Advocates Demand Closure of Texas Youth Lockups After Sex Scandals

texas juvenile justice dept

A series of sexual misconduct cases has led to a call from campaigners for the closure of all secure facilities for young people run by the state.

Advocates from a wide range of groups pulled few punches in their demand for the closure of the controversial facilities.

The Texas Tribune reported the groups wrote a letter to Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus asking for the creation of a joint legislative committee to evaluate the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

The authors of the letter want the state to shut down its five youth lock-ups.

The call comes after The Dallas Morning News reported allegations of misconduct at the Gainesville State School.

The letter slammed the youth lockup model as “costly and defective.” The authors said closing the remaining facilities is the only answer.

The letter was cosigned by the directors of Texans Care for Children, Texas Appleseed, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The advocates point to longstanding problems with the system. The state’s juvenile justice system has been hit by sexual and physical abuse scandals dating back to the 1970s, according to the advocates’ letter.

The latest scandal follows the conviction of guard Samuel Wright, and the arrests of three women at the Gainesville facility about 75 miles north of Dallas.

Wright was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the summer for improper sexual activity with a youth at the facility, according to the memo. The three women were arrested within the past three months on allegations they were having sexual relationships with committed minors.

The memo shed light on a 2016 case in which a psychologist at the same lockup was suspended after emailing pornography to his work computer so as he could encourage a minor to masturbate in front of him, the Tribune reported.

Juvenile justice has come under close scrutiny in Texas in recent years. The legislature has considered bills to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 in line with many other states.

Although opponents of 17-year-olds being treated as adults have been unsuccessful to date, more legislation is likely in 2018.

The ongoing problems in juvenile lockups highlight why it’s vital to remain out of youth incarceration whenever possible. Hiring experienced Dallas criminal defense attorneys can help increase your odds of staying out of a lockup.

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.