Friday, March 09, 2007

Can Texas judges know kids sentenced to TYC are "safe"?

News around the state is surfacing that calls into question Texas Youth Commission interim chief Ed Owens' assertion that TYC facilities are "safe" for kids:
  • The Brownwood Bulletin says law enforcement has finished another investigation of sexual abuse at a TYC facility, this time involving three young women that "happened in a small storage closet." The employee in question resigne in August 2005 but was not arrested or prosecuted.
  • Two guards who were later fired for neglect were away from their posts when a boy in Corsicana was brutally beaten. Reported the Dallas News: "Records obtained by The Dallas Morning News under the Texas Public Information Act include accounts of guards striking handcuffed inmates, encouraging inmates to fight one another and standing idle while beatings occurred. In one case, a guard threatened to throw a handcuffed inmate off a roof."
This in addition to the discovery this week of a registered sex offender working as a guard at a TYC facility in Coke County, and of course the Pyote scandal. The feds are investigating completely separate complaints at facilities in Edinburg and San Saba. By their own statistics, abuse rates at TYC units have tripled in recent years.

Rep. Harold Dutton's question yesterday to Owens was whether judges should feel confident that children sentenced to TYC are safe. How many such incidents must surface before judges must reasonably conclude they're not?

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