Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg, Tx., has played a central role in the scandals rocking the Texas Youth Commission, says National Public Radio. It is one of 22 youth prisons run by the agency. A 14-foot chain-link fence surrounds the compound, which houses 240 teens. Inside, boys in grey T-shirts and black athletic shorts, under the close watch of guards, march across the 100-acre campus. This year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report saying that conditions at the 240-bed prison violate the constitutional rights of the youth confined there. The report said that assaults at the facility are five times the national average and that the institution “fails to adequately protect the youths in its care from youth and staff violence.”
One of the most problematic areas at Evins are the open-bay, 96-bed dormitories. Michael, serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated robbery, says there are often fights at night and there’s never any privacy. For residents who can’t maintain control, there is an isolation area called the Security Unit where as many as 30 people are kept in isolation cells. In Missouri, there are only nine isolation cells in the entire state for a system serving 1,000 youth offenders. Evins, along with other Texas Youth Commission units, is attempting to change and to become more like Missouri, where the focus is on small, treatment-orientated group homes.