TX Gov Sends Investigators to Juvenile Lockups

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In a surprise move, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dispatched the Texas Rangers to conduct a “detailed investigation” into growing allegations of sexual misconduct and assaults in state-run lockups for teenage lawbreakers, the Houston Chronicle reports. The inquiry is a likely prelude to significant reforms the governor wants in the agency that incarcerates 1,000 youth offenders. Those moves could cut the number of youths who are behind bars at state facilities in half and increase Texas’ reliance on community-based programs to lower the number of youths who end up in state prisons. Abbott directed Steve Craw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, to send elite Rangers into the five-unit state system to investigate and “ensure that these acts are dealt with swiftly and to the fullest extent of the law.” He said “additional action is needed to guarantee the protection of the youth in the care and custody of the State of Texas.”

Rangers were sent immediately to the state’s five youth lockups to begin interviewing staff and youths about the ongoing problems. One guard was recently convicted, and three other employees were recently arrested for allegedly having sexual relationships with youths at the Gainesville State School, and investigations are underway over similar allegations in at least one other lockup. Wednesday’s move marked the first time state police have been sent into the lockups since 2007, when a scandal exploded over sex abuse and an official cover-up sparked top-to-bottom reforms in the state’s youth corrections system. In recent months the Chronicle and other media outlets have detailed the new allegations of sexual misconduct in the state’s lockups and how assaults and staff shortages have deteriorated conditions inside the sites. In his letter, Abbott called the allegations of abuse “reprehensible.”

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