Here's an excerpt from the cover letter giving an overview of the Ombudsman's concerns:
The Office of the Independent Ombudsman (OIO) is statutorily required to report “particularly serious or flagrant” abuse of youth rights or problems with the TYC administration immediately to certain officials. This is the first occasion that the OIO has felt that something we uncovered triggered that provision. ...The cases summarily closed referenced by the OIO were among those that came in last year in response to the massive publicity about sexual and physical abuse at TYC. While sexual abuse cases were quickly identified, physical abuse and other types of mistreatment didn't always merit the same administrative focus, the Ombudsman found. The report isn't online yet but I'll get a link up when it's available and provide a more thorough account after I've had a chance to fully read it.
The OIO has identified several structural and procedural flaws with the administration of the TYC Alleged Mistreatment Incident system (AMI). Our greatest concern, and the reason for which we are contacting your office, is that we discovered hundreds of abuse or neglect allegations that were administratively closed without proper administrative and/or law enforcement investigation.
Additional concerns include the following:
• Failure to ensure disciplinary consequences follow confirmed AMI’s
• Wrongful assignment of AMI investigations in halfway houses
• Substantial delay in assignment and investigation of AMI’s
• Inadequate staffing levels for AMI system and poorly trained and underqualified investigative and managing staff
• Lack of independence for AMI system
• Lack of data integrity in AMI system
In March of 2007, the State Auditor suggested that the AMI system be placed under the direction of the TYC Inspector General. That restructuring was recently directed by Conservator Nedelkoff and we believe that it will insure that the problems we have identified do not persist.
MORE (9/25): The SA Express News has coverage; here's an excerpt:
MORE: The Houston Chronicle quotes Sen. John Whitmire declaring, "I personally cannot guarantee any judge or parent that their kid is not going to be abused" ... I want very specific documentation, no cover-ups, no smoothing things over," continued Whitmire. "Do I have confidence in the current administration? No. Do I have confidence in the current dynamics of this agency? No."
Texas Youth Commission ombudsman Will Harrell identified 85 cases of alleged abuse or neglect that — according to the agency's own records — were closed without being investigated by the agency's administrative arm, the Youth Rights Division, or by any law enforcement agency, in violation of procedures.
Another 88 recently closed abuse and neglect cases were investigated “by a law enforcement agency, but not by the Youth Rights Division as required by policy,” Harrell said in a blistering report he delivered to the state's top leadership Wednesday.
A total of 564 cases alleging mistreatment of youths were closed by the agency without any record indicating how they were disposed, the report says.
In some instances, abuse allegations were assigned to the alleged perpetrator to investigate, Harrell said. Other cases were left hanging after being assigned to people who had been transferred to other departments and not notified, or to people who had left the agency.
Next Wednesday, a meeting of the joint legislative committee on TYC oversight will consider the details of Harrell's report and other TYC-related matters.