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Last Chance In Texas

LIKE PSYCHOPATHS us what you know about Capital Offenders, Kelley asks the group.

Up until this moment, the boys reactions have been as uniform as their haircuts and clothing. Heads nodded when a yes was required, went sideways when the answer was no. Now, the masks are coming off. The youth with one eye breaks into a slow grin. A boy with peaked features and startling blue eyes in the second row waves his hand in the air. He looks up, surprised to see it there.

Stories, miss. We be telling our Life Stories, says a small, somber black youth with large eyes. He inflects the words Stories in a way that makes it plain they are uppercase. Those two words are al ways capitalized in the TYC resocialization dialect these young men have learned to speak.

can leave anything out! You go over it and over it until it all out there in the open, adds a youth with a solid gold front tooth, the symbol of a successful drug dealer.

can be fronting. No way can you front your way through, declares a powerfully built young man in the first row. He is wearing granny glasses and could pass for a scholar athlete if his forearms and biceps weren so heavily gang tattooed.

can front empathy, agrees a slight, boyish Korean American. it ain real, you got to get real. You can be hiding behind no thinking errors. stories. errors. It turns out that human behavior and the programs designed to alter it are inextricably tied to language. more ersatz the debate. Frontline treatment specialists in Giddings take little heed of congressional hearings such as Treating Juvenile Offenders Cost Effective? The people who actually do the work tend to view splashy hearings as little more than a platform for grandstanding politicians, one issue zealots, and academics pushing a thesis. On the front lines, that question has been settled: treatment works.

It is one thing to say that about programs in a state institution. Taxpayers are picking up the bills, and the outcomes, no matter how scientifically they are evaluated, remain suspect because state institutions collect their own data and measure their own results. It is quite another when the marketplace says that intense treatment changes the trajectory of troubled teenagers lives. The best evidence of that is the boarding schools that have sprung up west of the Rockies in the last twenty years at a rate that rivals the growth of traditional prep schools in New England in the nineteenth century. These schools cater to teenagers who are so deeply into drugs and self destructive behavior, their parents are terrified they will not live to turn twenty. The tuition at CEDU, the oldest of the emotional growth, or boarding schools (founded in 1967 in Palm Springs, California), is well over $100,000 a year. If the cost is astounding, so are the results. Families that can afford a six figure annual tuition would not keep enrolling their children in CEDU if they did not see tremendous changes.

CEDU is at one end of the socioeconomic spectrum, Giddings is at the other. And yet the programs they operate are very similar. In both places, teenagers begin by memorizing a language they will eventually internalize. In both schools, the students come close to running the programs themselves.

The information the boys are practically shouting at Kelley did not come only from a manual or a lecture. Much of it came from their peers. They know so much about what is going to happen because after the eighteen boys were selected from the main Giddings population, they were transferred to Cottages 5 A and 5 B, where they moved in with a dozen students who had recently completed Capital Offenders. No introduction presented by a staff member, no matter how eloquent, carries the weight of a COG veteran who says, up, this is what they gonna have you do. The eighteen boys in this room have spent the last two to four years immersed in the resocialization program that structures life in the State School. Resocialization is a rethinking of the oldest concept in juvenile justice in some ways, the word is poorly chosen. It assumes that some early socialization occurred in the lives of these boys, and for a majority, that did not happen. Most of the boys in this room come from families where the adults were drunk, high, street criminals, or in prison. In their families, too often meant getting together to shoot hard drugs.

