Gov. Greg Abbott is set to replace another official at the scandal-plagued Texas Juvenile Justice Department. One juvenile justice reform advocate said the action appears to be in retaliation for the official speaking out about agency flaws, the Texas Tribune reports. The governor will announce the replacement of Debbie Unruh, chief of the independent office that investigates safety complaints by youth in the department’s custody. It’s the latest in a string of replacements as the agency struggles under sexual abuse scandals and staffing shortages.
Unruh has served as the independent watchdog of the agency since 2010. She previously was a jail administrator in Randall County and is a licensed private investigator. “I’m just really alarmed by this because I just can’t imagine she’s going to be replaced by someone with a stronger commitment to protecting youth and raising the red flag,” said Lindsey Linder of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “It certainly feels like retaliation for elevating these scandals.” After reports obtained by The Dallas Morning News revealed arrests and a conviction of guards at the Gainesville State School in North Texas for having sex with committed youth, Unruh has been vocal about her thoughts on what the department should have done about the crisis. Deborah Fowler of the nonprofit Texas Appleseed, said, “I do worry about the agency losing an advocate like Debbie. She’s really been instrumental in bringing to light some of the problems that exist in the facility.”