The man who has become Gov. Rick Perry's problem solver, Jay Kimbrough, is going back to the state's juvenile justice agency, which is facing a crisis again five years after the last time he helped bail the agency out of a major scandal.
"I am pleased that Jay has agreed to help TJJD as we restore legislative, public and employee confidence that Texas is operating facilities that are safe for both employees and youth,” Texas Juvenile Justice Department Executive Director Cherie Townsend said in a press statement on Tuesday.
Kimbrough, who will be on loan from the Texas Department of Public Safety, where he serves as assistant director of homeland security, served as conservator of the Texas Youth Commission in 2007 after investigative news reports revealed horrendous sexual and physical abuse at juvenile lockups. He will act as special assistant for safety and security at TJJD.
Lawmakers overhauled the agency in 2007, requiring counties to keep more youths closer to their homes for rehabilitation and treatment. Eight of the lockups were closed, and only the most troubled youth offenders remained in the six facilities left. Last year, the TYC merged with the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to create the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
But in recent months news stories and reports from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department's independent ombudsman have revealed a drastic increase in youth-on-youth violence and attacks on staff as well as troubling reports of youth ringleaders essentially controlling the state's largest juvenile detention facilities.
Before joining DPS, Kimbrough was deputy chancellor at Perry's alma mater, Texas A&M University. He was fired by A&M Chancellor John Sharp and escorted off of the campus after he showed a knife to senior staff members.
In addition to his work at the scandal-ridden youth agency, Kimbrough was previously dispatched by Perry to clean up the troubled Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Perry has called Kimbrough, a Vietnam War veteran, “a happy warrior” and a “man who comes back time after time to serve.”
In this new role, Kimbrough will oversee safety and security at TJJD facilities and report to Townsend.