A legislative inquiry in Texas is focusing on whether sweeping juvenile justice reforms instituted five years ago are still working, reports the Austin American-Statesman. “It would appear that the management of the (Texas Juvenile Justice Department) has not been properly managing or protecting the youth and staff,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who authored many of the reforms. “You could change the names and dates, and it would be 2007 all over again.”
Meanwhile, the former superintendent of the Giddings State School claimed in a lawsuit that he was fired in March for reporting violations of state law and growing safety issues at the troubled lockup. A week ago, in an inspection report that quickly triggered a legislative investigation, Ombudsman Debbie Unruh detailed allegations that youths at Giddings were being “bought and owned” by other youths for cigarettes, illicit drugs and money at a facility that was chaotic and unsafe for some youths and staff alike. The nine-page report listed an array of other issues: Youth ringleaders are “controlling the culture on this campus,” staff have a lack of control over youths, youths have refused to leave security detention for fear of their safety, and bullying and extortion of food are common.