Amid allegations of physical and sexual abuse of minors in the state’s juvenile lockups, the scandal-rocked Texas Juvenile Justice Department has had a massive leadership shakeup in recent months. Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded to see an action plan to address how kids at state lockups are treated – and now the head of the Juvenile Justice Department has submitted one.
Mike Ward of the Houston Chronicle says the recent stories of abuse in juvenile lockups are part of a much longer story.
“There was a scandal back almost a decade ago. The agency was completely overhauled. The top management was given their walking papers. In fact, the agency was renamed,” Ward says. “This latest series of recommendations mirrors a lot of the recommendations that have been made over and over again.”
Recommendations include requiring officers who work with children to wear body cameras, giving counties more resources, and more.
“They’re going to turn over what they call the checkpoints to the Office of Inspector General that’s going to put licensed police officers or licensed peace officers in there, rather than having juvenile correctional officers,” he says. “And they will redeploy those JCOs to supervision of the youth.”
Ward says the main focus is to get children out of remote lockups and into specialized programs – and juvenile justice advocates are saying they’re cautiously optimistic about the future of the department.
Written by Jen Rice.