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Offline Deborah

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« on: March 26, 2007, 11:03:04 AM »
March 23, 2007, 8:19PM
TYC official arrested, accused of lying about abuse
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN - The superintendent of the Texas Youth Commission's intake facility in Marlin was arrested today, charged with falsely telling a Texas Ranger there were no sex abuse accusations at the unit.

Jerome Parsee is charged with making a false statement to a peace officer, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

Also today, officials announced a panel of community activists, prosecutors and juvenile prison officials will review the records of nearly all youth inmates to make sure their sentences haven't been extended unfairly.

Advocates for TYC inmates and their families have complained that sentences are often extended for capricious reasons or in retaliation for filing grievances.

TYC special master Jay Kimbrough said the panel will review the documentation on each inmate's sentencing extension and discuss whether the decision was just and appropriate.

The panel will make a suggestion to a retired judge, who will decide whether the inmate should be immediately released.

"I have no confidence in the integrity of that entire system,'' Kimbrough said.

TYC incarcerates about 4,700 offenders ages 10 to 21 who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic. Kimbrough said about nine in 10 of those offenders have had their sentences extended.

The Associated Press contributed to this report ... 56316.html
Friday?s announcement comes a week to the day after board members of the state's troubled youth prison system relinquished their power en masse.

The members of the Texas Youth Commission board acted after recommending a system-wide rehabilitation plan that calls for stricter inmate supervision and new procedures for reporting and investigating sex abuse allegations.

The TYC board turned over its power to acting executive director Ed Owens.

He was hired to overhaul an agency dogged by allegations that inmates were sexually and physically abused in facilities around the state.

Other TYC Facilitites

Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility (Beaumont, Texas), moderate security, houses 312 inmates.
Corsicana Residential Treatment Center (Corsicana, Texas), high security, specialty facility, houses 170 inmates.
Crockett State School (Crockett, Texas), moderate security, houses 265 inmates.
Evins Regional Juvenile Center (Edinburg, Texas), high security, houses 240 inmates.
Gainesville State School (Gainesville, Texas), fenced, maximum-security, houses 316 inmates.
Giddings State School (Giddings, Texas), high security, houses 380 inmates.
Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex Units I & II (Brownwood, Texas), high security.
Sheffield Boot Camp (Sheffield, Texas), military-style security, houses 128 inmates.
Victory Field Correctional Academy (Vernon, Texas), military-style security, houses 336 inmates.
West Texas State School (Pyote, Texas), high security,houses 250 inmates.

Halfway Houses
Ayres House (San Antonio), moderate security, houses 24 males.
Beto House, moderate security (McAllen, Texas), houses 24 males.
Cottrell House (Dallas), community-based, serves, males 16 to 21.
McFadden Ranch (Roanoke, Texas), moderate security, houses 48 males.
Schaeffer House (El Paso, Texas), medium restriction security, houses 24 males.
Edna Tamayo House (Harlingen, Texas), moderate security, houses 24 males.
Turman House (Austin, Texas), community-based, serves males from 16 to 21.
Willoughby House (Fort Worth, Texas), community-based, serves females from 14 to 21.
York House (Corpus Christi, Texas), community-based, serves males from 16 to 21.
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Offline Deborah

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2007, 11:21:32 AM »
Complaints Flood Texas Youth Hot Line
Published: March 26, 2007
AUSTIN, Tex., March 22 ? ?Investigations hot line,? said Brian Yasko, answering the phone at the Texas Youth Commission in a windowless command post that officers are calling ?the belly of the beast.?
Investigators at the Texas Youth Commission in Austin are reviewing files in more than 1,100 cases involving accusations of mistreatment.
Quickly, Mr. Yasko began scribbling down details of yet another complaint, this one from a mother who said her son at the San Saba State School, now called the John Shero State Juvenile Correctional Facility, had been threatened by a sexually deviant corrections officer.

Yes, said Mr. Yasko, an investigator for the inspector general of the state Department of Criminal Justice; she could remain anonymous. ?What I?ll do is send this out to the field and have investigators interview your son,? he promised.

Since a sexual abuse scandal at the Texas Youth Commission became public last month, prompting mass firings and resignations, more than 1,100 investigations have been opened into new accusations of rape and other mistreatment. At last count 282 cases had been closed without action.

Many of those complaints have been flooding into the makeshift situation room here staffed around the clock by employees of the inspector general?s office of the adult prison system and of the state attorney general?s office.

These officers, in turn, parcel out the cases to about 100 investigators from the two agencies and the Texas Rangers who are interviewing witnesses at 24 youth detention centers and scores of small contract facilities across Texas, where more than 4,000 youths ages 10 to 21 are serving sentences of at least nine months ? but almost always longer ? for criminal violations.

One of the centers is the West Texas State School in Pyote, where a Texas Ranger?s investigation in early 2005 substantiated accusations that two top supervisors had carried on sexual relationships with juveniles. Both later resigned but were never charged with a crime.

The case languished for almost two years in the Ward County district attorney?s office until news reports last month, and the resulting outcry prompted the part-time prosecutor, Randall Reynolds, who operates his own law business, to request assistance from the state attorney general. A grand jury has been hearing evidence.

?I imagine we have got their attention,? said John M. Moriarty, the inspector general for the prison system, who is running the hot line center and deploying investigators.

?Our thing is to get the police in there, enforce the law,? said Mr. Moriarty, a former police officer who grew up in the Bronx. ?There?s a new sheriff in town.?

Jay Kimbrough, named by Gov. Rick Perry as special master to overhaul the Youth Commission, also voiced determination in a separate interview. ?I?m sadder, and I?m madder than I was the day before,? said Mr. Kimbrough, a former deputy state attorney general.

In a commandeered office at the Youth Commission headquarters, eerily empty of senior staff members who were purged in the uproar, bulging cardboard files and intake boxes are marked ?New Cases,? ?Cases to Be Assigned,? ?For Review? and ?To Be Closed.?

Against the backdrop of a white board on which is scrawled a toll-free hot line number, and injunctions like ?Record Prank Calls on Log, Get Exact Time,? officers with holstered handguns fill the air with investigative crosstalk.

?When are you going to serve it??
?No, the Ranger has got to go.?
?We want to execute the warrant.?
?Tell him I want him to meet with the D.A. at 1, no matter what.?

Of the 1,100 complaints that have come in since March 6, an estimated 225 concern sexual abuse, said Capt. Bruce W. Toney of the inspector general?s office. Captain Toney described some others as trivial grievances, like complaints of ill-fitting shoes, ?I don?t agree with the teaching? and ?not letting me talk.? He said some accusations appeared to be fabricated, some were pranks. One complaint stemmed from 1981. In another case, he said, a mother claimed that her son had entered juvenile detention able to read and write, but came out illiterate.

In some cases, Mr. Moriarty said, criminal files are being opened on cases that the Youth Commission had disposed of with nothing more than administrative penalties. One such incident, he said, involved a corrections office at the Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Beaumont who used excessive force to get a child to release a mattress he was grabbing. The officer, Mr. Moriarity said, ?bit the child.?

A few Youth Commission employees, Mr. Moriarity said, were found to have histories as sex offenders. Job applicants now are subject to background checks with fingerprint searches, he said.

To sort out the complaints, the command center includes four polygraph experts. The inspector general?s office normally investigates complaints in the state?s 106 adult prisons. But a proposal to extend its jurisdiction to youth detention centers is among pending bills in the Texas Legislature that address the abuse of juvenile detainees ? now the leading issue of the session.

Among the bills are proposals by Representative Jerry Madden, a Republican from the Dallas area and chairman of the House corrections committee, to extend the attorney general?s jurisdiction and to give a special state criminal justice prosecutor concurrent jurisdiction with local district attorneys in cases of juvenile justice complaints. Currently, outside prosecutors are barred from entering a case unless invited in by the district attorney.

