wanted to help kids who often felt marginalized get fully involved in school. The two worked together in his first special-education teaching post and married last November.

In prison work, she recalls him saying, too many people were beyond reach. As a teacher, he'd say, "I can start earlier. I can make a difference."

Early problems

Byron came up poor and hard in New Orleans, the third of four kids to a single mother. The state of Louisiana had to take his father to court to acknowledge paternity and pay child support.

He grew up in the same Central City neighborhood where his mother did. There, she was once attacked badly enough to need hospitalization while walking her first baby past a neighborhood housing project, court records indicate.

His mother joined the National Guard and went on welfare. She worked as a cashier and sitter and sometimes struggled, she recalls.

Byron was born two months premature. His mother says her baby boy was a quiet child who shadowed his big brother. He loved Popeye cartoons and liked to draw fish and people, cars and trucks.

Then he started kindergarten, and teachers said Byron was incommunicative and hyperactive.

By the age of 7, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and prescribed Ritalin. Though that calmed him "a little bit," his mother says, there were soon more problems and doctors and psychiatric drugs.

"None of 'em really helped," Byron's mother says. "All they wanted to do is give him medication."

In the summer of 2005, his mother says, Byron ended up in New Orleans' public mental hospital for children and teens.

She recalls that Byron had been hospitalized a month as Hurricane Katrina neared New Orleans. He was evacuated with other patients. His mother says she and other family waded through neck-deep water to take shelter at the high school she'd attended. There, they waited days for a helicopter rescue.

They expected to land in Houston. A bus took them to Tyler, a town they'd never heard of.

Family violence

A church guided Byron's mother to a food-service job and an apartment. Still, she says, the family's adjustment was tough. She called 911 to complain about local kids wanting to fight her children, Tyler police records indicate. There were disturbance calls. Eventually, most of the family had misdemeanor records.

Byron didn't join them in Tyler, his mother says, until 2006. After Katrina, she says, he was sent to a facility in Corpus Christi and treated for "five or six months." Byron enrolled in the Tyler schools that March, records show.

By Christmas 2006, Byron was arrested for breaking into a Mazda Miata at the Tyler mall.

Byron's maternal grandmother and youngest uncle settled in Dallas. The uncle struggled with mental illness and went back to New Orleans. In early April 2007, the grandmother rode a bus to Louisiana to check on him.

Her battered body was discovered in the uncle's FEMA trailer over Easter weekend, with her tongue nearly ripped out. Despite a psychiatrist's testimony that the uncle was schizophrenic, a New Orleans jury rejected an insanity plea and sent him to prison for life.

Byron took his grandmother's death hard, his mother says.

Weeks after the funeral, Byron's mother called 911 to say her son was "acting crazy" and wouldn't take his psychiatric medication. Officers who came to her apartment watched him take the drugs.

On June 2, Byron attacked his 17-year-old sister. Byron's sister told police that Byron complained she took too long at a bathroom mirror and stabbed her in the back with a steak knife as she combed her hair.

Once arrested, Byron gave police his brother's name and birth date. Officers had to call Byron's mother to confirm who he was. A police report states that Byron then said he'd "forgotten to take his medicine, which he takes to keep from acting out."

Byron spent months in the county's juvenile lockup. He got in trouble for sucker-punching other inmates. Asked why, he'd say be didn't like how they looked at him.

Byron's mother says that the court-appointed lawyer in the sister's stabbing case tried to get Byron sent to a mental hospital. In October 2007, Byron was sentenced to the Texas Youth Commission. His mother recalls being told he might be in juvenile prison until he turned 19.

Last March, Byron was moved to the Corsicana "stabilization unit" for TYC's most disturbed and dangerous offenders. In May, he was still so unstable that he was committed to Terrell State Hospital for 22 days.

In July, TYC gave Byron's mother a new care plan. Byron had diagnoses of conduct disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis and probable mental retardation. He read below the third-grade level and had math skills of a child midway through second grade. "No college in this young man's near future," his TYC caseworker wrote.

Home care

The case plan had a single answer for how Byron and his family would get help after he left TYC: "Youth will go home to his mother."

The bottom line: Byron was getting a mental-illness discharge.

On July 19, Byron was released. TYC workers gave his mother a 30-day supply of an antipsychotic drug and a form letter urging her to make Byron take the medicine. Byron got a certificate saying he had no further legal obligation to TYC – a release without parole.

