Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

July 15, 2013

Navarro College proposes alternative plan for CRTC

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Navarro College had a full complement of representatives at Monday’s hearing in Austin regarding the fate of the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center.

Not only does the college provide higher education courses for students throughout the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, regardless of what campus they’re on, but Navarro also conducts training for all the TJJD employees throughout the state.

On Monday, Sheri Short, TJJD coordinator for the college, presented a full-fledged plan for repurposing the Corsicana facility into a transitional facility for youth who are nearing their release dates. The center would teach them life skills, such as money management, time management, laundry, Internet skills, and cooking. It would also offer them vocational classes or college classes while they live in transitional dorms.

She proposed that the current treatment center be kept open, as well, and advised using cement skirting, sod and new dirt to solve the problem of debris on the campus, which has been brought up as one of the problems with the current facility.

“There are still problems, but I can tell you in my experience is no one will tell you the best treatment for mental health kids is a hard cell 18 miles from a hospital,” Short said, referring to a proposal to move the Corsicana youth to another facility in the system.

In Short’s proposal for the transition facility, she brought two former inmates of TJJD, both of whom had gone through Navarro College classes, and she had one speak on a telephone to the panel. They said that having a transition facility would have enhanced their abilities to succeed.

One of the students said he’d gone through a half-way house and didn’t learn anything, but a transition facility like the one proposed would have been welcomed.

She pointed out that a similar program in another state has a 7.9 percent recidivism rate, which is something Texas could only dream about.

“We really want to challenge you to think about the next step in our five-year partnership,” Short said.

Following the hearing, Mike Griffiths, executive director for TJJD, said the proposal was certainly something to consider.

“The concepts are certainly interesting to us,” he said. “We’re not opposed to anything that can help the young people.”

Her proposal includes moving the tall chain-link, wire-topped fence inwards, to put the TJJD training dorms, classroom building, faculty offices outside the fence perimeter to make the employee training program easier.

The TJJD report recommends having all the training for the department done in-house at the various facilities, instead of having the employees all come to Corsicana for two-week training sessions.

Attending Monday’s meeting in Austin were Dr. Richard Sanchez, current president of the college; Dr. Barbara Kavalier, incoming president of the college; Sheri Short; Judy Cutting, dean of business, professional and technical education; and several students — both former TJJD inmates and volunteers at CRTC.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com