WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – The Justice Department has opened a statewide investigation into the conditions in the five secure juvenile correctional facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
The investigation, announced Wednesday, Oct. 13, will examine whether Texas provides children confined in the facilities reasonable protection from physical and sexual abuse by staff and other residents, excessive use of chemical restraints, and excessive use of isolation.
The investigation will also examine whether Texas provides adequate mental health care.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all Texas children, including those incarcerated in Texas Juvenile Correctional Facilities," said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. "We are pleased to partner with the Civil Rights Division and the other U.S. Attorney's Offices of Texas to conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these allegations."
"Too often children in juvenile facilities like those at issue here are abused, mistreated, and deprived of essential services," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions, and the Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of children who end up in such facilities. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the United States Attorney's Offices throughout Texas to ensure that the State's treatment of these children comports with constitutional standards."
Gov. Greg Abbott Press Secretary Renae Eze issued the following statement on the matter:
"In July, Governor Abbott directed the Texas Rangers to investigate reports of certain TJJD staff engaging in potentially illegal behavior. Throughout his time serving the people of Texas, Governor Abbott has always prioritized the safety and well-being of all Texas children, including those in the state's care. The State of Texas will cooperate fully with the Department of Justice's investigation."
The Justice Department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations.
The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.
Both statutes give the Department the authority to investigate systemic violations of the rights of young people in juvenile correctional facilities.
The Department's work has led to important reforms to protect the rights of young people housed in those facilities.
Individuals with relevant information to the investigation are encouraged to contact the department via phone at 1-866-432-0438 or by email at TX.Juveniles@usdoj.gov.
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