"We hope you will use the skills you learned to make good decisions and have a positive impact on your community," the certificate said. "The entire Texas Youth Commission Family wishes you success in your future endeavors."

The next day, Byron's mother took him to a Tyler mental health clinic. She wrote on an intake form that her son had mental problems, hallucinated and used "weed" and cocaine. "My son need help," she wrote in shaky letters.

At home, she says, Byron hung out with his brother. He watched movies, and she drove him to the park.

Police called her in mid-August to say they'd arrested Byron for walking down a street smoking "a blunt" of marijuana. They said she needed to come get him.

"I said, 'You saw how he was acting, and you want me to come get him?' " she recalls. "They said, 'This is your child, isn't he?' "

Three days later, Byron began ninth grade at John Tyler High.

Concerns in class

Todd Henry had a slow start to the school year. Beginning on Aug. 19, he took two weeks off to recuperate from shoulder surgery. He had been injured in a hallway scuffle the previous year.

On Sept. 8, Henry returned to school. Days later, he called his friend and weekend band mate, Mitch Shamburger, to say he was worried about the new kid in his class. Shamburger says he phoned the county juvenile justice center. He recalls asking about Byron and getting a vague response.

The week of Sept. 15, Byron's mother says, a neighbor flagged her down on her way home from her morning work shift. The neighbor said she'd just seen Byron angry in the yard. The mother found Byron brooding in their North Tyler rental house, unwilling to talk.

That evening, Henry called. Byron's mother says the teacher explained that Byron had gotten angry and had run away from class. "He just wanted to know that Byron made it home," Byron's mother recalls. "He was very nice."

On Sept. 17, a John Tyler special-ed official sent seven school staffers an e-mail about Byron. She said that Henry had recommended an escort for Byron to and from every class. "It has also been observed that Byron is very sensitive to anyone getting physically near him or touching him," the e-mail said. "Please try to get his attention without physical contact."

By all accounts, the morning of Sept. 23 began normally. Byron donned a red polo and jeans and white Air Nikes. He shouldered a dark backpack and boarded his school bus in North Tyler.

Witnesses said that Byron went to John Tyler High's cafeteria as usual with his teacher's aide and the other student in his class. As they got breakfast, other students scuffled. Once they were back in classroom A-23, another teacher asked Henry to counsel a student about the cafeteria incident.

At his desk, Henry spoke quietly with the visiting student. Byron read aloud to the teacher's aide. The second student in the class worked alone. The aide corrected Byron's pronunciation and praised his effort. Then he told Byron he could return to his desk and read a book he liked, about football.

Witnesses said that Byron passed his desk and kept walking toward Henry. Without a word, he pulled a knife from his clothes and swung it.

When Byron pulled back his hand, the aide could see the knife's eight-inch blade covered in blood. Henry slumped in his chair. A dark red circle spread across his green shirt.

Byron moved toward the aide. The aide grabbed his laptop and swung it, screaming, "Get out!" Byron dropped the knife and the aide jumped him.

School district police officers chatting in the hall just outside the classroom turned toward the commotion. The classroom door flew open. The teacher's aide rushed out, restraining Byron in a bear hug. He yelled that a teacher had been stabbed.

Several officers grabbed the student, who had bloody hands. Others ran in the classroom and saw Henry motionless on the floor between his desk and the chalkboard.

Frantic school nurses and coaches administered CPR and tried using a defibrillator. Henry was declared dead at a Tyler hospital. His wife Jan says she believes he died instantly because the stab wound punctured his heart.


Immediately after the attack, Tyler school officials announced the purchase of portable metal detectors and a security review.

Friends and family, colleagues and students crowded a memorial service for Henry. Mitch Shamburger gave the eulogy. Musicians that Henry had played with every weekend for decades held jam sessions to raise money for a music scholarship in Henry's name.

At one prayer service, a woman handed Jan Henry a carefully typed note. The woman explained that it was from her son, the other student in Henry's class.

"God will judge Mr. Henry and I believe He will say Mr. Henry was the best teacher ever," the note read. "He taught me to do things in a routine. He taught me how to write in cursive. He taught me how to spell words. He taught me how to read better. He was trying to teach me how to cope. Out of all my teachers, he was the best one, because he was always fair with me."

In early October, Byron smiled as he shuffled into a public detention hearing. He wore arm restraints and appeared thin in his oversized orange jumpsuit. He answered the judge's questions softly. He was still smiling, scanning the courtroom with puffy eyes, as he was sent back to an isolation cell.

