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Texas Youth Commission Scandal

 

Abuse scandal rocks TYC

 

 

Inmates at the West Texas State School in Pyote move around the facility in single-file lines.

MICHAEL AINSWORTH/DMN

About the investigation:

Since Feb. 18, The Dallas Morning News has been writing about the sexual and physical abuse scandal inside the Texas Youth Commission. Our coverage began in Pyote at the West Texas State School, where documents obtained by the newspaper revealed how supervisors had abused young inmates and traded favors for sex. For years, no one did anything to stop it.

Reacting to the revelations, state officials moved quickly to overhaul TYC’s management, even as the scope of the scandal expanded to the entire agency and its prisons throughout Texas.

Below is a complete listing of the Morning News‘ coverage of events and its ongoing look at TYC:


Stories

10/07/07: Jail operator GEO’s troubles not limited to Coke County youth lockup
The private operator of a juvenile prison, closed last week because of fetid conditions and alleged mismanagement, has similar problems at other lockups throughout Texas.
Link: Interactive map of GEO Group-managed facilities
Download: E-mail statement from TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons regarding the agency’s contracts with GEO Group (.pdf)


10/06/07: TYC official blasts GEO Group over Coke County facility conditions
The Texas Youth Commission said Friday that a privately run prison in West Texas was a fire trap where inmates’ medical needs were ignored, schooling was “almost non-existent” and a pattern of “physical and psychological harm” was routinely tolerated.
Download: Audit report on Coke County Juvenile Justice Center (.pdf)
Download: Photos taken during audit of Coke County Juvenile Justice Center (.pdf)


10/03/07: TYC investigates how ‘deplorable conditions’ at closed prison escaped detection
The Texas Youth Commission is investigating why juvenile inmates endured squalor and deprivation at a privately run West Texas prison that was repeatedly praised by TYC’s own quality-assurance monitors.
Document: Read TYC ombudsman Will Harrell’s report describing serious problems at Coke County Juvenile Justice Center (.pdf)


09/16/07: TYC is finding new leaders – in state’s troubled prison system
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, itself a troubled institution, has been tapped to supply new leadership to another prison system brought down by physical and sexual abuse of inmates, official cover-ups and mismanagement – the Texas Youth Commission.
Documents: Abuse and misconduct in TDCJ
Opinion: Youth prisons need expert leaders, not refugees


09/13/07: Advisory group criticizes TYC’s pepper spray policy
In a report obtained by The Dallas Morning News, TYC’s Blue Ribbon Task Force makes a number of recommendations for changing TYC, which was rocked this year by a series of scandals involving physical and sexual abuse.


08/30/07: Lawmakers grill TYC officials on reform
Lawmakers revisited the Texas Youth Commission scandal publicly for the first time since the end of the legislative session on Wednesday, questioning top officials on their progress in rehabilitating the embattled agency and addressing youth parole and use-of-force concerns that have resurfaced in recent months.


08/05/07: Feds knew about TYC abuse cases
Read Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski’s report detailing allegations of sexual abuse at the West Texas State School in Pyote. (.pdf)
Letters to state officials regarding the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into allegations of abuse at TYC facilities.
Letter from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee encouraging U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate the TYC (includes reply from Deputy Attorney General Richard A. Hertling)


07/29/07: Texas’ youth jail operators have troubled histories
Firm’s leaders linked to problems
GEO Group’s facilities were closed in Louisiana, Michigan
Nonprofit is no stranger to scrutiny
Interactive graphic: Texas private contracts around the nation
Interactive graphic: Mistreatments at TYC contract facilities


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–> 05/13/07: Mistakes, mismanagement wrecked TYC
A chain of administrative failures, executive inattention and bureaucratic missteps brought the Texas Youth Commission to institutional collapse. State government records, legislative archives and interviews with current and former officials show a breakdown of authority at all levels.
TYC Executive director Dwight Harris and board Chairman Pete Alfaro downplay problems within TYC
Audio: Senators question TYC officials
Timeline: Repeated warnings of TYC abuse sent to governor’s office
Chart: Money issues: Annual state and federal funding for TYC (.pdf)
E-mails show TYC officials obsessing over image

05/06/07: To some, TYC bill is no cure-all
State lawmakers tout their legislation to remake the Texas Youth Commission as a bill that will turn the agency from “national embarrassment to national model.”. But some of the country’s top juvenile justice experts say the bill is far from progressive, and will do little more than bring Texas’ system up from deplorable to average.