Apart from the investigations into the mistreatment of youths, many other proposals are under consideration. These include a plan for review panels to verify that juveniles are not being frivolously held beyond their minimum nine-month sentences.

Alternatives to incarceration are being explored, said Mr. Kimbrough, the special master. Meanwhile, at the command post, investigators who are reviewing old files forwarded another case for possible criminal prosecution, an accusation that a corrections officer at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood had carried on a romance with an 18-year-old girl and arranged to meet her for a tryst upon her release.

In a letter intercepted by investigators and now part of the case, the accused guard wrote, ?She sets my sole on fire.? ... tml?ref=us

TYC abuse dates back to 1999
By Michelle West
Violence and corruption detailed in documented complaints against the now embattled Texas Youth Commission date back to at least 1999.

Documents obtained by The Daily Texan through the Public Information Act reveal reports and letters describing an agency woefully dysfunctional and dangerous for those living and working in its facilities. The request returned 150 pages of correspondence dating back to President George W. Bush's governorship. These records, mostly handled by the office's constituent services, are documented communication between the governor's office and the commission and parents, youths and employees pleading for the state to intervene.
More here:
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Offline Deborah

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2007, 11:43:31 AM »
Embattled AG now accused in sex scandal 'cover-up'
Attorney General Gonzales among officials who allegedly ignored abuse of minor boys
Posted: March 25, 2007
9:49 p.m. Eastern
By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, both already under siege for other matters, are now being accused of failing to prosecute officers of the Texas Youth Commission after a Texas Ranger investigation documented that guards and administrators were sexually abusing the institution's minor boy inmates.

Among the charges in the Texas Ranger report were that administrators would rouse boys from their sleep for the purpose of conducting all-night sex parties.

Ray Brookins, one of the officials named in the report, was a Texas prison guard before being hired at the youth commission school. As a prison guard, Brookins had a history of disciplinary and petty criminal records dating back 21 years. He retained his job despite charges of using pornography on the job, including viewing nude photos of men and women on state computers.

The Texas Youth Comission controversy traces back to a criminal investigation conducted in 2005 by Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski. The investigation revealed key employees at the West Texas State School in Pyote, Texas, were systematically abusing youth inmates in their custody.

Burzynski presented his findings to the attorney general in Texas, to the U.S. Attorney Sutton, and to the Department of Justice civil rights division. From all three, Burzynski received no interest in prosecuting the alleged sexual offenses.

"This case demonstrates that a partisan political agenda, with Karl Rove in an orchestrating role, has penetrated the Justice Department and subverted fair-minded administration of the law," Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, told WND.

It's just the latest controversy for Sutton, Gonzales and the Bush administration's direction of the Justice Department. Earlier, Sutton's decisions to prosecute two Border Patrol agents and Deputy Sheriff Gil Hernandez were criticized as having been influenced by the intervention of the Mexican government.

Gonzales is under heavy congressional pressure in the controversy over the recent forced resignations of eight U.S. attorneys. At issue is whether the Bush administration is directing the Justice Department to pursue politically motivated prosecutions at the expense of fair or even-handed law enforcement.

In the Texas Youth Commission scandal, Texas Ranger official Burzynski received a July 28, 2005, letter from Bill Baumann, assistant U.S. attorney in Sutton's office, declining prosecution on the argument that under 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the government would have to demonstrate that the boys subjected to sexual abuse sustained "bodily injury."  :o Baumann wrote that, "As you know, our interviews of the victims revealed that none sustained 'bodily injury.'"

Baumann's letter continued, adding a definition of the phrase "bodily injury," as follows: "Federal courts have interpreted this phrase to include physical pain. None of the victims have claimed to have felt physical pain during the course of the sexual assaults which they described."  :o

Baumann's letter further suggested that insufficient evidence existed to prove the offenders in the Texas Youth Commission case had used force in their alleged acts of pedophilia: "A felony charge under 18 U.S.C. Section 242 can also be predicated on the commission of 'aggravated sexual abuse' or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse. The offense of aggravated sexual abuse is proven with evidence that the perpetrator knowingly caused his victim to engage in a sexual act (which can include contact between the mouth and penis) by using force against the victim or by threatening or placing the victim in fear that the victim (or any other person) will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury or kidnapping. I do not believe that sufficient evidence exists to support a charge that either Brookins or Hernandez used force to cause victims to engage in a sexual act."  :o

Baumann's letter went so far as to suggest that the victims may have willingly participated in, or even enjoyed, the acts of pedophilia involved: "As you know, consent is frequently an issue in sexual assault cases. Although none of the victims admit that they consented to the sexual contact, none resisted or voiced any objection to the conduct. Several of the victims suggested that they were simply 'getting off' on the school administrator."  :o Besides all the mumbo jumbo bullshit defenses, what happened to sex with a minor being illegal?

Baumann's letter also rejected Burzynski's charges that the administrators at the Texas Youth Commission facility in West Texas had used their position of authority to force the inmates to participate in the sexual acts or that the administrators had lengthened the sentences of the boys to retain willing participants or punish those reluctant to participate.

Baumann wrote: "In order for the government to be successful in a criminal prosecution, it would be essential for us to show that the victim was in fact victimized. Most of the victims were aware of the power that the school principal and assistant superintendent held over them, but none were able to describe retaliative acts committed by either the principal or assistant superintendent. Although it is apparent that many students were retained at West Texas State School long after their initial release date, it would be difficult to prove that either Mr. Brookins or Mr. Hernandez prevented their release."

On Sept. 27, 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division declined prosecution in a letter written to Lemuel Harrison, the Texas Youth Commission superintendent at the West Texas State School.

In that letter, Justice Department section chief Albert Moskowitz wrote that "evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes."

Angle maintains the decision not to prosecute was purely political.

"The U.S. attorney's office in Texas actually prepared indictments in this case," Angle told WND. "But when the word came from Washington, that's when Baumann wrote his letter declining prosecution. Sutton's office dropped the matter on the desk of the local district attorney, but nobody from Sutton's office said 'if you can?t go on this case, we'll help you out.'"

WND asked Angle to explain how politics drove the decisions not to prosecute.

"If you read the letters from Sutton's office or from DOJ, it's really amazing what abuse they describe and then downplay as not being serious," Angle explained. "They describe systematic and widespread abuse of juveniles who were held in these facilities by the people who were administering these facilities, and they acknowledge this fully, yet they determine that the evidence is not sufficient to warrant federal prosecution."  Just goes with the territory, huh? Part of their 'treatment' or punishment?

Angle explained to WND that he found both letters shocking.

"The letters justify not pursuing these cases because, number one, there is no evidence that any of these juveniles felt physical pain while they were being assaulted, and the letters use the word 'assaulted,'" he said. "And then also, they rejected prosecution because none of these juveniles stated in the investigations that they resisted and objected, which of course the facts of the report show to be the case. This case developed right in the middle of Governor Perry's 2006 re-election campaign. While Texas is a Republican state, and the Republicans expected to win, still at that time, Governor Perry was facing an election challenge from Carole Strayhorn, a third party candidate who was also a former Republican comptroller in Texas."

He continued: "I would speculate that the political powers in Texas and Washington in the Republican Party were not interested in this sex scandal coming to light. Sutton and Gonzales let their political responsibilities outstrip their legal responsibilities, and as a result you had children who were in danger of sexual abuse and were left in that danger."

Angle says that while the U.S. Justice Department and Texas attorney general's office were not prosecuting in this case, they were actively pursuing minor voter fraud issues with only a handful of allegations to go on.

On March 2, 2007, Governor Rick Perry appointed Jay Kimbrough, his former staff chief and homeland security director, to serve as "special master" to lead an investigation into the Texas Youth Commission sex abuse scandal.  :roll: Shortly thereafter, the commission stopped a hiring practice that had allowed convicted felons to work as administrators in the system. The practice had involved a requirement that prior criminal records be destroyed for employees hired by the commission.  :o

On March 17, 2007, the entire Texas Youth Commission governing board resigned.