Byron's court-appointed lawyer, James Huggler told the judge that his client needs a mental evaluation – the first step in an insanity defense.

"I'm absolutely amazed that he was released from TYC, given his mental state and the fact that he was apparently kept in isolation with no effective treatment and no effective after-care program for his return home," Huggler says. "Byron needs treatment."

Tyler School superintendent Randy Reid says colleagues have called him from across Texas to offer condolences. He says they've told him that the attack was every superintendent's worst nightmare because it could happen anywhere.

He says he can't discuss the student involved because of privacy law. He and other educators worry that schools don't get adequate information when TYC releases offenders. Public school systems must take everyone, he adds, but some kids have issues that schools can't address.

"We're putting people in a position where they aren't equipped," he says.

Though a review of the attack is ongoing, Reid says, he believes staff acted appropriately. "It's an incredible tragedy that we're going to be living with forever."

A TYC spokesman declined to answer questions about Byron, citing privacy laws.

Texas Youth Commission defends release procedures for offenders it can't help

12:06 AM CDT on Sunday, October 18, 2009

By LEE HANCOCK / The Dallas Morning News

Texas Youth Commission officials say state law requires the release of juvenile offenders who are too mentally challenged or disturbed to make progress in its programs. Those offenders are released after completing a minimum stay, determined by the seriousness of their offenses and disciplinary records.

The agency has had 206 mental health discharges since fall 2005 – 19 since October 2008.

An agency spokesman says TYC coordinates mental illness discharges with local officials to ensure adequate re-entry plans. A new law that took effect in September is aimed at ensuring adequate community mental health treatment for all former TYC inmates.

That law is among the latest TYC reform measures. TYC was rocked by scandal in 2007 when The Dallas Morning News began exposing widespread inmate abuse and other systemic agency problems.

A recent Texas Sunset Commission report slammed TYC's handling of all discharges. The report noted that discharge rules for offenders who fail to progress "may prevent the most troubled youth from receiving treatment."

The July report also criticized a lack of information sharing with local authorities before most offenders were released. Offenders weren't being prepared for going home, and TYC failed to use valid risk assessments to ensure their readiness, the report stated.

Agency spokesman Jim Hurley said TYC has addressed shortcomings. Staffers start planning for release when offenders arrive at TYC facilities. "We're working with their parents. We're working with the community" he says. "We want to be sure there are wraparound services available for that particular youth, to give them the greatest chance for success."

Teacher Worried For Student Held In Killing

From the Tyler Morning Telegraph:
A Tyler teacher, who was the victim of a fatal stabbing in his classroom, called a friend days before the attack saying he feared that the teenager who is now being held in his death was capable of killing.

Special education teacher Todd Henry, 50, had told his friend, Mitch Shamburger, a Smith County justice of the peace, during a chilling phone call that he was concerned about a “Katrina kid” — so named because he had survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

“This kid — he’s got serious problems,” Henry told Shamburger. “If somebody doesn’t do something, soon, this kid is going to kill somebody.”

Shamburger recalls advising his friend to document his concerns and alert his bosses. Henry said he already had.

Henry died a few days later on Sept. 23 after he was stabbed in the heart in a classroom at John Tyler High School. Authorities are holding one of his students for the murder. A Texas Education Agency spokesman says it was the first teacher slaying in a Texas classroom that anyone in the agency can recall.

The 16-year-old suspect had a history of mental illness and had been accused of other violent acts, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday, based on public sources and people close to the murder investigation.

Smith County prosecutors are considering whether to try the youth as an adult. He is being held in the Smith County Juvenile Attention Center, and will have his next detention hearing on Nov. 2.

The youth’s mother said that by age 12, he had been in mental hospitals in Texas and Louisiana. At 14, he was in a Smith County juvenile lockup and then in a Texas
juvenile prison for stabbing his sister with a steak knife.

He was often placed in isolation while being held in a Texas Youth Commission facility and was sent to a state mental hospital. He was diagnosed schizophrenic and psychotic and transferred to the state’s most acute mental health facility for juvenile offenders. Last July, the agency declared him too disturbed for reform school. The commission sent him home to his mother without parole or treatment plans, according to records the family released to the newspaper.

His mother told the newspaper he should never have been in Henry’s classroom and that he sees and hears things other people don’t.