05/01/07: Ex-TYC official fired for inaction
Lydia Barnard, the former director of juvenile corrections with the Texas Youth Commission, has been fired for failing to take appropriate action against a school superintendent accused of sexually abusing inmates.

04/29/07: TYC supervisor rebuffed abuse warnings
Once more – this time in the isolated West Texas town of Pyote – Lydia Barnard had a chance to remove Ray Brookins from the Texas Youth Commission. And once again she stopped short.

04/26/07: TYC officer at FW halfway house arrested on sex charge
A corrections officer from a juvenile halfway house in Fort Worth was arrested Wednesday after being accused of having sex with an 18-year-old female resident during a group trip to a park.

04/20/07: Senate OKs TYC overhaul
The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to overhaul the scandal-ridden Texas Youth Commission by hiring more and better trained guards, appointing a single commissioner to rule the agency, and by scaling back its scope to return all misdemeanor offenders to their communities.

04/20/07: More TYC executives forced out
Five high-level Texas Youth Commission employees have been forced out of their jobs as part of the continuing shakeup at the agency, officials said Thursday. Four top executives resigned, and agency officials began the process fire Don Brantley, assistant deputy executive director for juvenile corrections, who did not agree to resign.

04/16/07: New team, changes spark clash at TYC
The dream team appointed to overhaul the Texas Youth Commission swept in ready for anything: horrific sexual and physical abuse allegations, firings and arrests at remote juvenile prisons, even the political fallout from freeing some inmates.But the new leaders weren’t prepared for what they would find at TYC headquarters in Austin: a culture clash they say has impeded progress at the agency.

04/14/07: Ex-TYC jail official posts bail
Ray E. Brookins, the former assistant superintendent charged in a sex abuse case at the West Texas State School in Pyote, has been freed on bail.

04/13/07: 65 TYC employees found to have felony records
The state has identified 65 Texas Youth Commission employees who have felony records, and at least 40 of them have been notified that they face termination, conservator Jay Kimbrough said Thursday.

04/13/07: TYC guard won’t face charges
A grand jury has declined to indict a former Texas Youth Commission guard who was accused of sexually abusing inmates at a Brownwood juvenile prison.

04/12/07: Bill overhauling TYC is endorsed
The reborn Texas Youth Commission would have far fewer inmates, a better-trained and larger staff, and an independent investigative branch under a bill endorsed by a key Senate committee Wednesday.

04/11/07: Officials indicted in abuse at TYC
Two former Texas Youth Commission administrators were indicted Tuesday on charges that they sexually abused teenage inmates at the state juvenile prison in Pyote.

04/09/07: Judges send fewer children to TYC
Texas judges are sending fewer children to the scandal-ridden Texas Youth Commission for punishment and rehabilitation since reports of widespread abuse at its facilities were made public.

04/08/07: Medical care at TYC falls short
A review of nearly 2,000 TYC medical mistreatment allegations and investigations shows youths often must wait weeks or months for X-rays, prescriptions and referrals to specialists.
Mental health of ex-honor student deteriorates

04/07/07: TYC inmates’ release begins
Like dozens of others, 18-year-old Erik Rodriguez walked out of a Texas Youth Commission prison Friday, his sudden freedom a byproduct of the scandal that has swept the state’s juvenile justice agency.

04/05/07: TYC fires 40 with criminal history
The Texas Youth Commission said Wednesday that it had sent termination notices to 40 employees who have been convicted of felonies or received deferred adjudication for felony charges.

04/04/07: Staffers’ crimes, TYC abuse linked?
Texas Youth Commission employees with criminal backgrounds were twice as likely as other staffers to be accused of abusing young inmates, a Dallas Morning News analysis found.

04/04/07: DA’s removal urged; he didn’t pursue TYC cases
An official in West Texas said Tuesday that he may try to have his county’s district attorney removed from office for failing to prosecute the men accused of molesting youth inmates at the West Texas State School in Pyote.

04/03/07: TYC to free 552 in days
More than 500 parole- or release-ready juvenile inmates � more than a 10th of all those held by the scandal-ridden Texas Youth Commission � will walk free by the end of the week, the agency’s conservator said Monday.

04/01/07: Guards suffer at TYC
Most of the reforms now sweeping TYC focus on curbing abuse of inmates. But juvenile correctional officers, as TYC’s guards are known, say the agency has badly mistreated them as well.

