After a conviction and multiple arrests stemming from sexual misconduct cases at a Texas lockup for minors, juvenile justice reform advocates are calling for the state to close all state-run secure facilities for youths, reports the Texas Tribune. On Thursday, advocates from reform groups asked Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus to create a joint legislative committee that will evaluate the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and shut down the state’s five lockups. The call comes after a memo obtained by the Dallas Morning News highlighted allegations of sexual misconduct at the Gainesville State School.
“Texas taxpayers are currently footing the bill for a costly, defective model that does not promote public safety and is inhumane,” the advocates wrote in the letter. “There is only one solution: the remaining state secure facilities must be closed.” The letter was signed by directors of Texas Appleseed, Texans Care for Children, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union. Guard Samuel Wright was sentenced to 10 years in prison this July for improper sexual activity with a youth in custody. Three women at the facility were arrested within the past three months on allegations of having sexual relationships with committed minors. Last year, a psychologist at the lockup was suspended after being found to have emailed pornography to his work computer so he could encourage a minor to masturbate in front of him. “As much as we loathe that these events happened at all, I believe the facts of these cases show that oversight mechanisms put in place by legislative reforms of the past decade are working,” said department director David Reilly.