Former TYC Guard Says Youth Rehabilitation Works

"These kids are going to talk, and they're going to collaborate stories -- [making stories up] 'so we can get out of here,'" says Leesa Adkins, who thinks most of what is being claimed by current and former inmates of the Texas Youth Commission has been blown out of proportion.

She worked at the same facility where Ricardo Luna said he was assaulted by guards.

"When they slammed my head against the concrete, they try to move the camera so they won't see," Luna claimed of abuse at the TYC facility in San Saba, in central Texas.

However, day-by-day adkins says it's the kids who are violent, and more guards need to be hired by the state.

"You're talking about one staff [member] sitting in a dorm, trying to monitor 22 kids," she says.

She believes the TYC reform system system works -- including the controversial program of "Resocialization", where academic and behavioral progress is organized, including an admission of the crime committed.   There are steps or phases -- numbered zero to four -- that must be completed before an inmate can get out.

"You get caught lying, and you assault someone, you get bumped down and you have to work all the way up," she says.

Adkins remembers only one strange incident during her tenure: when an inmate stayed with a worker as part of rehabilitation.  It was unusual, she says.

"I kind of thought it was, but nobody ever said anything about it."

But for every real problem in youth prisons, she believes many more are being made up.

"These kids are smart. They're not stupid, and they know how to work the system. The majority of those kids heard what happened to one student and they are jumping on that boat and running with everything that they have to run with so they can get out, and I think the majority of them will be right back."

Governor Rick Perry has appointed a special master to investigate the Texas Youth Commission, but that investigator has no legal authority to enact reforms.  Many members of the Legislature want the TYC to be put into conservatorship, with close oversight.