03/31/07: Teen to be freed from TYC prison
The newly appointed conservator of the Texas Youth Commission will release a 15-year-old girl from a high security juvenile prison Saturday, making her the first of what could be hundreds of kids set free as part of an agency overhaul.

03/30/07: TYC conservator is confirmed by Senate
The Senate approved the appointment of Jay Kimbrough as the conservator of the Texas Youth Commission on Thursday, voting 29-1 to keep him in charge of revamping the embattled juvenile justice agency.

03/29/07: Deal reached on leader for TYC
State leaders announced a surprise compromise Wednesday that settled the debate over who will lead the embattled Texas Youth Commission: a single commissioner operating with a Senate-confirmed advisory board.

03/24/07: Hundreds may be freed from TYC
Hundreds of Texas Youth Commission inmates could be released once a special panel reviews their cases, the special master overseeing the investigation of sexual and physical abuse at the agency said Friday. The reviews, which will focus on inmates whose sentences have been extended beyond the minimum by TYC administrators, could dramatically decrease the number of young offenders incarcerated by the agency.

03/24/07: Length of stay fluid for many TYC inmates
At TYC, an inmate’s length of stay is determined by a complex and controversial program known as Resocialization. TYC describes the program, which it designed in 1995, as a “nationally recognized” way to “enhance personal accountability of delinquent youth and to give them the tools to become productive citizens.”

03/24/07: Perry: TYC board members became scapegoats
Gov. Rick Perry, in his first extensive public comments on the Texas Youth Commission crisis, offered support for his former appointees Friday, saying the Legislature should not have made board members overseeing the agency scapegoats and forced them to resign.

03/22/07: Penalties could stiffen for TYC convictions
Sexual abuse of a juvenile held in a state correctional facility would become a third-degree felony under a bill the Senate passed Thursday to tackle the Texas Youth Commission scandal.

03/22/07: DA denies failing to prosecute TYC cases
A West Texas prosecutor at the center of a scandal about sexual abuse allegations at a state-run juvenile jail has disputed contentions that his office has failed to prosecute felony cases.

3/21/07: 2 officials out as TYC shake-up begins
Two top officials at the Texas Youth Commission were swept out of their jobs Tuesday, the first casualties of a promised agency housecleaning in a growing scandal over physical and sexual abuse of juvenile prisoners.

3/21/07: DA in TYC area turned down most cases
The prosecutor who for nearly two years took no action on the graphic Texas Rangers report about sexual abuse at a West Texas juvenile prison declined to prosecute the vast majority of felony cases that came before him in that time, according to an Associated Press review of state court filings.

3/21/07: Perry TYC order questioned
A House committee looking into allegations of rampant abuse in youth prisons asked the attorney general’s office on Monday to determine whether Gov. Rick Perry had the authority to appoint a special master for the Texas Youth Commission.

3/20/07: $5M lawsuit filed in TYC scandal
The first major lawsuit was filed Monday in connection with the sex abuse scandal involving the Texas Youth Commission. The father of a young man once held at a TYC facility filed a $5 million lawsuit in federal court. Ricardo Luna filed a $5 million lawsuit Monday on behalf of his son. Ricardo Luna is suing the state on behalf of his son, who is now 21 years old.

3/18/07: TYC facilities ruled by fear
As lawmakers and the governor dismantle and investigate the scandal-wracked agency that runs the state’s juvenile prisons, bitter inmates and employees emerge with accounts of institutionalized vengeance.

3/17/07: TYC director outlines reforms
In revealing his plan to fix the TYC, executive director Ed Owens blamed the widespread sexual and physical abuse of inmates on insufficient staffing and the remote location of juvenile prisons that operate with hardly any oversight.

3/17/07: Inmate’s life structured, rough
A group of House Democrats and reporters toured the Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit west of Waco Friday to get a look at the building and speak with staff members about the sexual-abuse scandal facing the Texas Youth Commission system.

3/17/07: TYC board OKs rehab plan, then quits
The remaining Texas Youth Commission board members unanimously approved a rehabilitation plan and then resigned en masse Friday, turning all authority over to acting executive director Ed Owens.

3/17/07: TYC officer arrested for excessive force
A correctional officer at a Texas Youth Commission juvenile prison in West Texas has been arrested for allegedly using excessive force on a female inmate.

3/16/07: DOJ report criticizes TYC facility
The Justice Department said Thursday that conditions at a South Texas juvenile prison violate inmates’ constitutional rights because an undermanned staff wields unnecessary force, allows youths to fight each other and ignores their grievances, among other problems.

