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Texas Youth Commission Report Indicates Continuing Problems

A report by four youth advocacy groups detail ongoing problems, such as the lack of adequate medical care, mental health care and educational programs.

October 08, 2010 ( The Texas Youth Commission, subject of large-scale reforms and restructuring in recent years, has been hit with new allegations of significant problems within the system.

A report by four youth advocacy groups detail ongoing problems, such as the lack of adequate medical care, mental health care and educational programs. The report also cites the use of excessive force and improper restraints as a means of control.

There also continues to be a significant amount of youth-on-youth assaults at the agency's lockups in Beaumont and Corsicana, which in 2009 had the second-highest sexual assault rate in the country among youth prisons.

A story by the American Statesmen had comments from members of the legislature, all of whom sounded disappointed that reforms begun in the last four years had not solved the issues of mismanagement and abuse with the Commission.

The U.S. Department of Justice was reviewing the report.

Gov. Perry's office responded that Texas could solve the matters without intervention by the federal government.

The Texas Youth Commission was restructured after 2007, when managers were accused of mistreatment and sexual abuse of youth incarcerated in their facilities. The problems, however, have not gone away.

Unsafe Facilities

Many youths reported not feeling safe in the facilities. One example was of a youth, who after having his jaw broken and wired shut, was kept in the hospital, as the staff feared for his safety if he was returned to his dorm.

Another complaint is the failure of the education component; the report alleges because of inadequate training and staffing, much of the "teaching" often consists of handing out worksheets.

The Texas Youth Commission functions to provide an alternative to adult prison and a means to prevent youthful offenders from becoming trapped in the cycle of reoffending. If the system is merely warehousing youth until they are old enough to enter the adult criminal justice system, then it is failing its fundamental purpose.

Further evidence of continuing problems is presented by the handling of mental health issues. The report points out that 37 percent of youths have "serious mental health problems," but even worse, almost half of all the residents needed some type of mental health treatment during 2009.

Corsicana, the main lockup for youths with mental issues, has about 130 incarcerated teenagers. To cope with these demands, they have two unlicensed doctorate psychologists, two licensed associate psychologists and two unlicensed psychologist interns on staff "with one psychiatrist providing services 17 hours per week on average."

Limited Resources

The problem for the legislature will be to determine what resources can be made available to the Texas Youth Commission in the face of multibillion-dollar deficits. Gov. Perry has proposed across the board cuts to all of state government, and it may be difficult to generate much support for additional funding.

With all the problems, if you have a child or a family member who may be incarcerated in facilities under the control of the Texas Youth Commission, you may want to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you of potential options.

Article provided by Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Grass
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[] Texas Youth Commission Report Indicates Continuing Problems
A report by four youth advocacy groups detail ongoing problems, such as the lack of adequate medical care, mental health care and educational programs.