Reports reporting excessive force, sexual misconduct, and the use of seclusion and pepper spray prompted the investigation into the treatment of incarcerated children.
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department said on Wednesday it was investigating juvenile prisons in Texas moreto allegations of physical violence, sexual abuse and other ill-treatment inflicted on children detained there.
The investigation, which will also examine the State use of isolation, and chemicals like pepper spray, is part of a larger effort to overhaul the criminal justice system and remedy conditions in prisons, a goal that in recent years years, enjoyed bipartisan support and was prosecuted by the Obama and Trump administrations before President Biden took office. And this follows other recent Justice Department investigations into adult penitentiaries in states such as Georgia and New Jersey.
"The conditions of detention and the conditions inside the establishments where young people are detained is a priority issue for the
" No children who have been sent to an establishment in Texas for treatment and rehabilitation should be subjected to violence and abuse, nor denied basic services, ”she said.
The department opens its investigations into functional facilities based on public documents, reports, social media posts and conversations with people involved in local prison systems that reveal cases of brutal violence and sexual abuse , neglect of the mentally ill and other serious irregularities.
Ms. Clarke said the Justice Department's investigation into Texas' five secure juvenile facilities came after at least 11 staff were arrested and acceded to it.used for sexually abusing children in their care, with an arrest just last week. Other staff reportedly shared pornography with children and paid them cash and drugs to assault their peers.
"There is also reports of excessive use of force by staff members. on children, including kicking, slapping and choking children until they pass out, ”Ms. Clarke said. She added that there was also an incident last February in which a staff member allegedly sprayed a child with pepper and placed him in full mechanical restraints, including handcuffs, a belly chain, chains and a spit mask, then hit it on a bed body. "
Ms. Clarke stated that the nomber of children and teens severely self-injuring in secure Texas facilities in 2019 more than doubled from the previous year and at least two possible suicides have been reported in recent years .
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department, which oversees one of the largest networks of juvenile prisons in the country, said it would cooperate fully with the investigation.
"We all share the same goals for young people in care: to ensure their safety, effective rehabilitation and the best possible chances for them to lead productive and fulfilling lives, "Camille Cain, general manager or department of Texas, said in a statement.
While the US department Justice and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, clashed over several high-profile issues, including the new state law banning almost all abortions, they both sought to solve the problems of state juvenile prisons.
In July, Mr.. Abbott called on the Texas Rangers , a
"Child welfare is a bipartisan issue, and this makes it possible to consider reforms in a politically
Texas Appleseed a worked with another group, Disability RightsTexas, on a complaint which detailed sexual assault, physical abuse and gang activity committed by staff in institutions, as well as chronic understaffing and inadequate mental health care.
Advocacy groups sent their complaint to the Department of Justice last fall, and Ms Merfish said that 'she was encouraged by the investigation and hoped it marked the start of real change.
"This is not a new problem in Texas, ”Ms. Merfish said.
Chad E. Meacham, the acting US attorney for the North Texas District, said many children are already traumatized when they enter. in texas crimina the system ofe justice.
Of the children who arrive at a girls' complex in her district, 86% have already survived domestic violence, parental drug addiction or mental illness, Meacham said. . About 63% of girls are immediately placed on suicide watch and over 90% are considered to be at risk of sexual exploitation, he said.
" We cannot wait for them. thrive when released if they come out of isolation after being traumatized by sexual abuse, excessive force, or relentless isolation, ”Mr. Meacham said.
Department of Justice investigation to focus on whether there is a pattern or practice of physical or sexual abuse of children in Texas facilities , and whether there is a pattern or practice of harm resulting from the excessive use ofchemical stresses like pepper spray, excessive use of isolation or a lack of adequate mental health services.
If investigators find evidence of violations, the department may demand reforms.
Last month the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the unconstitutional abuses prisoners in Georgia, motivated by allegations and videos of violence in institutions across the state and a prison riot that took place on social media.
The Department of Justice recently imposed reform plans on state prisons in Virginia and New Jersey.