She described Henry as a caring teacher, and said her son regretted everything. “He said, ‘Mom, just tell everybody that I’m sorry.’”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Re-Entry Resource

CSG Justice Center Launches National Reentry Resource Center

New York—The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced today its launch of the National Reentry Resource Center—an unprecedented initiative to advance the safe and successful return of individuals from prisons and jails to their communities. Among those served by the resource center will be states, tribes, territories, local governments, service providers, nonprofit organizations and adult and juvenile corrections institutions.

The CSG Justice Center was selected through a competitive grant process by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, to develop and direct the resource center in collaboration with the Urban Institute, American Probation and Parole Association, Association of State Correctional Administrators, and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University, and an advisory board of 25 national organizations serving the reentry field. Authorized by the Second Chance Act of 2007 (P. L. 110-199), the resource center will provide communities across the country with the best thinking on complex reentry issues, comprehensive resources and myriad forms of support that can help reduce recidivism and strengthen neighborhoods and families. It will provide needed training and technical assistance to Second Chance Act grant recipients and provide a single point of contact for the many individuals and organizations that are committed to reentry issues.

“There are 2.3 million people serving time in our federal and state prisons, and millions of people cycling through local jails every year. Ninety-five percent of all prisoners will eventually be released to our communities and we all have a stake in making sure they are successful,” said New York Assemblyman and Justice Center board chairman Jeffrion Aubry. “The Justice Center is pleased to continue its work with all key stakeholders through the National Reentry Resource Center to develop data-driven, consensus-based reentry policies that reduce criminal activity and best use taxpayer dollars.”

The National Reentry Resource Center will continue the CSG Justice Center's commitment to collaboration and will draw on the experience and expertise of its many valued partner organizations, as well as its own work in the field. Among CSG's past contributions is the 2005 landmark report of its Reentry Policy Council—the result of work by 100 of the most respected workforce, health, housing, public safety, family, community, and victim experts in the country. The Justice Center has also made available to the field online tools, a range of publications on prisoner reentry, a newsletter with the latest news and information, and research and resources that guide policy reform and innovative practices.

For more information, visit the resource center's Website at, where reentry research, publications and tools will be continually added and updated. To learn more about the Second Chance Act grants, see the U.S. Justice Department release at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

John Tyler Administrator Talks Candidly About Truvia

From the Mt. Pleasant Daily Tribune:

By MARCIA DAVIS-SEALE - Tribune Staff Writer
Saturday, September 26, 2009 12:42 PM CDT

About 8:50 last Wednesday morning John Tyler High School (JTHS) Assistant Principal Winston McCowan, Jr. - a Mount Pleasant native - would respond to a disturbance he heard in a classroom two doors down from his office, pass a student he'd spoken with a few minutes earlier being led down the hall in handcuffs by security guards, and find one of his teachers, stabbed and unconscious on the floor. In a phone interview Friday, McCowan told the Tribune, that Wednesday would be a day he'll probably never forget.

He said he calmed the student - that other media reports have named as 16-year-old Byron Truvia - in the school cafeteria, about 30 minutes before the student reportedly stabbed Todd Henry in the chest with a kitchen knife, piercing the special education teacher's heart.

McCowan said he believes that schools should monitor more closely student histories and tendencies. He said that JTHS had no knowledge of the violent family background of the student charged with stabbing the teacher to death, and if they had, perhaps they would have managed his situation differently.

"You never know! With No Child Left Behind laws, you must provide all students free and appropriate public education in the Least Restrictive Environment."

A specialist in the realm of special education, the young - but lauded - administrator, who comes from a family of professional educators, said that in this situation he feels his biggest contribution has been to provide a supportive calm presence during the chaos.
As the administrator in charge of working with and evaluating the JTHS special education teachers, McCowan said he talked with Henry often. "He never talked about being afraid or threatened by the students. He worked in the prison system for 10 years before coming here. He was always seeking to help students."

But that day, the teacher lay silent, unable to help student or self.

That morning on his way down the hall, McCowan said he heard a teacher's aide scream out the words, "Oh, my God, he stabbed him!"
The commotion was coming from the adaptive behavioral class where Henry and a teacher's aide worked with Truvia and two other students.

It's a class, McCowan said, "for students who need to work on social skills. It's more of a structured one-on-one for students that really can't make it in the regular classroom."

The school administrator said he yelled for the school nurses, and for someone to call 911. "And they [the school nurses] began to work on him [Henry] doing CPR."

The two students were escorted out of the classroom and paramedics and firefighters crowded in.

McCowan said he remembers that when the ambulance came, he helped bring in some of the paramedics' equipment.

