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to Naga International Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. 3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower check our sf:e for mouth ca enda. Ii 1i THE BOTH LEGISLATURE: BLOOD ON THE FLOOR youths from the general population, and create an independent inspector general’s office. When Ponce heard about Pyote \(in a conversation with file on the case, collecting whatever documents and information she could from Ranger Burzynski and, until agency administrators intervened, from TYC investigator Tish ElliottWilkins, who did an early investigation of the agency’s handling of Pyote before the story broke. Ponce wrote a memo for her boss, whose first inclination was to go public with the story to get the media involved. TYC Executive Director Dwight Harris was scheduled to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on February 1. Unbeknownst to Harris, Hinojosa distributed Ponce’s memo to several other senators present at the hearing, and they read it as Harris prepared to testify. Hinojosa surprised Harris by asking several questions about the story, effectively breaking an official silence about the case that had lasted for almost two years. On February 13, Harris and TYC General Counsel Neil Nichols came to Hinojosa’s office to discuss the agency’s handling of the case. After Hinojosa left the room, Ponce took over the meeting and began methodically quizzing Harris on the sequence of events at Pyote. Harris seemed detached and uninformed, according to Ponce. Among other things, Ponce confronted Harris and Nichols with two apparently contradictory versions of an official report by Elliott-Wilkins, one of which seemed designed to absolve agency brass from responsibility for what happened at Pyote. Ponce also had two versions of a disciplinary report on Ray Brookins, one of the alleged perpetrators at Pyote. Once again, the report seemed to have been rewritten to deflect embarrassment from agency officials in Austin. Harris was at a loss to explain the discrepancies. As the meeting dragged on, Harris became increasingly defensive, Ponce recalls. It was a preview of the kind of scrutiny Harris and his associates would soon be facing from a much larger audience. Ponce gave The Texas Observer access to what she had found about Pyote, and on February 16, the story broke on the Observer Web site. The Dallas Morning News followed with its own Pyote story, part of a TYC investigative series already underway, and the rest of the dailies jumped on board. Harris was ordered to appear before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee the following week. Instead, he resigned. In the weeks that followed, Hinojosa’s Capitol office was flooded with fresh complaints from TYC employees, inmates, and family members about conditions at facilities all over the state. Boxes of files soon surrounded Ponce, who shares a narrow strip of office with two other staffers. She found herself following up on dozens of leads and calling TYC almost daily to request records on inmates and employees. When a grand jury in Brownwood failed to indict a former guard accused of having sex with female inmates, Ponce contacted the district attorney’s office to remind them that TYC officials had video evidence of the alleged crimes from surveillance tapes. The prosecutor went back to the grand jury, this time with the 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 15, 2007 tapes in hand, and an indictment was returned. Ponce’s cluttered office had become a kind of information clearinghouse for the scandal. In the heady days following the breaking of the Pyote story, a joint committee of representatives and senators was hastily formed to work on reform measures, and Marsha McLane was made the chief of staff. Together with staff from Madden’s corrections committee, McLane began convening a series of meetings on the rapidly growing reform bill, bringing everyone to the table. This included advocates like Isela Gutierrez, ACLU chief Will Harrell, and Marc Levin of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, as well as representatives from the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and the state Department of Criminal Justice. “Everyone who had looked hard at TYC had come to the same conclusions about the reforms needed. It wasn’t rocket science. But the agency and the board just didn’t see it,” McLane says. The bill envisioned a drastically reduced inmate-to-staff ratio. Madden and Jay Kimbrough, the TYC conservator appointed by Gov. Perry, announced that thousands of inmates would have their cases reviewed to determine if they were eligible for release. The bill also discouraged judges from sending youths to TYC for misdemeanor charges. Predictably, there was some backlash, notably from Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who warned of an increase in juvenile crime across the state. But the bill’s detractors never got any traction. “There was just too much momentum, and we had too many people on board,” McLane says. The bill stopped short of closing remote facilities like Pyote, though there was broad consensus that doing so, while politically unpopular, was necessary. The TYC will undergo review by the Sunset Commission next year, allowing legislators and advocates to see how well the reforms have been implemented and what other changes are needed. Wbile the reform bill is undeniably a landmark in juvenile justice reform in Texas, there is still much work to be done, as Alison Brock pointed out in an interview in her office in the waning days of the session. Someone had taped a sign to her office