Giddings is not an attempt to re create the family. That never works, in institutions, group homes, or foster homes. Kids instinctively rebel is bullshit! You not my real dad! Instead, Giddings is a gigantic bell jar where 390 young offenders are under intense observation sixteen hours a day. Over the past few years, these boys have spent countless hours in one kind of a group or another, acquiring skills that were not ingrained in their families of origin.

errors are at the heart of this process. Along with clothing, one of the first things a youth receives upon arriving in a TYC institution is Changing Course: A Student Workbook for Resocialization. As soon as he gets his layout down, he is told to turn to Chapter Three and memorize the list of nine thinking errors. They are: deceiving, downplaying, avoiding, blaming, making excuses, jumping to conclusions,rolex day date ii imitation, acting helpless, overreacting, and feeling special. All of us employ these techniques at one time or another. These kids have used them in a way that has harmed others, and will allow them to keep on harming others, if their thought processes are not confronted and altered.

errors are used to justify criminal behavior, says Linda Reyes. error is in the justification, not in the fact. A youth can state true facts: I was sexually abused. Therefore, I sexually abused my sister. The thinking error is not in the facts. It is in the justification based on the facts. Do all newly incarcerated young felons hate memorizing thinking errors? They certainly do. Do they do it by rote, as if they were memorizing words in a foreign language? Of course. Learning a new language is like picking up a tool chest. The real work is learning to use those tools sitting in a group and stopping a peer in midsentence with, on, right there. You just used a thinking error. Can you name it? and then helping him see he is or This is an arduous practice, akin to a young musician learning the scales. It goes on and on and on, day after day. Walk into any cottage after dinner and the boys are likely to be sitting in a circle, conducting a behavior group. Typically, a boy has erupted in anger at a juvenile corrections officer in the Giddings vernacular ordered him to clean up his or personal area, a small clothes closet that sits at the foot of every bed. Instead of referring the boy to the security unit for being disobedient, the Jay Ko called a behavior group. The group may spend hours in the circle, trying to help the boy understand why he got angry, and how anger feeds into his offense cycle.

The boys entering Capital Offenders are about to become archaeologists of the self, slowly and methodically sifting through their own lives. Each youth will spend two to three three and a half hour sessions telling his life story. At first glance, this does not seem daunting. Most of us, in one way or another, are telling one another our life stories all the time. But for these boys, the task is terrifying. They have soaked their systems in drugs and alcohol; shaved their heads and covered their bodies with tattoos; convinced themselves that they are hard, impossible to penetrate; surrendered their identity to a gang to hide themselves, from themselves.

When they were little, they were abused. They were defenseless; they were victims. As they got older, they vowed to be strong. Being strong meant inflicting pain. That is what the powerful figures in their lives did to them. Either/or, black or white, the preyed upon and the predators. What is fascinating is, this red in tooth and claw view of reality often butts up against an inner world that is pure fantasy.

The former drug dealer with the gold tooth? His mother was a crack cocaine addict who turned tricks on the corner. In fourth grade, he came out for recess and looked across the street to see his mother climbing into a van with a trick. boy should ever have to see his mother doing that, he blurted out one afternoon in a behavior group.

The short Latino in the front row covered with gang tattoos from his ears to his fingernails? Like his father, he has committed a murder. His father was in prison serving a life sentence when his conviction was suddenly overturned on a technicality. A few days after he got out,rolex day date ladies replica, he found that his wife had taken up with another man while he was behind bars and promptly burned the house down.

A ten year old can deal with a mother who is on the street, working as a prostitute. A twelve year old can handle a father who gets drunk night after night, beats him and his mother, and keeps threatening to burn the house down Sometimes, the only defense is fantasy, and these fantasies are often as delicate as they are elaborate. For years, the Latino gangbanger convinced himself that his dangerous, drug dealing father was really an undercover agent for the DEA. His dad had infiltrated a gang of Colombians, and as soon as the DEA took them down, his dad was going to abandon the act and use his retirement money to buy his family a home on a hillside in Mexico, overlooking the ocean.

That fantasy is all the boy has left after his father was stabbed to death outside a bar in San Marcos. He cannot imagine living without it, just as he cannot imagine climbing out of the gang shell he has encased himself in. But in Capital Offenders, he will have to face the truth about his father, and the mother who never protected him, and his half dozen criminal uncles. This will require a great leap of faith, for like every boy in this room, he grew up knowing he could trust no one, least of all the adults entrusted with his care.