The school was locked down, following a crisis plan that no one ever really counted on having to use. "Things were very orderly-no students in the halls-only the required personnel in the hallways as in the crisis plan.

"The crisis team secured the parameters, we had police backups, made the required communications with school and administration, and all the proper procedures were in place."

But this was not a drill, a teacher was dying or dead, a student's future hung in the balance, and no one on campus that day would walk away the same.

McCowan said no one knew Henry's condition when the ambulance left with him. The assistant principal said he saw the paramedics were still working on the teacher as they hauled the stretcher carrying his body down the hall and into the ambulance.

"The Tyler police came in, roped everything off as a crime scene, and we closed the school down, put out messages to the parents, called transportation - the buses, and released our students at 10:45. By 11:45 the campus was clear, and we began debriefing meetings with central administration."

Just a few minutes before that class began, McCowan said, "We had a small disturbance in the cafeteria. He [Byron Truvia] was standing up against the wall. I knew he didn't like a lot of disturbance, and I told him to get out of the way if they [the other students causing the disturbance] came toward him. I wanted to calm him.

"He seemed fine. He always kept to himself. There were no warning signs."

In the days following the stabbing, McCowan said, students and staff had been leaving notes and flowers on a memorial mural, of sorts, on the classroom door. Attendance is back to normal. One of the students, who was in the classroom at the time of the stabbing returned to class on Friday, according to McCowan.

"The other student was pretty rattled, and hasn't come back," he said.

"We've offered counseling for all the students with the school psychologist. All the counselors in the district are here to help, with extra school resource officers and central staff administration. We went classroom to classroom yesterday offering support.

"We always have security on site, and we brought in extra police officers and extra monitors. I don't know how long we will have them. The superintendent just told us we would have them ‘for the foreseeable future.'"

"It was a learning experience - for all of us - puts everything in to perspective as a reminder of how precious life is. It could have been any one of us. I was beside that student a few minutes earlier. I didn't see any signs of a weapon on him. He had on blue jeans and an orange shirt. I guess the knife was in his pockets.

"We never had any recollection that he was previously violent. Now we know he moved here after Katrina. He did have a troubling home life, threatened his sister with a knife, and his mom's brother killed her mom [Truvia's grandmother]."

"I believe school systems as a whole need to monitor more closely the background and tendencies of students with emotional disturbances, and also the family histories as well."

He said that he feels it's critical that students be placed appropriately. "In every school district some students fall through the cracks, [in terms of] their disability and the appropriate placement.

"We never want to put them at a disadvantage either way. But if they can't function in a normal school setting, we should put them somewhere they can function."

McCowan said he wasn't aware of a culture of violence at the high school. "Any school is going to have challenges. I don't see this any different from the schools across town. We cater to a different area than they do and have some of those students coming from difficult families and environments.

"This particular incident was a random act of violence that was unprovoked, and was without warning."

McCowan comes from a family of educators. His mother, LaWanda McCowan, serves as principal of the local Corprew Elementary School. His dad, Dr. Winston McCowan, Sr., is a professor at North Texas Community College, and his two sisters both teach in the Dallas area.

This school year marks his first year as assistant principal at John Tyler, in charge of the discipline of 460 students (with last names E through L) of the 2100 students at the school.

McCowan was named Assistant Principal of the Year by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, Region VII, 2009-2010. He served as assistant principal of Palestine High School last year, and before that, spent seven years working with students with special needs in the Texas public school system.

He said at the moment he is drawing on his family support and his faith to cope. "My wife is concerned and supportive. My children, ages two and seven months are too young to understand. My family calls or texts every day offering their support and their prayers.

"It's not every day you see something like that. There are moments my mind replays the whole scene…surreal…like a movie.

"Always running through a lot of our minds, ever since the incident, is the question of whether we could have done anything different. It's the kind of thing that makes you wonder, ‘What could I have done?…probably for the rest of your life."

Truvia's Sister Talks About His Past

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Sixteen-year-old Byron Truvia is accused of the stabbing murder of John Tyler teacher, Todd Henry. Byron's family is telling the public he is not a monster and suffers from mental conditions. They also say their hearts go out to Todd Henry's family.

Byron Truvia and his family evacuated from New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit.

"They got flooded out and they moved here," said Shirley Williams, who lived by the Truvias.

Ever since they arrived Byron's sister Geniece says their lives have been devastated.

"My grandmother, she got killed in 2007," said Geniece. "My uncle murdered her and so it's just a lot of things been going on the past four years."

