Nearly four years after the Texas Youth Commission was overhauled after a sex abuse and cover-up scandal, four leading advocacy groups for incarcerated youths say little has changed, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Widespread unsafe conditions and various forms of abuse and mistreatment continue to plague the agency, they say. In a complaint asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate, Texas Appleseed, Advocacy Inc., the Center for Public Representation, and the National Center for Youth Law said the commission is unable to ensure the safety of the 1,700 youngsters it incarcerates because of operational flaws, including inadequate staffing, improper restraints, and excessive force.
The complaint alleges that youths are not being provided proper medical and mental health care and educational programs, youths are improperly restrained to keep them under control, and excessive force has been used on several occasions; high numbers of youth-on-youth assaults continue to plague the agency’s lockups in Beaumont and Corsicana – which last year won the dubious distinction in a federal report of having the second-highest sexual assault rate in the country among youth prisons. Commission officials said that the safety of its inmates and staff members remains “a top priority” and that they planned to investigate the allegations. The commission is “taking this letter and the concerns presented in it seriously,” the agency said.