The Texas Youth Commission is the state's juvenile corrections agency, charged "with the care, custody, rehabilitation, and reestablishment in society of Texas' most chronically delinquent or serious juvenile offenders." Inmates are felony-level offenders between the age of 10 and 17 when they are committed. The commission can maintain jurisdiction over offenders until their 21st birthdays.

The Lone Star Project is organized as a political research and policy analysis project of the Lone Star Fund, a federal political action committee organized in Texas. The Lone Star Project has aggressively investigated alleged political abuses within the Texas Republican Party, including playing a leading role in investigating the activities of former Rep. Tom DeLay in the redistricting controversy in Texas.

Bill Baumann was the lead prosecutor in another controversial case. In a case eerily reminiscent of the controversial jailing of Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos while the illegal-alien drug-smuggler they wounded went free, Texas Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez is imprisoned for a year for an altercation with illegal aliens. Baumann urged he get the maximum seven-year sentence. ... E_ID=54861
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Offline Deborah

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2007, 12:16:12 PM »

Battles stalling bills to fix Texas Youth Commission
March 25, 2007, 11:09PM
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN ? The problems at the Texas Youth Commission are easy to recognize, problems such as isolated facilities and poorly trained guards ? and not enough of them.

But so far the legislative battle to overhaul the troubled juvenile corrections system has been almost as massive as the problems they're trying to fix.

"We need to get past small disagreements because this is a big problem and the solution needs to come very quickly, and unfortunately it seems to be dragging a bit," said state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, the sponsor of one of the major TYC reform bills.

The first wide-ranging legislation meant to fix reported physical and sexual abuse problems at TYC is expected to emerge Tuesday from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

That bill, by Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, has been more than a year in the making ? growing out of a 2004 riot at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center ? and had its progress delayed by the infighting that erupted with the latest scandal.

"We need to fix the problem, period," Hinojosa said. "The finger-pointing just slows down the process."

But while there is a general agreement that a quick solution is needed, the devilish details have sparked one skirmish after another.

Who will preside?
The Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry have fought over whether a special master or a conservator should preside over the short-term repairs at the agency.
The House argued for almost three hours last week over whether crimes in TYC should be handled by local prosecutors, a special prosecutor or the special prosecutions unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In the end, the bill was sent back to the House Corrections Committee.

TYC acting Executive Director Ed Owens offered an agency rehabilitation plan, but Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire said it lacks "the urgency factor."

Legislators are proposing TYC guard-to-youth ratios of 1-to-12. Special Master Jay Kimbrough wants the ratio to be half that. It's not uncommon for there to be one corrections officer for every 24 youths.

'It's an issue of trust'
On Friday, Kimbrough unveiled a plan along with the Texas office of the American Civil Liberties Union to review the sentences of youth offenders who had their sentences extended by TYC authorities. Kimbrough wants to find out if students have been kept in the system for purposes of retaliation or intimidation.
"This doesn't take legislation. This just takes people sitting down, recognizing there's a problem and working together," Kimbrough said.

Things have not been that simple in the Legislature, though.

Many members have been upset that a sex abuse scandal brewed at the West Texas State School and none of them knew about it until it was reported in the news last month. There is evidence that members of Perry's staff knew no prosecutions were coming out of the case as early as June 2005.

"It's an issue of trust," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "This thing just smells bad. In the way it is being handled (by Perry's staff.) They're trying to give the appearance that they're doing something, but the undercurrent is they're trying to cover themselves."

Bills in motion
Perry dismisses such talk.
"This 'When did you know? When did you know it? Do you think someone should have done more?' is missing the point of how are we making progress to getting these kids the protections that they need, and that's exactly what is happening," Perry said.

"I am absolutely satisfied with his progress and hope the Legislature will continue to work with us to put safeguards into place and not spend any more legislative time standing in a circle pointing to the left and saying, 'It's his fault,'" he said.

At present, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and the House Corrections Committee are working on bills to overhaul TYC. And a special joint committee is investigating how the problems at the youth agency got so bad.

Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, is on the special joint committee. He said the group is not doing enough and should be hearing from FBI agents who investigated allegations of sexual misconduct at the West Texas State School.

Harris said he wants to know what happened to child support payments that were collected by TYC. And he wants to know why the agency has not moved immediately to separate 11- and 12-year-old offenders from those 18 to 20 years old.

"I don't understand why we're not being aggressive, and I'm frustrated with it," Harris said. "I don't think we're digging hard enough for the truth."

Ideas for change

Major elements of Texas Youth Commission reform legislation:
?Inspector generals at TYC will be licensed law officers.
?Results of all investigations will be reported to state leaders.
?Create an ombudsman to review complaints by youths, staff or families.
?No child may be sent to TYC for a misdemeanor.
?Create a nine-member commission to study making TYC a regional system.
?Increase training of juvenile corrections officers from 80 hours to 300 hours before they begin working at a facility.
?Require staffing levels of one JCO for every 12 students. Currently it is one to 24.
?Require that JCOs be at least three years older than the youths they are supervising. Currently 18-year-old JCOs can guard 20-year-old incarcerated youths.
?Give advocacy and support groups access to the incarcerated youths.
?Parent's Bill of Rights on how to advocate for their child in the system.
?Give juvenile courts sole power to extend a youth's stay in TYC. The TYC staff currently decides when a youth may be released.
?Transfer all youth age 19 and older to the adult prison system. That transfer does not occur now until the youth is 21.
?Allow local district attorneys to request assistance from the special prosecutions unit of the adult prison system to try cases of crimes that occur in TYC.
?Give the Texas attorney general concurrent jurisdiction to investigate crimes against individuals in the custody of TYC.

Source: Senate Bill 103

Peggy Fikac contributed to this report.

[email protected]
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Hidden Lake Academy, after operating 12 years unlicensed will now be monitored by the state. Access information on the Federal Class Action lawsuit against HLA here:

Offline hanzomon4

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Related Story
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2007, 01:32:10 AM »
AP - Texas girl has been in jail for more than a year for shoving teacher?s aide

"DALLAS - A teenager has been jailed for more than a year for shoving a teacher's aide at her high school, sparking anger and heightening racial tensions in rural East Texas.

Shaquandra Cotton, now 15, claims the teacher's aide pushed her first and would not let her enter school before the morning bell in 2005. A jury convicted her in March 2006 on a felony count of shoving a public servant, who was not seriously injured.

The girl is in the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex in Brownwood, about 300 miles from her home in Paris. The facility is part of an embattled juvenile system that is the subject of state and federal investigations into allegations that staff members physically and sexually abused inmates. - More
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline hanzomon4

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One down more to go.....
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2007, 07:38:56 PM »
[She's to be released!!!]

"By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

AUSTIN – The newly appointed conservator of the Texas Youth Commission will release a 15-year-old girl from a high security juvenile prison Saturday, making her the first of what could be hundreds of kids set free as part of an agency overhaul.
 Shaquanda Cotton has been in the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood for nearly a year for pushing a hall monitor at her school in 2005. Her case drew nationwide attention and prompted courthouse protests in her hometown of Paris, as some accused local officials of racism for dealing out a potentially long sentence to a black girl with no arrest record.

