Amidst allegations of physical misconduct, sexual abuse, and the excessive use of punishment, the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into some juvenile centers in Texas.
General Kristen Clarke, chief of the department’s Civil Rights Division, reports that five detention centers under the Texas Juvenile Justice Department are at the forefront of the investigation. The New York Times writes that pepper spray and “excessive isolation” were also allegedly used against the prisoners inside the centers.
The Department of Justice cited a few reasons why they decided to open the investigation against the prisons. They maintain that any person under investigation is innocent until proven guilty.
However, the Department of Justice found “significant justification to open the investigation.” Some of the key issues include the fact that “at least eleven facility staff members have been arrested for sexually abusing the children in their care,” the DOJ claims. The DOJ also accuses guards of bribery, excessive force, and utilizing pepper spray against the juveniles along the same lines.
Another concern leading to the launch of the investigation was the mental health deterioration of the youths housed in the juvenile halls. According to WFAA, in 2019, the number of “serious self-harm” incidents almost doubled from the years prior. The Department of Justice also says that two suicides occurred in the Texas facilities within the past “few years.”
In July, Governor Abbott himself sent state Rangers to investigate reported “illegal behavior” on behalf of the detention center staff.
Camille Cain, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department’s executive director, states that they will comply and assist with any federal investigation.
Cain told reporters on Wednesday, “We all share the same goals for the youth in our care: providing for their safety, their effective rehabilitation, and the best chance for them to lead productive, fulfilling lives. That has been the agency’s mission […] and it remains our constant focus.”