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.