Also, her sentence was extended after corrections officers found she had an extra pair of socks and a cup – items that are considered contraband. Lawmakers and other critics of TYC, the agency embroiled in a sexual and physical abuse scandal, said that showed the capriciousness of sentencing within the juvenile justice system.
 Several lawmakers were told Friday of the impending release, and an aide to Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, confirmed the decision.
 Agency conservator Jay Kimbrough has vowed to have an independent panel review each sentence that was extended by the agency and free any youth who doesn't belong in a juvenile prison.
 "It was the right thing to do," said Sharon Reynerson, an attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid who has represented Shaquanda during her grievance and mediation process with the Paris school district. "The sentence was too harsh for the crime and she's been there too long. It's having an adverse psychological effect on her."
 Shaquanda's case has made headlines over accusations of unequal justice. Though she was sent to TYC for pushing a teacher, the same judge gave a white 14-year-old probation after she burned her family's house down.
 And there are questions of retribution: Before the allegations against Shaquanda, her mother had complained to the U.S. Department of Education that the Paris school district was unfairly disciplining black students.
 Shaquanda had had some behavioral problems, but no arrests on her record. And the 58-year-old teacher's aide who reported being shoved wasn't seriously injured. But Shaquanda was convicted of assaulting a public servant and sentenced to TYC with an indeterminate sentence: up to seven years.
 She was transferred to the Brownwood facility, the same youth prison where allegations have surfaced that a guard repeatedly gave drugs and candy to at least three girls, one as young as 15, in exchange for sex. The guard, Allen James Sullivan, resigned in 2005. " - LINK]

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline Deborah

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2007, 01:05:36 AM »
Yeh, heard this on the radio today.  ::cheers:: When I think of Paris, Tx/ Lamar Co, I think of this video on racism and rampant fear.
Select #1- A Brief History of America
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
Hidden Lake Academy, after operating 12 years unlicensed will now be monitored by the state. Access information on the Federal Class Action lawsuit against HLA here:

Offline hanzomon4

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2007, 02:47:52 PM »
Texas' youth jail operators have troubled histories
By HOLLY BECKA and JENNIFER LaFLEUR / The Dallas Morning News

Robert Schulze was scared. He threatened to harm himself unless he was moved to another youth prison location. He lost 23 pounds in two months.

None of that raised concerns at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, a sprawling private youth prison in West Texas run by the GEO Group Inc. Nurses there never gave Robert his prescribed antidepressants, and prison officials never put the 19-year-old inmate on suicide watch.

Ten days later, he hanged himself from the top bunk of his solitary cell.

Texas Youth Commission investigators presented a grim report on the prison's failings to Gov. Rick Perry and other state officials in February. They could have discovered even more disturbing details had they looked beyond Texas' borders.

A three-month Dallas Morning News investigation found that private contractors housing juvenile inmates in Texas repeatedly have lost contracts or shuttered operations in other states after investigators uncovered mismanagement, neglect and physical and sexual abuse.

In Colorado, a suicide finally prompted state officials to close a private youth prison that investigators said was plagued by violence and sexual abuse. In Arkansas, former employees of a private juvenile facility said inmates were shackled and left naked on the ground in sleeping bags. And in Michigan, a private contractor was sued for allegedly allowing mentally ill inmates to languish in solitary confinement.

 Last year, TYC spent nearly $17 million of its $249 million budget to do business with these and other private contractors. The agency houses about 450 young inmates with 13 private operators.

Legislative reforms passed in the wake of the TYC sex abuse scandal largely overlooked private contractors and focused instead on agency-run prisons.

"They are a much under-examined problem in the TYC system," said Scott Medlock, a prisoners' rights attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which has filed a class-action lawsuit against TYC alleging widespread inmate abuse.

The News focused its investigation on three private contractors with the largest number of TYC inmates and high numbers of complaints – GEO Group, Cornerstone Programs Corp. and Associated Marine Institutes.

Those contractors have been dogged by problems in Texas strikingly similar to what led officials in other states to take action. Such problems include difficulties in attracting qualified employees, high turnover rates and inadequate care for inmates – sometimes with tragic consequences.

States that hire contractors with poor performance records "obviously have a very low regard for our children," said [Booo!!]Isabelle Zehnder[Booo!!!], director of the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse, a child advocacy organization in Washington state. "They're letting money or circumstances stand above children."

 Many states use private companies to run adult and juvenile prisons. Contractors argue they are more innovative and can do the job cheaper. Texas' three largest private contractors acknowledge having some problems in the past, but insist they run good programs that help juvenile inmates. "No correctional facility, public or private, is immune to incidents that are inherent in the management of offender populations," said GEO spokesman Pablo Paez.

But Michele Deitch, an expert on prison privatization at the University of Texas at Austin, said research showed that privatization did not save money and that "private facilities tend to have many more problems in performance, such as higher levels of assaults, escapes, idleness."

TYC officials said they were reviewing the agency's policies on contractors but could not comment about changes under consideration. However, just days after detailed questioning by The News, TYC canceled bid requests for new contract facilities. Bidders included contractors currently operating facilities in Texas that had a history of problems in other states.
The vetting process

TYC first turned to contractors in 1974 to relieve overcrowding. Contract care facilities vary from group homes to large prisons, and over the years contractors have come to provide specialized services not available at TYC prisons, such as care for pregnant inmates.

TYC's executive director makes the final decision to hire a private contractor after a five-phase review process that includes checks on the contractor's ability to provide adequate medical care and educational and behavioral treatment.

Companies with contracts terminated in the last year "for deficiencies in performance" anywhere in the country are ineligible to bid. And, under a new policy enacted in March as the TYC sex abuse scandal unfolded, the agency reserved the right to declare ineligible bidders with canceled contracts in the last three years.

"We ask for contracts [canceled] within 36 months, because this provides us with additional information that might be important – [such as] funding, or lack of funding," said Mark Higdon, TYC's business manager for contract programs. "It might not be performance. It might be something else, and we can look at that also."

While a contract cancellation would clearly be a red flag for TYC, there are many loopholes through which worrisome contractors can pass.

Arkansas officials, for example, let an agreement with Associated Marine Institutes expire after an audit found the contractor had mismanaged its billing and failed to provide proper services to young inmates. Elsewhere, companies have negotiated deals allowing them to withdraw from their contracts, or simply shut down after states have removed youth from their facilities.

Neither of these would constitute a terminated contract as defined by Texas.

Critics say that TYC requires private contractors to provide less background information when bidding than it should. For example, TYC does not request major incident reports or disclosure of lawsuits against contractors, nor does it do any independent research.

In Florida, by contrast, companies must list and explain any "correctional facility disturbances" – major incidents, such as escapes or deaths – in any of the company's prisons. Such disturbances may be the result of inadequate staffing, poor training or other factors and raise warnings about a company's practices.

TYC should require contractors to provide all incident reports, said Ms. Deitch, a lawyer with 20 years' experience in criminal justice policy issues.

"It is absolutely important that the contracting agency has this kind of background info," she said. "If problems occur, there can be liability concerns for the state agency, and the costs of dealing with the problems can far exceed any savings from going with a low-cost contractor."

Elizabeth Lee, the new acting coordinator for TYC contract care, acknowledged the agency has no "established process for collecting information" on how its contractors performed in other states. The important thing to consider, she said, is what they're doing in Texas "and what we're doing to monitor the care of our kids."

Correcting contractors

TYC regularly reviews contract facilities. It checks program areas, such as staffing and security, at least once a year. It also uses statistical information, such as rates of confirmed mistreatment and the number of escapes, to evaluate operators. TYC quality assurance monitors also make at least two unannounced visits per year.

If a facility has significant problems, it is put on a corrective action plan, which outlines improvements and deadlines for them.

The Coke County youth prison, for example, was placed on a corrective action plan in February after Robert Schulze's suicide. The plan required Coke to improve staffing and procedures in solitary confinement. Records show that Coke was also placed on a corrective action plan in July 2006 for deficiencies in case management, which includes inmate monitoring and record keeping.

Earlier this month, TYC monitors visited WINGS for Life in Marion, just outside San Antonio, which houses female inmates and their babies, to follow up on a corrective action plan necessitated by deficiencies in staff training and documentation.

