Leader of program for violent offenders quits – blames boss, judge

June 7, 2014

An Adult Probation employee who headed a program to prevent domestic violence has walked off the job, blaming his boss and a judge.

Larry Grady said demands made by Court-at-Law Judge Vincent Messina and Adult Probation Director Shelli Berry threatened the credibility of the Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP), as well as its state accreditation.

Messina and Berry claim Grady misinterpreted the program’s guidelines. Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) agree.

“What luck that government would agree with government,” Grady wrote to the Hood County News Thursday afternoon in an email.

Berry said the program is still being offered by other qualified group leaders outside the Hood County Community Supervision and Corrections Department.

The case that caused Grady to clean out his office two months before qualifying for state insurance involved a man who was ordered to BIPP by Messina, but who refused to admit he had done anything wrong.

Grady said that men who participate in BIPP must acknowledge the abusive behaviors that caused a judge to order them into the program.

The contract for the Hood County BIPP, which was signed off on by TDCJ’s Community Justice Assistance Division (CJAD), states, in part:

“A requirement for my participation in the program requires that I not only talk about my violence, but that I accept the full responsibility for my choice to act out.

“I understand that should I deny having been violent, the BIPP program will be obliged to close interest in my case and refer me back to the court or its representative for review.”

Grady said the man steadfastly refused to admit the actions that caused Messina to impose upon him a protective order that will be in place for a significant period of time – two years.

Grady said he believes the man to be a significant danger.

“He’s won,” the counselor said. “That’s the last thing you want to show a guy like this.”

Grady said he believes Messina should have jailed the man for defying his court order instead of forcing him (Grady) to put him in the program, “sabotaging my group process.”

Messina acknowledged the man refused to admit guilt, but said it is his right to do so.

He added: “As the trier of fact, I found that indeed family violence had occurred and that there was a reasonable probability that unless a protective order was issued, it may well occur again in the future.”

Messina added: “I was very clear with Mr. Grady and with the attorney representing (the man) when this issue came up. (The man) would acknowledge that there was a judicial finding of family violence against him, and thereafter he would begin and complete the BIPP program. This apparently did not satisfy Mr. Grady and he resigned his position.”

Grady said the man’s offense involved a child and alleged stalking.

Robert Hurst, a public information officer for the TDCJ, emailed a statement to the HCN.

“The Guidelines do not prohibit programs from admitting participants who deny violence or who would normally not be admitted for being inappropriate,” the statement said.

“In these cases, TDCJ-CJAD advises the programs to document the overriding situation and proceed to provide services.

“A CJAD staff provided technical assistance to Mr. Grady in April 2014. TDCJ-CJAD advised following the orders of the court.”

On the website of the Texas Council on Family Violence is a link to the 51-page BIPP Accreditation Guidelines of the TDCJ-CJAD.

Guidelines for facilitators detail holding offenders accountable, assessing their appropriateness for the program and determining “the possible need for referral.”

The guidelines also state that facilitators are to encourage batterers “to disclose accurate and detailed descriptions of the most recent violent incident towards victims which lead to their referral to BIPP.”

Grady, a licensed social worker and chemical dependency counselor with 20 years experience, said: “People need to have enough faith in me to know that I don’t cry wolf. If I say we’ve got a real problem, then we’ve got a real problem.

“Why hire somebody if you’re not going to trust them?”

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