It can't be easy.

Imagine you're 19 years old, and have spent a few years locked up in TYC.  Say you CAN go back to the family home you came from, if you came from one... everything you owned back in the crib has probably been stolen, pawned, or broken by now.  The adults have gotten on with their lives... other family members may have moved in or out of the house.  You're an interloper or a stranger, at best.  You've changed.  You're a "grown man" now.

Uh-huh.  We've all heard THAT line.

What did you learn at TYC?  Well, you didn't learn a whole lot that will help you now that you're back in The Free, as it's ironicly referred to... and whatever knowledge you did get doesn't go far and won't do you much good.  Most likely you did NOT get a GED or high school education or develop any marketable skills or any kind of work ethic since no one really expected much from you.  You let yourself be led around by a 16 hour schedule -- and have become lazy and self-indulgent.  The notion of actually having to EARN ANYTHING -- especially a living -- is a totally alien concept.

So you spend a couple/few weeks hanging out on the couch in the living room, playing video games that belong to your siblings, sleeping till noon.  You stay home to eat and eat and eat, and in the evening try to hook up with your old homies... maybe do a little drinking and doping, too, while trying to convince your new peers how tough you are and what a Big Man you were while locked up.  They probably don't much believe it, and as soon as they get tired of turning you on to their drugs you find yourself with no one left willing to get you high.

Maybe you tap the till in a convenience store or rifle through Grandma's purse to get some money to buy your own dope. Maybe you get away some other crimes, maybe not, but situations on the home scene get tense, real quick.  Most kids at 19 would be happy to get an entry level job just to get out of the house, I would think, but oh, no -- you don't wanna flip burgers.  Besides, those teardrop tattoos under your eye don't impress potential employers... so you give up even looking for HONESTwork.  Screw 'em.  Tine for another hit.

Pretty soon you're kicked out of the house, because Grandma is too old to be putting up with your bratty man-child behavior and feels threatened by the gangbangers you've been hanging out with.  You might do some couch surfing around the 'hood for a while, but that never lasts long since you have nothing worthwhile to offer in return.  Back under the bridge.  Another hit.  Another hold up.

Sounds grim, eh?  But it doesn't HAVE to be that way.  What we need to do to help TYC youth to succeed is not rocket science.  It's simply a matter helping them see the value of PROSOCIAL ADULT BEHAVIOR before they pass through the gatehouse once their sentence is served.  This would include getting an education, with all the college credits they can get.  Teaching them to be self-reliant by challanging them to reach out and learn the limits of what they are capable of... instead of giving them a free pass to act however they choose without consequence.  Patience is a virtue -- make them wait for "the good stuff" and it'll mirror the reality of The Real World instead of the La La Land atmosphere of the State School.  Make the kids WORK -- at ANYTHING.  Make them SWEAT.  Make them see the advantage of using self control instead of being out of control, and how this behavior will help them get along with others -- and make SURE they understand that out in the Real World there's no time outs, 225's, thinking reports, or frivolous grievances.  Bottom line?  The more we make their TYC experience mirror Real World realities, the better off everyone will be.  Failing to do so will almost inevitably result in swift recidivism -- surprise, surprise!! 

But no, no, that would be so very cruel to these "troubled" youth... NOT!!  We baby them, we spoil them, we coddle them, we snow them under with psychotropic drugs.  WE don't have any expectation that they'll succeed, other than staying behind the fence for their alloted sentence.  That isn't enough!!

For youth who are compliant/willing to work with us, we need to give them as normal as a life as possible while locked up.  They need to have the opportunity to make meaningful choices and decisions and we need to back them up with whatever resources available.  For the kids who do NOT try to comply, do NOT care to take advantage of the benefits of expected behavior, or do nothing but be violent, disruptive, and STOOPID -- the best we can do is prepare them for an institutionalized life spent in TDCJ. 

A harsh choice, perhaps, but a realistic one.  They deserve that much.  If they want enough rope to hang themselves, GIVE it to them --  it's THEIR CHOICE!!