"If a facility fails any critical measure, we have to come back and check it," said Jim Humphrey, the TYC quality assurance supervisor for WINGS.

TYC has the authority to fine contractors for problems, but it has never done so in 33 years of outsourcing, officials said.

"If it comes to that, we would just stop the contract," said Paula Morelock, who recently retired after 17 years as TYC's contract care coordinator.

But it rarely does that.

The News could find only a few instances of TYC not renewing contracts because of poor performance. TYC is required to retain contractor records for only a few years, so a full review of the program was not possible.

In 2001, TYC terminated its contract with FIRST Program of Texas in Longview after repeated problems. One young woman said that when she was at FIRST, it had chronic staff shortages.

"A lot of stuff took place that shouldn't have," said Michelle, a 22-year-old who asked that only her first name be used. "There were lots of problems ... like staff having sex with the youth there and improper restraints and lack of supervision."

In 2004, TYC removed its youth from the Hemphill County Juvenile Facility, then run by Correctional Services Corp., a former state contractor, because of "grave concerns for the safety of youth."

The move followed a December 2003 complaint signed by about 30 inmates. Still, an agency review conducted shortly after the letter was sent gave the facility "above average" scores on all performance measures.

The facility was later placed on a corrective action plan. A February 2004 update from TYC staff to Ms. Morelock said: "Although they have not completed all items, the team does believe that youth are safe and that the program is stable."

But staffing shortages followed, and in June 2004, TYC removed its youth from the facility.

"We feel like we do a lot of good monitoring and do our very best to ensure that the youth receive quality services," Ms. Morelock said.

When contracts expire, TYC determines whether the facility met the terms of its agreement. The contractor completes a renewal packet, and then youth commission officials visit the facility to determine whether to extend the contract for another two years.

More often than not, Ms. Morelock said, contracts are renewed.

Critics say that TYC needs to change its policy and open the process to outside bidders each time a contract comes up for renewal.

A question of oversight

TYC already has come under fire for lax employment guidelines that allowed contractors to hire convicted felons or even sex offenders. A Texas state auditor report in March urged TYC to ban contractors from hiring employees with convictions and to require background checks of applicants.

Even with background checks, some workers with criminal records have slipped through.

A registered sex offender employed by the GEO-run Coke County Juvenile Justice Center was fired in March. Ms. Morelock said the facility told TYC that it ran a background check on the worker, but his criminal records did not turn up. GEO said the correctional officer's prior record was not uncovered because juvenile records in Texas are sealed. [See for further GEO comment.]

The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, which licenses county facilities, found the Garza County Regional Juvenile Center in Post out of compliance last year because it failed to do criminal background checks on employees before they were hired.

In a unique arrangement, TYC contracts with the county, which in turn hired a private operator, Colorado-based Cornerstone Programs, to run the Garza facility.

TYC relied on the county to vet the contractor's background, Ms. Morelock said. A Garza County official said he did not know what, if any, backgrounding of Cornerstone had been done.

It's impossible to know whether other employees of private contract facilities have criminal records because, unlike workers at state-run facilities, their names are not public information.

"The fact that [these] facilities are private simply adds one more layer of opaqueness to the process," said Ms. Deitch, the UT adjunct professor.

A few of the TYC legislative reforms will carry over to private operators. Their guards' training hours must match that of TYC employees, their younger inmates must be separated from older ones, and contractors must now conduct fingerprint background checks on all employees and volunteers in contact with youth.

"Some of the contractors were already doing that [fingerprinting], but just as a safeguard we're putting it in the contract that they all have to do it now," said the TYC's Ms. Lee.

TYC officials say the most valuable part of the agency's monitoring is staff visits to facilities.

"They're looking at grievances, they're talking to kids, they're talking to staff and they're reviewing incident reports," Ms. Lee said.

In general, though, TYC relies heavily on its contractors to police themselves.

Contractors are required to forward inmate abuse allegations, although agency monitors have raised concerns that not all make it to TYC.

Contractors also must report serious incidents to local law enforcement, but TYC reviews found facilities that failed to do so.

Critics of privatized juvenile care think more state oversight is necessary.

"Child welfare and juvenile justice systems have both a legal and moral obligation to protect kids from harm, which means they have a responsibility to exercise due diligence when it comes to placing youths in certain types of facilities," said Dr. Ronald Davidson, a university psychologist frequently hired by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to review juvenile care.

"Whether we look at this situation in terms of public policy or simple morality, the question we have to ask is whether our society ought to be in the business of funding gulags for children."
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline hanzomon4

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2007, 02:56:20 PM »
GEO Group's facilities were closed in Louisiana, Michigan
By HOLLY BECKA / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

The Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, run by the GEO Group Inc., is Texas' largest private juvenile prison and has had the highest rate of alleged abuse among TYC's contractors over the last seven years.

 The Florida-based GEO has renewed, extended or renegotiated its contract with the Texas Youth Commission at least seven times since it first won the contract to run the Coke facility in June 1994. During that time, at least two other states have closed their GEO-run juvenile facilities because of inadequate care of inmates and abuse allegations.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2000, when it was known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., alleging that juveniles at the company's Louisiana facility were subjected to excessive abuse and neglect. Wackenhut agreed to a settlement that provided for sweeping changes to Louisiana's juvenile justice system and required the company to move all juveniles from its facility. The former security chief pleaded guilty in 2001 to beating a 17-year-old handcuffed inmate with a mop handle.

In October 2005, Michigan closed the state's private youth prison run by GEO after an advocacy group sued the prison over inadequate inmate care. Budget shortfalls also played into the prison's closure.

Tom Masseau, director of government and media relations for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service Inc., said his watchdog group found juvenile inmates who needed special education but were not receiving it and inmates who were not receiving appropriate mental health care. The prison also managed problem juveniles by putting them in solitary confinement, he said.

Mr. Masseau said his group tried to work with GEO and the state before filing a lawsuit, but the problems remained unsolved and inmates faced reprisals.

"The youth would report back that they were retaliated against for meeting with us," Mr. Masseau said. "We said enough is enough."

The group's lawsuit against the state is pending, but GEO was dropped as a defendant because it closed the facility and left the state. GEO sued the state for alleged wrongful termination of the lease agreement, which is also pending.

TYC accolades

In 1999, TYC named GEO's Coke County operation its "contract facility of the year." The same year, former female inmates filed several federal civil rights lawsuits alleging they were sexually abused by Coke employees. (TYC had moved all girls from the facility a year earlier.)

The lawsuits – which eventually resulted in confidential settlements – were filed four years after TYC confirmed allegations that some staff members coerced girls into performing sexual acts or dancing naked, according to a court document and a report by Michele Deitch, a prison privatization expert at the University of Texas, and others.

"Given GEO's track record generally and the general record of these for-profit private prison companies, I have serious concerns about them running any correctional institutions ... especially when such egregious wrongdoing was going on," Scott Medlock, an attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said.

The Coke County facility routinely hired unqualified workers, said Isela Gutierrez, juvenile justice initiative director at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Former Coke County guard John Christman, who now lives in New York, said he witnessed that problem firsthand.

He worked there for nearly a year and said he initially loved it. But he eventually grew frustrated with the company's poor hiring standards and staff shortages. The company met its guard-to-inmate ratios by making employees work extra shifts, he said.

"I was working five, six days a week, 12-hour days, overtime," Mr. Christman said. "It's hard to get people to go into that line of work."

He quit his post but returned about 18 months later, in 2001, after he heard that working conditions had improved. Unfortunately, he said, not much had changed and he left shortly thereafter.

TYC again named Coke County contract facility of the year in 2005. And, during the past seven years, TYC quality-assurance monitors have awarded it mostly good scores on planned and unplanned inspections there.

But some recent problems were reported: During an unscheduled visit in April, a TYC monitor discovered that a staff member had falsified an accusation against an inmate.

