Four correctional officers at a state youth lockup in North Texas are facing prison time after allegations of sexual misconduct with some of the juveniles housed there.
The allegations against the Gainesville State School officers come as the Texas Juvenile Justice Department faces a staffing shortage at their lockups statewide. A decade ago, a sexual assault scandal involving the abuse of more than a dozen boys created such a stir statewide that it led to reforms designed to prevent similar abuses, the likes of which we are hearing about now.
Brandi Grissom, a reporter at the Dallas Morning News, says one officer, arrested in September, claims to be pregnant with the child of a young offender. Another arrest was made in October after a fellow officer reported her behavior, and a conviction has been made against yet another officer. The agency expects another arrest to be made in the near future.
“What the agency is saying is that the fact that these individuals were caught and turned over to authorities indicate that the methods that they have put in place in order to catch people who are engaging in this kind of behavior, that they’re working,” Grissom says.
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department does not believe it is a systemic problem, though they have struggled with staffing shortages which they believe may contribute to the issue.
“Research has shown that youths who have been subject to trauma, who are involved in behavior, who have mental health problems – that they do better in facilities that are closer to their homes where they can be closer to families,” Grissom says.
Grissom says finding qualified staff to work in the facilities where the children are currently housed can be difficult due to its remote location.
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Written by Nahila Bonfiglio