Five Texas juvenile correctional facilities — including a McLennan County institution — operated by the state are under investigation for potential abuse and other violations, federal officials announced Wednesday.
The Justice Department investigation will examine whether the Texas Juvenile Justice Department 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, according to a news release.
The investigation will also examine whether Texas provides adequate mental health care, officials said.
The Justice Department said the facilities under investigation are the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Mart; the Giddings State School in Giddings; Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood; Gainesville State School, in Gainesville; and the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg.
“Too often children held in juvenile detention facilities are subject to abuse and mistreatment, and deprived of their constitutional rights,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a news release. “State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions. 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.”
U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff of the Western District of Texas said her office is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of juveniles.
“We look forward to partnering with the Civil Rights Division and other U.S. Attorney’s Offices in our state to conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these allegations,” Hoff said.
The Justice Department investigation has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter. The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, officials said.
Both statutes provide officials with 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, the release said.
The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section is conducting this investigation jointly with the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in the Western, Eastern, Southern and Northern Districts of Texas.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Justice Department at 1-866-432-0438 or by email at TX.Juveniles@usdoj.gov.