The young man was put in solitary confinement on April 16. Two days later – on the morning of the unannounced visit – his paperwork already noted that he'd committed an infraction that would extend his stay in solitary confinement.

"This was alarming because it was only 9:30 a.m. and the incident had not occurred yet," the monitor reported.

The TYC monitor notified the warden, who released the inmate from solitary and told the security director "that writing incident reports prior to the incident was not allowed," the report said.

Suicide inquiry

TYC's investigation into Robert Schulze's suicide offers a bleak picture of the facility. "Robert's cries for help – to be assigned to a dorm where he felt safe or to be transferred to Gainesville State School – were never adequately addressed," a February 2007 report noted.

A guard promptly turned in Robert's note in which he threatened to harm himself unless his dorm assignment was changed. Robert then asked to go to solitary confinement because he felt unsafe, but he was not put on suicide watch.

He stayed in solitary confinement for nine days, refusing to return to his dorm because of safety concerns. His case manager made only one documented visit with him during that period.

He was not given prescribed medication during his time at Coke and lost 23 pounds in two months. No one checked his food intake. None of that was brought to the doctor's attention, and a medical review was never conducted, the TYC investigation revealed.

The nursing staff also "failed to discover three original prescriptions for antidepressants and a mood stabilizer that had been prescribed by a consulting psychiatrist ... on July 28," TYC later reported.

Eight days before Robert hanged himself on Sept. 28, 2006, "he filed a TYC complaint form stating that he makes self-referrals to ... [solitary confinement] to get away from harm and people who threaten him," TYC said in its report.

It's not clear anyone saw the complaint before his death. "The form got lost in a stack of mail on the TYC staff member's desk," the investigative report said.

TYC's investigation found that Coke County's solitary cell unit had only one staffer on the floor – in violation of the required two guards – at the time of the hanging. The one guard on duty failed to make contact with each inmate every 10 minutes, as required.

For more than an hour, no one checked on the despondent inmate. After Robert's dinner tray arrived, it sat for 28 minutes before the guard took it to his cell and discovered him unresponsive.

The guard was disciplined with training and five days of unpaid suspension. TYC put the facility on a corrective action plan, which required it to improve the deficiencies that contributed to Robert's death.

GEO spokesman Pablo Paez said the company strives to provide high-quality service and conducts thorough reviews after any serious incident to determine "what corrective actions, if any, can be taken."

An attorney for the family of the 19-year-old said they had no comment.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline hanzomon4

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2007, 02:58:34 PM »
Firm's leaders linked to problems
By JENNIFER LaFLEUR / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]

Executives of the Colorado-based Cornerstone Programs Corp., which manages the Garza County Regional Juvenile Center in West Texas, have a history of involvement in troubled juvenile facilities in other states.

Cornerstone closed its Swan Valley Youth Academy in 2006 after a Montana State Department of Public Health and Human Services investigation found 19 violations, including neglect and failure to report child abuse and an attempted suicide.

"Intake process was particularly harmful to youth, and many have been made to vomit due to excessive exercise and drinking large amounts of water," Montana officials wrote in their findings.

 According to Montana officials, the state and Cornerstone had developed a corrective plan to keep the facility open.

"There was a number of charges of abuse filed against the director of the program and the second in charge," said Cornerstone chief executive Joseph Newman. The bad press hurt business and so it closed, he said.

Mr. Newman said state officials later cleared them of all the abuse charges, but Montana officials said they had no record of that.

In Texas, Cornerstone's Garza facility has been put under corrective action plans to improve staff training, documenting grievances and group therapy sessions. But the company has hired a new director and added new staff to Garza, which it began managing in 2003.

In 2005, a 17-year-old inmate at the facility became paralyzed after falling on his head in an attempt to do a back flip off a table. A lawsuit by his family against the facility, settled in 2006, alleged that a guard not only failed to prevent the stunt, but challenged the youth to attempt it. The officer was fired after the incident.

The Garza County facility consistently has received positive reviews by the Texas Youth Commission. "The Garza County Regional Juvenile Center is an exemplary program," a TYC monitor wrote in the facility's 2006 contract renewal evaluation – the same year Swan Valley closed.

Cornerstone was founded in October 1998 by Mr. Newman and board chairman Jane O'Shaughnessy, about six months after another company they operated ran into trouble in Colorado.

That other company, called Rebound, operated the High Plains Youth Center in Brush, Colo., which housed juvenile offenders from around the country.

In December 1995, a University of Illinois at Chicago psychologist hired by the state's Department of Children and Family Services issued a damning report on High Plains, and the agency later began removing its youth from the juvenile prison.

"Unit staffing practices appear to be a numbers game where management attempts to balance the competing pressures of safety and profit," wrote Dr. Ronald Davidson, a faculty member in the university's psychiatry department. The facility also had a "consistent and disturbing pattern of violence, sexual abuse, clinical malpractice and administrative incompetence at every level of the program."

A Human Rights Watch report later found that High Plains "fell short of reasonable, even minimal, performance."

Colorado officials closed High Plains in 1998 after a 13-year-old inmate from Utah committed suicide and a state investigation found widespread problems with physical and sexual abuse.

State officials also had uncovered problems at other Rebound facilities in Colorado.

Rebound's nonprofit Adventures in Change program did not meet requirements to be licensed for drug and alcohol treatment nor meet "acceptable standards for habitation," according to a 1996 state audit.

Auditors said the services, such as education, family counseling, vocational training and employment, "are not routinely provided."

In his resignation letter as the facility's clinical coordinator, Paul Schmitz wrote: "This is no longer a professional treatment environment ... and is not supported by the company as such."

In 1997, Florida officials severed the state's contract with Rebound to operate the Cypress Creek juvenile detention facility after repeated problems, including reports of disturbances that led to the arrests of several inmates for inciting a riot.

Rebound also had operated in Maryland, where it ran the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School briefly in the early 1990s. Mr. Newman was the deputy secretary of Maryland's Department of Juvenile Services from 1992 to 1994, according to the state. He joined Rebound in 1995.

The Hickey contract ended in 1993 after dozens of escapes, cases of alleged abuse and other policy violations.

Dr. Davidson, the Illinois psychologist, said the past performance of Cornerstone and Rebound should raise concerns.

"Anyone who had bothered to check the record of this corporation in Colorado and Florida and Maryland ... would have easily discovered a troubling history of incompetence and fecklessness," he said.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline Anne Bonney

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2007, 03:13:42 PM »
This GEO Group is horrific!  Google them with Sembler, DFAF and the rest and see what you find.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
traight, St. Pete, early 80s
AA is a cult

The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents-- because they have a tame child-creature in their house.  ~~  Frank Zappa

Offline hanzomon4

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2007, 03:25:27 PM »
I found this story from 2000 on the GEO group,

Locked Inside A Nightmare

When 14-year-old Sara Lowe was arrested, her parents thought it was a blessing. They thought she was going to a new kind of juvenile detention facility - a private prison offering counseling that could turn her life around.

Many parents cling to the hope of rehabilitation. For Sara and others that hope was offered by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. And Wackenhut is the leader of a trend in America putting prisons in the hands of private companies. Wackenhut says it can run the prisons for less money than a state can - and provide better rehabilitation.

But for Wackenhut, running prisons for profit has sometimes turned out to be much more difficult and dangerous than promised. There were great hopes for Sara and other kids, when they were sent away. But no one knew what they were really experiencing. Scott Pelley reports.There was nothing in Sara's life that hinted at the storm that was coming. She grew up in Nebraska, amid a loving family. But according to her mother Gayle Lowe, Sara had a hard time adjusting after the family moved to Texas.

The more that her parents tried to discipline her the more rebellious she became, Gayle Lowe says. One day, during a heated argument over discipline, Sara lost control and attacked her mother.