One word is used more often than any other in Giddings: Everything that happens on campus, from the behavior groups to the football team, is designed to foster empathy. It is ironic that empathy is a word that connotes soft, feminine feelings in Free, as the kids call the world outside the fence. Inside the fence, it describes a rigorous, demanding, life and death struggle.

tend to think that empathy leads to forgiveness, but forgiveness is too easy, way too easy, says Linda Reyes. say, sorry for what I did, I forgive myself, I going to move past it. Empathy is far more difficult. Having empathy means taking responsibility. It means making a choice: the things a youth has done to others will never happen to someone else because of him. In a sense, empathy means being your own father, your own mother. The boys in this small, square room all ran. It is important to understand that. They stabbed or brutally beat someone, and took off running. They fired shots from a car into a house at the exact moment when every member of the family was home and then the driver floored it and the car fishtailed up the street. In a way, the prison system allows criminals to keep on running because it does not make them confront themselves. And when they come out, they are indeed angrier, meaner, and dumber than when they went in.

Giddings, they have to stop running, says Dr. Corinne Alvarez Sanders, Linda Reyes successor as the State School director of clinical services. empathy holds them accountable in a very agonizing way. What harder: being forced to look at yourself and what you did, or sitting in a cell day after day? Alvarez Sanders is right. Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 75 percent of youth eighteen and under who are sentenced to terms in state prisons are released before they reach age twenty two. Ninety three percent of the population that are sentenced to prison while still in their teens complete their minimum sentences before reaching age twenty eight.

Since violent young offenders are going to get out, society has to answer several questions: Do we want to try to treat this population before they are released and move in next door? Or do we want to keep sending them back to The Free, hardened and without a future? Without empathy? The answer seems obvious. And yet Texas, which loves its law and order image, is one of very few states that has intense, systematic programs designed to alter the lives of violent young offenders.

If empathy has a special meaning inside the fence, so does the word To the public, all 390 teenagers confined in Giddings State School are thugs is why they are there. But ask a veteran Jay Ko, someone who has spent years working eight hour shifts in the dorms, and she will search her memory before naming a kid who illustrates kind of young man prisons are built to hold, a kid who is or has inside but ashes. Staff psychologists quote the DSM IV TR Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the profession antisocial personality disorder, but in the end,rolex date just replica, their definition of is the same as that of the frontline staff: a true thug is someone who has no capacity for empathy; who will attack and hurt again and again, and regard each assault as a manifestation of how the world works.

or faking empathy, looms large in Giddings, particularly in Capital Offenders. A youth who is smart enough to realize he has no feelings for others is also smart enough to realize an early release depends to a large extent on his ability to demonstrate empathy. If he can do that, he will try to front.

To get over, he will have to give a great performance, day after grueling day. The audience peers and his therapists as tough as the one in the workshops at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where the great method actors learned their craft. They will be watching and wondering and probing to see if the emotions a boy expresses are genuine.

kid had better be ready to be authentic in Capital Offenders, says Margie Soto, a veteran therapist. can try to front his way through, thinking,rolex oyster date replica, yeah, I can play along. I can make stuff up and give them what they want and it won touch me. He can try, but it catches up with him.

can hide from the group. Day in and day out, he is with the same people, in group and in the residence. The kids get to know what buttons to push, and when to push them. Day in and day out, he gets asked, going on? What happening? Pretty soon, that trigger a response that real. The stories he made up, the lies he telling, the junk, the trash, the secrets, it will all come out. Since Giddings gets worst of the worst, it seems logical to assume that a large percentage have full blown antisocial personality disorders that no program, however intense, can touch. Most kids arrive acting like career criminals did my crime, I just wanna do my time. It is common for a kid in an orange jumpsuit to throw down the list of thinking errors he has been told to memorize and shout, this shit, man! Just send me to fucking prison! This is fucking bullshit. But episodes like that do not mean a youth is a true thug.

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Added Aug 12, 11:47AM

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