The article purported to show that Cotton received disparate treatment from the Paris judge, but Tribune Southwest Bureau Chief Howard Witt has now gone back to track outcomes for the white girl in the story, and finds that she suffered a fate worse and more traumatic than Shaquanda's ("2nd girl from Paris, TX allegedly abused in youth prison," Oct. 8):
The emotionally troubled teenager, who has been diagnosed with serious depression and bipolar disorder, ended up being sent to the same youth prison in Brownwood, Texas, where Shaquanda was incarcerated, because she subsequently violated her probation twice and the judge in the case finally threw up his hands.This description sounds to me like the child in question needs serious mental health assistance that she's not getting at TYC. Her mother told the Tribune:
While there, the teenager—whom the Tribune is declining to identify—was allegedly sexually molested by a male prison guard, who then threatened her to keep her quiet, according to documents and witness statements examined by the Tribune. She self-mutilated her arms with a knife, carving the word "Why" into her flesh, her mother said.
Last spring, the girl attempted to commit suicide by swallowing a handful of pills prescribed for another inmate. When a guard rushed into her cell to rescue her, authorities allege, the girl knocked the officer to the ground—an assault that tacked another 6 months onto her sentence.
Even worse, officials at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex knew of allegations that the guard was sexually abusing the girl, but did not remove him from contact with female inmates until four months later.
In a letter to the girl's parents dated Oct. 18, 2006, prison Supt. Teresa Stroud wrote that "a formal investigation has been initiated" into allegations that a prison guard "touched [the girl's] buttocks and made comments about her anatomy."
The girl would later tell authorities that she was too frightened to talk to investigators about the incident, and prison officials ruled that the allegation was "unconfirmed," according to Tim Savoy, a spokesman for the Texas Youth Commission, the state's juvenile corrections agency.
But on Feb. 24, 2007, another abuse allegation against the same guard surfaced, and he was suspended with pay the same day.
"I don't want it looking like we're trying to copycat the attention that Shaquanda got, but I think my daughter's story needs to be told," the mother said. "They should take into consideration that she has tried to take her life over this issue. She's really despondent. She blames herself for what the guard did. She just cannot forgive herself. And she is not receiving any counseling for what the guard did to her."I'm glad that Witt followed up on this story. The portrayal of Shaquanda Cotton's case was an important but incomplete look at problems with Texas juvenile justice. The biggest issues aren't all or even mainly about race. White kids get abused as frequently as everybody else incarcerated in the Youth Commission, and many kids still incarcerated haven't received the counseling and support they need to get over what's happened to them. Kudos to Witt and the Tribune for sticking with the story.