Shirley says Denise, Byron and Geniece's mom, is still mourning the loss of her mother.

"Her brother killed her mom," said Shirley. "He just snapped and the mother surprised him, flew in and surprised him Easter and went to his house, his trailer, came in and he beat her to death."

Denise did not want to talk on camera, but Byron's sister says he suffers from some mental conditions.

"He has a little problem as far as depression and anxiety," said Geniece.

She says Byron had just served two years for allegedly beating their other sister, but she can't believe he could commit murder.

"He wouldn't do nothing like that," said Geniece. "Because...Byron he come home, he eat...he lay down, watch TV, do his homework [and] that's it. You know, he ain't never killed nobody, you know. I just don't understand."

Geniece says her brother had gotten into some fights at school but made good grades and liked sports. She says just like the victim's family, they too are grieving.

"He's very smart [and] intelligent," she said. "He goes to church and everything, and I just want to say that my heart goes out to the Henry family and I'm real devastated about the situation. I'm hurt as well as them."

Byron's mother, Denise, said the only one that can help them now is God, and they are praying for strength through this ordeal.

Still Undecided if Byron Truvia will be Certified as an Adult

By Philippe Djegal
TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The stabbing death of John Tyler teacher Todd Henry last week wasn't the only murder committed by a teenager to rock a community.

Last Thursday, a 16-year-old high school student in Chicago was beaten to death while on his way home from school. Four of the suspects are now in custody, one of which is also 16 years old.

The DA says he will be prosecuted as an adult. But, the jury is still out here in Texas on whether 16-year-old Byron Truvia will be tried as an adult.

Authorities say Derrion Albert was an "innocent bystander," caught up in a street fight between rival teens.

The gruesome images of his murder were caught on tape and depict his head being slammed with a two by four and him being stomped on while lying unconscious on the ground.

The DA in that case says one of the suspects, a 16-year-old, will be tried as an adult.

That's because according to the Illinois state legislature, all 15- or 16-year-olds charged with murder are by law required to be tried as an adult. In Texas, the law is less straight forward.

"Was it pre-mediated?" asked Laurie Ann Frank. "I think there's a lot of questions."

Questions that attorney in juvenile law Jennifer Deen says will take some time to sort out.

"In Texas, a 14-year-old could be certified," said Deen.

Meaning, in the case of Byron Truvia, the juvenile court will examine Truvia's family history, mental state and other factors to determine whether or not his case be transferred to criminal court.

"But, only for first degree felony, capital felony and aggravated controlled substance felony," said Deen. "And, then at age 15 any child can be certified on any other felony charge."

If tried in juvenile court, Truvia could face anywhere from probation to a life sentence, leaving open the possibility of once again living outside of a jail cell.

"The penal system is very different from juveniles as it is for adults, which juveniles it's focused on treatment, rehabilitation and counseling," explained Frank.

As an adult, he is most likely looking at life behind bars. However...

"He will never be eligible for the death penalty," said Deen. "He could only get life imprisonment if he is transferred to the adult court."

The DA's office still has about three weeks to file a petition official letting the court know what charges they will bring on Byron Truvia which will determine whether he'll be tried as a juvenile or adult.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SB 1557 Clarification from Dee Wilson

A reader forwarded an email to me originally transmitted by Lee Johnson of the Texas Council of Community MHMR Centers:

As many of you are aware, April Zamora of TCOOMMI gave a presentation at the Behavioral Health Consortium Thursday, September 10, 2009 on the changes brought to Art.16.22, Code of Criminal Procedure.

She affirmed that Art. 16.22 has been in statute since 1994 as a tool for identifying and beginning treatment for an alleged offender with mental illness who has been jailed following arrest. The article requires a sheriff to provide notice to a magistrate within 72 hours of receiving evidence that an offender has a mental illness. If there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant has a mental illness, the magistrate orders the local mental health authority to collect information to determine if a mental illness exist.

In an attempt to improve the screening in the jails, as required by Art. 16.22, the Texas Legislature passed SB 1009, Sunset legislation for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS), which contained an amendment requiring TCJS to develop a set of risk factors to use in assessing the overall risk level of each jail. Among the 9 risk factors is whether the jail is in compliance with Art. 16.22.

Attached, please find a bulletin by Dee Wilson of TCOOMMI for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. As Dee points out, the current process for conducting mental health and competency assessments have not been changed but does put in plain language a process for collecting that information and passing it along.

Here is the attachment.