Texas youth lockups are target of federal probe for sex abuse, staff misconduct
AUSTIN, Texas — The scandal-plagued Texas Juvenile Justice Department is the target of a new federal civil rights investigation, the four U.S. Attorneys for the state announced at a news conference on Wednesday.
The probe will examine whether children in Texas’ five state youth lockups are suffering from widespread sexual assault and other constitutional violations including excessive use of restraints and isolation along with a lack of mental health care.
“No matter who they are – or what they’ve done – our state’s kids deserve safe environments,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham of the Northern District of Texas. “We cannot expect juvenile offenders to thrive later in life if they emerge from confinement traumatized by sexual abuse, excessive force, or incessant isolation.”
Citing the recent arrests of 11 staff members of state juvenile facilities, federal prosecutors said the investigation will also examine misconduct by staffers.
Complaints filed with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, along with reports from media outlets, triggered the probe. State officials were formally notified about the investigation ahead of the news conference where word of the probe was made public, federal authorities indicated.
“State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice stands ready to protect the rights of children who end up in juvenile facilities and our investigation will ensure that the treatment of these children comports with constitutional standards.”
Federal prosecutors urged those who may have relevant information about abuse and misconduct to contact the DOJ by phone at 1-866-432-0438 or by email at TX.Juveniles@usdoj.gov.
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