Texas Juvenile Justice Department Houses More Youths Than It Can Afford

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By Becky FogelNovember 1, 2016 11:03 am

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The Texas Juvenile Justice Department says it’s housing more young people than it has the budget to serve – 15.5 percent more youths, to be exact. Agency officials also say three of the five detention facilities are short-staffed, and that has some advocates worried about who is being hired to work at these lockups.

Brandi Grissom of the Dallas Morning News took a look at a corrections officer in Gainesville, Texas, who was arrested last month on charges of sexually assaulting a young person in that facility.

“As we were learning more about this individual, we learned he had previously been a corrections officer at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – the adult prison system,” Grissom says. “And then he came later on to the juvenile justice system.”

This corrections officer, Samuel Wright, was hired in 2014 – and at some point after getting the job, the department learned Wright had been under investigation for violations of policy at his previous employer. But he was allowed to keep working there.

Juvenile justice advocates say this is evidence that the agency is cutting corners.

“They’re concerned primarily because what has happened at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department over the last few years is that lawmakers have cut the budget of the agency because the number of youths in the facility has been dropping precipitously,” Grissom says. “There’s been a reduction in the youth crime rate … but, for some unknown reason in the last year or so, the population of youths at these juvenile detention facilities have begun to increase again.”

Grissom says a spokesperson for the Juvenile Justice Department explained they take thorough background checks seriously. Since Wright’s arrest, investigators have learned of more allegations of abuse that could have started as early as December 2015.

Need to vote on Election Day but can’t drag your kids to the polls? The YMCA of Greater Houston is offering two hours of free childcare on Tuesday, Nov. 8Parents and guardians can register at their local YMCA.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry once endorsed Ted Cruz for president – but now it seems the U.S. senator has made Perry’s burn bookAccording to the Texas Tribune’s Abby LivingstonPerry is encouraging Austin-area congressman Michael McCaul to make a play for Cruz’s Senate seat.

“I think the thesis of this is less about Perry and less about McCaul, but that there is an actual behind-the-scenes effort in search of someone to challenge Ted Cruz,” Livingston says. 

Cruz is up for re-election in 2018.