Juvenile justice: orientation and assessment
If you've never seen the inside of the Texas Youth
Commission, you're in for a surprise. "Do not talk unless you're given
permission. Every last word out of your mouth will be 'sir' or 'ma'am'
when you're speaking to a male or female." That's the warm hello the TYC
welcome wagon gives you at the Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit
where all kids come for evaluation.
Their stay here isn't long, only
about 60 days. Then they're farmed out to other TYC facilities across
the state. The kids sent here are concerned about getting into fights
after hearing about the facilities reputation. The TYC admits that
sometimes happens there. Some of these kids are gang members back home
and try to bring that life into the system. Many of the kids don't
understand the consequences of their actions until they get into the
system and find themselves knocking on the other side of the window.
On the other side of the glass, the inmates get
fingerprinted, poked, prodded and their psyches probed. "When I first
got here, I was very overwhelmed," one inmate said. You don't have to
listen long to learn what drives these kids to commit crimes. "When I
was young, my father used to abuse me, physically. He was on alcohol. I
was raised with a pretty violent family, so basically I had a lot of
anger inside of me," one inmate said.
The reasons get even more shocking. "I got sexually
molested by my older brother and a man … I did it to someone else. I
wasn't thinking, so I ended up here," another inmate said. The TYC says
it digs up the roots of their behaviors then works on solutions, always
holding these kids accountable for their actions.
The process begins at
Marlin before the child is permanently placed. "You have to adjust both
things: the accountability piece but also try to really understand, what
are the circumstances that are creating kids who at the ages of 13, 14,
and 15 who are committing such serious offenses, help them to regain
some sense of accountability themselves and turn their lives around,"
the TYC's Linda Reyes said. Rules are strict and life takes on a
military feel in this closed world. Next, the kids get settled in to
their new digs where the real lessons begin. Some of those are good and
others not so good.
24 May 2006