The Texas Youth Commission voted Friday, June 3, 2011 to close three of its State School facilities. As the meeting wore on, we all became painfully aware of what was about to happen. The Executive Director, Cherie Townsend, gave a detailed summary of each facility, and gave seven different closure scenarios. Crockett was on six of the seven scenarios. When Board Member Joseph Brown read the motion to close Crockett, it was as if someone had just sucked all the air out of the room. A second was made, and the vote was counted. In a matter of a few seconds, all of the time, effort, prayers, reports, presentations, everything, just went down the drain. Crockett State School will be closed. The Crockett contingency-myself, County Judge Lonnie Hunt, Crockett Economic Development Director Thom Lambert, DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles, and City Administrator Ron Duncan, sat in shock as the grievous announcement was made.
There were lots of reasons given for the closings, but safe to say that the State of Texas and the Texas Youth Commission ran out of two things-money and youth. Due to budget cuts, TYC was being asked to cut $116 million. Along with reductions in staff in the Central Office, the closing of the three units will save them the millions of dollars that the legislature asked them to cut. And over the course of the last ten years, the State has had a huge reduction in the number of incarcerated youth. In reality, every State School had beds to fill. Even though we had the most comunity support, even though we made many political contacts in Austin and Washington, D.C., even though we made one last pitch to the entire TYC Board, in the end, there was nothing we could do.
I feel terrible for our employees. Many will not be able to transfer to another unit to maintain their job. And unfortunately, we just don't have the jobs here in Crockett to sustain a layoff like this. I'm afraid this event will be have a lasting impact on our community and we will be a long time recovering.
But, I do know that we are a resilient community and some how, some way, we will survive. My prayers are with all the families affected by this event. In spite of this incredible setback, we will continue to press on.