Desperate, the Lowes knew Sara needed professional help. A judge sentenced Sara to six months of detention, and the family was actually relieved because a probation officer said Sara would get intensive counseling at a new private prison: Wackenhut's Coke County Juvenile Justice Center.

"(The probation officer) told me all the staff was very qualified," Gayle Lowe remembers. "They would all have bachelor's degrees in either juvenile justice or psychology, child psychology. It just sounded wonderful."

The center was also expensive: Texas was paying Wackenhut $118 per girl per day, because of the high level of counseling and education.

But Sara didn't find the promised counseling at the Coke County facility. Some counseling sessions were being run by the guards. It didn't seem there was much concern for the education of the girls either; Sara was promoted through three grades of high school in just six months. Even worse, Wackenhut's all-girl prison was mostly staffed by men.

Sara eventually told her sister, Jenny, that one of the guards raped her almost every night. "He would take her in the next cell and molest her every night," Jenny says. "She was in fear for (her) life, because he would tell her, 'I will, I'm going to kill your sister and your mom if you tell anybody.'"

In time, Sara's mother found out. The Lowes filed suit against Wackenhut, alleging widespread, systematic sexual assault of the girls in the Texas detention center. The suit would launch an investigation, pitting the story of a deeply troubled teen-age girl against a $2 billion company.

With 55 prisons all over the world, inluding ones in Texas, Florida, Michigan, New York and California, Wackenhut describes itself as a "model of correctional management."

The company has experienced problems in other prisons besides its Coke County facility. In 1998, while the Lowes' charges were being investigated, Wackenhut opened the Jena Juvenile Justice Center for Boys in Louisiana.

"Jena was designed to be a model correctional facility for young people," says Mark Doherty, a New Orleans judge, who had been relieved to finally have a place to send kids who desperately needed help. "Specifically they were to have a first-rate substance abuse treatment program with trained substance-abuse counselors."

Penny Guidry was sure the Jena Center would help her son Dale Ortego. Three years ago, Ortego, then 17, had a problem with marijuana.

"The judge knew that Dale's problems revolved around this drug use," Guidry says. "So she ordered him to be sent to this facility because they were supposed to have a really good drug rehab program." Guidry hoped her son would be sent to Jena, she says.

Ortego went to Jena for six months in 1999. As an inmate, he worked as a clerk in the warden's office. Inside Jena, Ortego didn't find the promised drug counseling. Instead several Wackenhut employees were pushing drugs and sex in the cell blocks, he says. He saw guards smoking marijuana with inmates, and some guards had sex with inmates, he says.

"The guards were inmates," he says. "It's just they got control over us."

Jena was out of control from the start. In one year, Wackenhut went through five wardens and turned over the entire staff three times. The U.S. Department of Justice investigated Jena and found that youths were subjected to "cruel and humiliating punishments," and guards "routinely used excessive force." The report says that "the Jena Center is a dangerous place to be."

Investigators found that Louisiana and Texas had the same problem: Most guards had no experience. Often Wackenhut didn't check their backgrounds. Some guards hired for Jena had criminal records.

The Department of Justice identified one guard, a sergeant, with an assault conviction on his record. He was eventually fired after seriously injuring one of the youths by repeatedly slamming his face into a concrete floor. Fear inside Jena was so great that some of the offenders were driven to desperation, according to the Justice Department report.

Ortego says that he saw two offenders cut their wrists with the razor wire that surrounds the facility.

Judge Doherty was shocked by the allegations he read in the report, he says. So far he has released seven Jena inmates, putting them on probation. He decided Wackenhut was putting their lives at risk.

"No matter what reason landed these young people at this facility, they are human beings," he says. "The way this facility operates or has operatein the recent past is that young people are treated as if they walk on all fours."

In 1998, a riot in Wackenhut's New Mexico prison killed two people. In addition, the company was stripped of a $12 million contract in Texas, where 12 guards were indicted for having sex with adult female inmates.

"A correctional organization is subject to numerous allegations of that nature," says George Zoley, chief executive officer of Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which oversees all the company's prison operations, including the juvenile centers in Texas and Louisiana. "That's part of the business; it's a tough business. The people in prison are not Sunday school children."

Zoley says that Wackenhut runs first-rate correctional facilities and that any problems that have occurred are exceptional. He also says that Wackenhut has operated Jena safely and securely, in a way that meets all federal standards.

The Justice Department disagrees. Its report contends that Jena medical records confirmed an "unacceptably high of traumatic injuries." The infirmary logs for the Jena prison showed 100 serious traumatic injuries in less than two months - a rate of two a day.

Wackenhut's Zoley says that this figure doesn't seem out of the ordinary for a facility of its type where there are "hundreds of juveniles who are physically in contact with one another - recreating...recreation or altercations between juveniles."

This spring the Louisiana's Department of Corrections seized control of Jena. A state corrections investigator reported that a Wackenhut guard was caught erasing a videotape that allegedly showed inmate abuse.

Zoley is not aware of any evidence that destruction of any evidence took place, he says.

But Ortego says while he worked as a trustee in the Jena office, he was assigned to shred complaints that inmates had made against the guards.

Wackenhut's Jena operation is now being sued by the inmates and the Department of Justice.

In Texas, Sara Lowe's lawsuit was joined by 11 more girls from the Wackenhut prison there. Two Wackenhut employees pled guilty to criminal charges of sexual assault. The company decided to settle Sara's civil suit - as long as her parents would agree to never discuss what happened inside the prison.

The day of the settlement, Sara committed suicide. "She shot herself twice," says her mother Gayle Lowe. "She wanted to die so bad she shot herself under her chin and her temple."

Sara had been deeply troubled even before she entered Wackenhut's care. But her sister Jenny says she was upset about the settlement because the company and its founder George Wackenhut refused to admit any responsibility.

"She didn't want any money," Jenny says. "She wasn't trying to get money out of it. She just wanted an apology and for Mr. Wackenhut to live like one day in the life of all the girls and boys in the facility just to see what they go through every day. Ad just to have an apology for ruining her life."

Zoley says he can't comment on the case: "We have signed a confidentiality agreement regarding that lawsuit, and I'm really not allowed to speak about it any further."

Asked if the Wackenhut Corp. owes an apology to Sara or any other inmate, Zoley responds, "Not that I'm aware of. I don't know what you mean by that."

Wackenhut still runs the Texas detention center, which has been converted to an all-boys facility. In the face of the lawsuits in Louisiana, Wackenhut has turned the inmates over to the state.

EDIT:Fixed link
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline hanzomon4

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2007, 03:59:11 PM »
Read the full original report by the Texas Rangers on abuse at TYC prisons, the report that was ignored.. Texas Ranger’s Report on the TYC scandal
« Last Edit: August 10, 2007, 04:05:22 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline hanzomon4

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2007, 04:04:39 PM »
Feds knew about TYC abuse cases
By STEVE McGONIGLE and DOUG J. SWANSON / The Dallas Morning News
[email protected]
published the 5th of this month

For four years, U.S. Justice Department attorneys heard the horror stories: Inmates in Texas juvenile prisons were being beaten and molested by the people who were supposed to protect them.

 Federal watchdogs discreetly collected information and discussed fine legal points as the assaults piled up. More than 2,000 allegations of staff abusing inmates were confirmed by the Texas Youth Commission from January 2003 to December 2006.

The Justice Department ultimately declined to prosecute anyone at TYC or do anything to compel agency-wide reforms.

Attorneys said they were constrained by narrowly drawn laws and insufficient evidence. But there was also a political climate at Justice that discouraged prosecution of official misconduct cases, former department attorneys said.

The lack of federal action against TYC left oversight to state officials who had looked the other way as administrators used threats of longer sentences or the promise of college assistance to have sex with young prisoners.

"There is no reason why a vigorous Department of Justice could not have gone in with a broom and cleaned up the TYC," said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat. "They are just not interested, and that is a tragedy."