3/15/07: TYC board to quit
Gov. Rick Perry announced Wednesday that the board of the Texas Youth Commission will approve a plan to tackle the agency’s sexual abuse crisis this week and then resign. The announcement came just after lawmakers moved to fire all six members.

3/14/07: Former TYC employee arrested in sex assault case
A former Texas Youth Commission employee was arrested Wednesday on allegations he sexually assaulted an inmate at an adult prison where he worked before being hired by the TYC last year.

3/14/07: Senate panel advances bill to fire TYC board
The Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to fire all six current Texas Youth Commission board members, and lawmakers said they hope to bring the measure before the full Senate on Wednesday.

3/13/07: Complaints pour in to TYC abuse inquiry
The special master investigating allegations of abuse at Texas’ juvenile prison facilities said Monday his team has received close to 300 complaints � about 70 of them sexual in nature � since he was appointed by the governor this month.

3/13/07: Uprising at youth facility put down
A late-night uprising Monday at a Texas Youth Commission facility in San Saba forced authorities to use pepper spray to subdue close to 30 youth offenders, a spokesman for the agency said Tuesday.

3/13/07: Escaped TYC inmates captured
Two inmates discovered missing from a West Texas youth prison overnight were captured Monday in Eagle Pass after a woman saw them in a convenience store and thought they looked suspicious, authorities said.

3/11/07: Post has TYC investigator’s full attention
To fans, Jay Kimbrough, the new “special master” of the Texas Youth Commission, is an inspired choice to investigate an agency plagued by abuse allegations. The Dallas native is a bulldog of a man who takes hold of tough situations and doesn’t let go until he gets results, they say. To foes he is a dubious selection, a Republican attack dog who pushes ethical boundaries.

3/11/07: Man named to fix TYC failures is hailed
While politicians and investigators analyze how a sex abuse scandal occurred at the Texas Youth Commission, it’s up to Ed Owens to fix it. The selection of Mr. Owens as acting executive director, the man who will be responsible for correcting the failures Jay Kimbrough’s commission identifies, was greeted warmly around the state.

03/10/07: Sex offender hired by TYC says he informed interviewers
A convicted sex offender who was fired this week from his job at a West Texas youth prison said he told his employer of his background when he applied for the job. David Andrew Lewis, 23, was fired from the Texas Youth Commission’s Coke County Juvenile Justice Center when state investigators discovered he was a convicted sex offender. Mr. Lewis was fired by the GEO Group, a Florida-based private company that runs the all-male facility in Bronte, about 30 miles northeast of San Angelo.

03/10/07: TYC accused of deleting data
The Texas Youth Commission’s chief internal investigator was suspended Friday over allegations that he removed damaging information from a report on sexual abuse at a West Texas juvenile prison. Ray Worsham, director of youth care investigations for the agency, was suspended with pay, said Jay Kimbrough, special master overseeing an investigation of TYC.

03/09/07: Physical abuse rife at youth prisons
Records obtained by The Dallas Morning News under the Texas Public Information Act include accounts of guards striking handcuffed inmates, encouraging inmates to fight one another and standing idle while beatings occurred. In one case, a guard threatened to throw a handcuffed inmate off a roof.

03/09/07: Lawmakers lambaste TYC board for failing to act
Lawmakers chastised Texas Youth Commission board members Thursday for not taking allegations of sexual abuse more seriously and voted a near-unanimous “no confidence” in the panel, saying the “guardians of our children” had failed the state. The public tongue-lashing and nonbinding vote followed an angry and, at times, teary joint legislative committee meeting where elected officials demanded a vigorous and swift investigation and prosecution.

03/09/07: Accused TYC official lived with boy
A former Texas Youth Commission official accused of molesting incarcerated boys was living with a 16-year-old boy on prison grounds when officers searched his home for evidence of abuse, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

3/8/07: Sex offender fired as TYC guard
The state on Wednesday fired a West Texas juvenile justice guard it didn’t know until recently was a registered sex offender, the first termination in the far-reaching investigation into sexual abuse allegations in Texas’ youth prison system.

3/7/07: TYC sex allegations exceed 750
Juvenile inmates have filed more than 750 complaints of sexual misconduct against correctional officers and other TYC employees since January 2000, according to a compilation provided to The Dallas Morning News. The complaints range from the relatively benign – such as flirting or suggestive letters – to rape.

