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Long-standing Practice of Youth Extortion at Al Price Tyc Ombudsman 2008

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Office of the Independent Ombudsman
for the Texas Youth Commission

James Smith and Alan Walters
Will Harrell, Chief Ombudsman
June 30, 2008
Long-standing Practice of Youth Extortion at Al Price

I am writing this special memo to alert you to a serious issue we have discovered
at Al Price. I would like to keep this memo confidential until we can agree on a
way to strategically address this issue while keeping the youth who spoke to me
It appears that there is a systemic problem with youth extorting other youth for
food on that campus and the Al Price staff has not taken adequate steps to abate
the problem. At every facility I have heard of the occasional situation where a
bully youth steals food from weaker youth. But it appears to me that at Al Price
there is an entrenched pattern and practice that has been tolerated for years.
I interviewed staff and youth and a practice referred to on that campus for a
number of years as “Deebo” 1 is notorious and on-going. “Deebo” is a practice by
which under duress a youth will agree to provide another youth with food or
canteen items whenever asked.
Every youth I spoke to about this believes it is simply a fact of life at Al Price that
you must “fight for what is yours”. Youth seem to accept that they have but two
choices at Al Price; “fight for your food or go on Deebo”. I am certain you share
the OIO view that youth in TYC should never have to make that choice.


Wikipedia describes the movie character after whom this practice is nicknamed as
follows: Deebo is the primary antagonist in the Friday movie series. He has a menacing
appearance, and every character expresses fear of Deebo, probably due to his continual
violent and criminal conduct. His character is introduced, photographed from menacing
angles and with a theme that sounds threatening and dangerous. While in a series of
comedic films, Deebo represents one of the hard truths of living in certain parts of South
Central Los Angeles, where even the most law-abiding people are often confronted with
dangerous characters and investigating police officers.
6400 East Highway 290, Suite 202 · Austin, Texas 78723
(512)533-2770 · (512)533-2702 fax
SB 103, Sec. 64.002. " The office of independent ombudsman is a state agency established for the purpose of investigating, evaluating, and
securing the rights of the children committed to the commission, including a child released under supervision before final discharge."

Some youth choose to stay long periods refusing to leave security so that they
don’t have to subject themselves to this system. One youth I interviewed has
been in security for two months because he knows he’ll have to fight if he goes to
the dorm and that will make him stay longer. As he put it:
“I’m going home and I don’t care what they say. You can call me a peon,
but I’ll be home eating good food while you are still here trying to steal
food from your peers…It’s never gonna stop so I just stay in security so I
don’t have to worry about it…At least here I know I’ll wake up and my
shoes will still be by my bed. 2 ”
As it was explained to me, when a new kid shows up on a dorm, others will claim
him within moments or days of his arrival. The first to get to the new youth will
ask them to “accept”. To accept means you will commit to giving up whatever
food is asked whenever it is asked of you. If you do not accept, a group of youth
will jump you when the opportunity presents itself. That usually occurs on the
recreation yard or in the shower area. Also, youth will continually run “dome
shots” which is the act of hitting youth in the head with a closed fist when staff
can’t see as they pass the youth’s personal area.
If a youth initially “accepts” he can later get “off Deebo” by fighting. Also, if a
youth appears as though he might fight back or he actually does fight back, he
may avoid being placed on “Deebo” even if he doesn’t win the fight. One youth
explained that he was originally placed on “Deebo” on his first dorm and learned
from the experience. When he was moved to another dorm, he took the following
“If you come in with your head down and stuff, they are gonna punk you.
You gotta mug up some and they might leave you alone”.
The youth who has other youth on “Bo” or Deebo” is referred to as a “Bo Master”.
A “Bo Master” can have a single youth or multiple youth (in some cases as many
as three) on “Deebo” or “on-Bo”. He can also take another youth “under his
wing”. Essentially “under the wing” is the same relationship but more of a
voluntary arrangement that will provide the weaker youth with certain protection.
Youth can also be “slick-bo” which means they do not openly acknowledge being
on “Deebo” but will sneak other youth minor food items for protection secretly or
“on the down low”.
Youth did acknowledge that some staff try to intervene always and other do so
when “Austin” is on campus. But since the practice is so entrenched, when staff
try to separate “Bo-Masters” from youth on “Deebo”, they can still pass food even
if it involves three or more youth passing the food under the table.


This youth explained that if you fight for food, other youth will try to wear you down by stealing
your shoes and clothes while you sleep.


Some youth try to help youth on “Deebo”. As one explained:
“I’ll try to help (particular kid on Deebo who I will not name under a
promise of anonymity) ‘cause he’s my hommie and I feel bad for him. He’s
lost so much weight you can see his spine. I’ll trade up with him. If they
take his meat and cake I’ll say hey, ‘you can have half of my meat and my
cake if you give me your beans’. They only really take the good stuff.”
Another youth explained to me that:
“The Bo-Master won’t try to starve a kid. They’ll take your food but leave
enough for you to get by. He might say I’m taking one of your hamburgers
but you can keep your lettuce and take my applesauce.”
At the moment of my interviews, youth believed there was only one dorm at Al
Price that didn’t have anyone “on the Bo”. That’s not due to staff interventions
they claimed. It’s because there is no one on the dorm, Dorm 4 D, that won’t
fight. The worst dorms are 5B and 5D. According to youth, staff on those dorms
“don’t even care”. On 3A, there are 3 “Bo-Masters”. One has one youth “on Bo”
and one “under his wing”, another has 3 “on Bo” and the third has one youth “onBo”.
If a youth is a bona fide member of the dominant gang on a dorm, he might be
spared “Deebo” but might have to “ride under somebody’s wing”. While all races
are subjected to this, white boys always get selected because they are
considered less likely to fight or to get protection.
Youth on “Deebo” must provide food when asked and that happens every day at
every meal and snack time. If you are on “Deebo”, you also might have to give up
canteen items such as shampoo and toothpaste. Some youth have forfeited their
food and canteen under this system for months or years.
Staff acknowledge this has happened at Al Price by that name “for years”. One
youth told me when he arrived on a dorm, staff commented “Oh boy, they are
gonna get his food”. Youth explained that female staff are more likely to intervene
but male staff believe boys need to get tuff and learn to fight.
This is a matter of grave concern to this office. Please let me know when you will
be available to discuss a strategy to address this concern that will protect youth
and staff who confided in this office on a promise of anonymity.