The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has opened a statewide investigation into the conditions in the five secure juvenile correctional facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, according to officials.

The investigation will examine whether Texas 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.

The investigation will also examine whether Texas provides adequate mental health care, officials stated.

“Too often children held in juvenile detention facilities are subject to abuse and mistreatment, and deprived of their constitutional rights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. 

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all persons, including vulnerable young persons incarcerated in Texas Juvenile Justice Department secure facilities,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas. “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.”

“No matter who they are – or what they’ve done – our state’s kids deserve safe environments,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham of the Northern District of Texas. “We cannot expect juvenile offenders to thrive later in life if they emerge from confinement traumatized by sexual abuse, excessive force, or incessant isolation.”

The department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter.

The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

Both statutes give the department 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 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.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.

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