Justice Dept. to Investigate Reports of Abuse in Texas’ Juvenile Prisons
The department opens its inquiries into correctional facilities based on public documents, news reports, social media posts and conversations with people involved in local prison systems that reveal instances of brutal violence and sexual abuse, neglect of the mentally ill, and other serious improprieties.
Ms. Clarke said that the Justice Department investigation into Texas’ five secure juvenile facilities came after at least 11 staff members were arrested and accused of sexually abusing the children in their care, with one arrest as recently as last week. Other staff members reportedly shared pornography with children and paid them in cash and drugs to assault their peers.
“There are also reports of staff members’ use of excessive force on children, including kicking, body-slamming and choking children to the point of unconsciousness,” Ms. Clarke said. She added that there was also an incident last February in which “a staffer reportedly pepper-sprayed a child and placed him in full mechanical restraints, including handcuffs, a belly chain, shackles and a spit mask, and then body-slammed him onto a bed.”
Ms. Clarke said the number of children and teenagers with serious self-injuries in Texas’ secure facilities in 2019 more than doubled from the previous year, and that at least two possible suicides were reported in recent years.
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department, which oversees one of the nation’s largest networks of youth correctional facilities, said that it would fully cooperate with the investigation.