The Texas Youth Commission is investigating why juvenile inmates endured squalor and deprivation at a privately run prison that was repeatedly praised by the agency’s own quality-assurance monitors, reports the Dallas Morning News. The agency began busing the 197 male inmates from the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center yesterday. Officials canceled an $8-million annual contract with operators of the state’s largest private juvenile prison, citing “deplorable conditions.” Problems at the prison in Bronte, operated by the GEO Group Inc. of Florida, were described in a report by agency ombudsman Will Harrell, who said, “here is a greater sense of fear and intimidation in this facility than perhaps any other I have been to.”
Among his findings: Some young inmates were kept in “malodorous and dark” security cells for five weeks. They were allowed to leave, in shackles, only once a day for a shower. There was an “over-reliance” on the use of pepper spray. Inmates “complain regularly of discovering insects in their food.” In July, the Morning News detailed numerous problems with the commission’s contract-run facilities. At least two other states have closed GEO-run facilities because of inadequate care of inmates and abuse allegations.