Long before a state ombudsman made public an alarming report about safety and security issues at Texas’ Giddings State School, attacks on workers and reports of violence and out-of-control youth had been on an upswing, say reports quoted by the Austin American-Statesman. The documents show a deep division among leadership of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department over whether to run the lockup more like a prison or whether incarcerated teen-agers should be counseled in a softer treatment environment.
When a member of the agency’s governing board visited the 300-bed lockup in March, he reported troublemaking youths were roaming freely, staff members dressed like gang members, and other staffers said they were afraid to come to work because of the continuing violence. A youth threw a rock at the official visitors, then ran laughing into the gym. Guards took no action. So tense was the atmosphere, said board member Michael Meade, that “my staff and I all felt concern for our own safety and (wondered) would we be having to fight our way out of here?” Meade questioned the management philosophy to counsel the youths into behaving. “The result of this well-intentioned but misguided management operating philosophy is that it has created a very unsafe environment for youth and staff alike with (the) lack of any true rehabilitation occurring in those out-of-control units.”