3/7/07: Extra officers sent to TYC facilities
Officials investigating allegations of sexual abuse against Texas’ youngest inmates said Tuesday that they have dispatched more than 70 law enforcement officers to two dozen juvenile facilities across the state – emergency triage to protect prisoners overseen by the embattled Texas Youth Commission. The announcement came after an emergency meeting of the Texas Youth Commission Board, where members appeared to be more tied up on deadlines and protocol than on the details of the investigation.

3/6/07: Sex assaults ignored
None of 13 confirmed sexual assaults last year by Texas Youth Commission staff on youngsters in their care were prosecuted, according to alarming statistics released Monday by state lawmakers. In addition, over the past six years, TYC officials reported 6,652 abuse and neglect cases to law enforcement officials, including 39 sexual assaults.

 

ERICH SCHLEGEL / DMN

Martina Carter, a former inmate at TYC’s Brownwood, Texas, facility,said she reported witnessing a guard having sex with an inmate in2003.

3/2/07: Sex abuse alleged at 2nd youth jail
As state officials move quickly to sweep TYC’s management clean – a result of the West Texas sexual abuse and subsequent cover-up – the scope of the scandal is expanding. On the floor of the state Senate this week, McAllen Democrat Juan Hinojosa briefly offered the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Facility in as proof that the West Texas affair “is not an isolated incident.”


03/01/07: Youth prison official ousted
Citing corruption and mismanagement, the governor and the state Senate on Wednesday began dismantling leadership of the troubled Texas Youth Commission. Gov. Rick Perry demoted the head of the juvenile justice agency’s board, Pete Alfaro, who then announced that he would resign.

 

MICHAEL AINSWORTH/DMN

A student does science coursework at the West Texas State School inPyote, Texas.

2/25/07: TYC worker cites backlash after reporting possible abuse
When Bill Hollis, a caseworker at a state juvenile prison in West Texas, reported possible staff misconduct with inmates to the executive director of the Texas Youth Commission in Austin, the reaction from agency management was quick and tough – against Mr. Hollis.


02/22/07: Youth jail sex inquiry revived
A West Texas district attorney said Monday that he’ll revive a long-stalled investigation of allegations that administrators molested inmates at a state juvenile prison. As he did so, a state senator called for a management housecleaning at the Texas Youth Commission, the state agency where officials ignored complaints about sexual abuse of young prisoners.

 

MICHAEL AINSWORTH/DMN

A youth rests near a dorm window at the West Texas State School, aTexas Youth Commission Facility.

02/18/07: Sex abuse reported at youth jail
According to official documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News, many prison staffers at the West Texas State School complained about possible sexual abuse of inmates to their immediate bosses and to Texas Youth Commission officials in Austin. But, for more than a year, no one in charge did anything to stop it.

EXTRAS

VIDEO/AUDIO

04/07/07: TYC inmates freed 04/01/07: Attack ended TYC guard’s career

03/17/07: Inmate describes conditions at Giddings facility

03/17/07: Former Crockett State School employees speak out

03/16/07: Officials, reporters tour Marlin TYC facility

03/09/07: Texas Youth Commission inmate describes assault

03/07/07: Joint Select Committee on Operation and Management of Texas Youth Commission

01/11/07: Former West Texas State School chief discusses allegations

2004 – 2006 : TYC Hearings

Audio : Accomplishments

Audio : Training

DOCUMENTS

07/29/07: GEO Group Inc.’s answers to The News‘ questions (.pdf)03/24/07: E-mails and letters sent to Gov. Perry regarding problems at TYC (.pdf)

03/16/07: State Auditor’s Office report on TYC operations and management

03/15/07: Department of Justice report on condtions at Evins Regional Juvenile Center (.pdf)

03/10/07: Portions removed from report on abuse at a West Texas prison (.pdf)

02/18/07: Texas Youth Commission report on West Texas State School investigation (.pdf)

02/18/07: Allegations of staff sexual conduct at TYC prisons (.pdf)

MAPS/GRAPHICS

Graphic: Mistreatments at TYC facilities
Graphic: Mistreatments at TYC contract facilities
Graphic: Texas private contracts around the nation
Timeline: Repeated warnings of TYC Abuse sent to governor’s office
Graphic: Allegations and outcomes (.pdf)
Graphic: Complaints at youth prisons (.pdf)
Map: Location of West Texas State School (.pdf)

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