Ms. Jackson Lee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and frequent critic of the Bush administration, called federal TYC investigations "shallow" and the department's lack of aggression "a clear dereliction of duty."

 Justice Department statistics show a steady decline in almost every category of civil rights prosecutions under the Bush administration, according to an independent analysis by Syracuse University researchers who track the data.

In 2005, the year federal attorneys declined to prosecute sex abuse allegations at TYC's West Texas State School, there were only 20 prosecutions of law enforcement officers nationwide, the analysis showed. That was the lowest annual total in a decade.

The Justice Department sharply disputes suggestions it has been weak on civil rights enforcement and says the Syracuse study is flawed.

But critics contend what happened in Texas reflects the federal government's lack of political will to enforce civil rights laws, which provide a constitutional safety net to state inaction.

"It amounts to state-sanctioned child abuse," said David Utter, an attorney who directs the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. "There is no question that the kids have a right to protection, a right to treatment. There is plenty of law to be enforced. One has to assume it's lack of will."

Questions about the federal government's handling of the TYC abuse scandal come amid the growing political controversy enveloping the Justice Department under Attorney General Al Gonzales. Skeptics question whether the federal decision-making was guided by an unwillingness to take on a politically explosive issue in his and the president's home state.

The Dallas Morning News spent three months reviewing documents obtained under state and federal open records laws and interviewing current and former law officers familiar with the Justice Department's handling of the TYC cases.

None of those interviewed said they knew of any political pressure to drop TYC investigations.

But two former career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division contended the department's political leadership shifted enforcement priorities to human-trafficking prosecutions because that would appeal more to the president's conservative religious base. One of the attorneys said there was also a desire not to anger the law-and-order segment of the Bush constituency with abuse of authority prosecutions.

The tone set by the political leadership prodded career attorneys to think strategically about which cases they pushed, said Albert Moskowitz, chief of the Criminal Section from 1999 to 2005.

He said his supervisor, Bradley Schlozman, left no doubt about his distaste for abuse of authority cases. Mr. Schlozman, a former deputy assistant attorney general, has emerged as a key figure in Congress' investigation of Justice Department politics.

"He sort of made that clear, and that had a sort of self-censoring effect on people," Mr. Moskowitz said. "People got awards not for doing police cases but for doing [human] trafficking cases."

The Justice Department said Mr. Schlozman had no role in TYC, and it did not make him available for comment. "In this case, as with all our cases, our decisions are driven by the facts and law, and not by politics," a department spokeswoman said.

However, Jeff Blackburn, a leading civil rights attorney from Amarillo, said federal civil rights prosecutions under Mr. Bush's two attorneys general, John Ashcroft and Mr. Gonzales, were "a complete joke."

"On the surface, it just appears they're making case-by-case decisions, and they always have an excuse to not take one. But when you start piecing all those case-by-case decisions together, you see a sweeping decision," Mr. Blackburn said. "The decision to prosecute on these cases is totally political and always discretionary."

Complaints start

Alison Brock, a former chief of staff for state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said she referred 25 abuse complaints about the TYC's Crockett State School to the Civil Rights Division beginning in January 2003. She did so, she said, because the state agency was taking insufficient action.

Among the complaints confirmed by TYC investigators: Guards had used excessive force on inmates, and staffers had misplaced records of inmates' abuse claims.

Ms. Brock called an attorney in the Justice Department's Special Litigation Section, which enforces civil laws barring unconstitutional conditions in state custodial facilities. That section has a lower evidentiary threshold for bringing cases than the division's criminal section and can, if necessary, file suit to enforce recommendations.

The section looks for "pattern or practice" violations. Because its attorneys do not have subpoena power, they typically rely on citizen complaints or other public sources to build a case to open a formal investigation.

"One of the things I continued to hear [from federal attorneys] was that we need more complaints so we can show that it's systemic," Ms. Brock said. "And at some point I just thought, well, what do you need? A tsunami?"

No civil rights investigation of the Crockett facility ever occurred.

In June 2004, another Special Litigation Section attorney began calling Randy Chance, a retired TYC inspector general. A month earlier, Mr. Chance had released a self-published book about abuses at TYC, titled Raped by the State.

At the lawyer's urging, he said, he talked to her about abuses of youth at several TYC facilities as well as overall problems within the agency.

Again, federal interest appeared to wane. After three or four lengthy telephone conversations over several months, Mr. Chance said, the contact with the lawyer stopped in September 2004. "I never heard from her again."

Another opportunity for federal involvement soon arose. This one involved the Evins unit in Edinburg.

Evins had a history of trouble.

In early 2003, a TYC investigator found that prison guards were smuggling drugs to inmates. Later that year, a TYC report told of "widespread disruption" at Evins caused by "gang-related problems throughout the campus."

That same month, Mr. Chance filed an investigative report that said Evins' inmate complaint process – by which youth could file grievances against guards and administrators – "has basically been undermined by staff."

Complaints were often confiscated or purposefully lost by TYC employees, Mr. Chance reported. Staff members "went out of their way to display their dislike of the complaint program, and invented means to disrupt and destroy the system."

On Oct. 27, 2004, the nurse manager at Evins told her supervisors: "There are too many injuries resulting from youth restraints [by guards] and altercations." Among the injuries she noted were broken teeth and fractured bones.

Less than a week later, Evins inmates rioted.

'The nicest facility'

Inmates later alleged in a still-pending federal civil suit that they were beaten and abused by guards who quelled the riot. One said he was handcuffed and then dropped "face first on the concrete floor." Another said he was handcuffed and thrown into a concrete pillar.

A former Evins employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said she contacted several police agencies and elected officials shortly after the riot to report abuse of inmates.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the department did not begin looking into TYC until March 2005. But TYC records indicate that the FBI, the department's investigative arm, had shown an earlier interest.

TYC Executive Director Dwight Harris notified agency board members on Jan. 25, 2005, that FBI Agent Lars Swanson would be visiting Evins. "He is not investigating anything," Mr. Harris wrote, "but just wants to walk through and monitor because the Department of Justice received complaints about the facility."

Six days later, TYC Chief of Staff Joy Anderson e-mailed her senior managers: "We have learned the FBI agent's visit to the Evins facility last Wednesday went well. The agent told the facility folks that it was the nicest facility he has been in."

One week after the agent's visit, an Evins inmate filed this complaint, as summarized in TYC records and confirmed by TYC investigators: "Staff slammed [inmate's] face into the door five times. Staff picked [inmate] up, turned [inmate] to the left and slammed [inmate] another 2 or 3 times into the group room window. Staff scolded [inmate] to listen next time Staff spoke."

TYC records show that over the next 16 months the agency received several requests from attorneys with the Justice Department's criminal section for information about abuse investigations and disciplinary actions taken against employees.

The abuse continued. Among confirmed cases was a guard who "slammed on the brakes of the security van, causing [inmate] to slam into the cage." Another guard body-slammed an inmate and struck him on the head. A third guard threw an inmate to the ground and "proceeded to push his eyes into his face."

On May 22, 2006, TYC Assistant General Counsel Emily Helm wrote that she had been told by a criminal section attorney in Washington that "they were closing the cases on the 'Evins incident' ... with no further action."

Ms. Helm added, "It was felt like TYC handled the situation properly."

The following month, TYC officials were surprised to learn that the Justice Department had opened a separate civil investigation at Evins.

The department issued its findings in March 2007, less than a month after The News and The Texas Observer first reported on allegations of a sex abuse cover-up at TYC's West Texas State School in Pyote.

Justice officials concluded that "conditions at Evins violate the constitutional rights of youth residents."

Nearly three years after the riot, the Justice Department and TYC are still trying to agree on required improvements. The measures will apply only to Evins, not to the myriad abuses confirmed at other TYC prisons, which house inmates 10 to 21.

The Justice Department has proposed, among other things, that an independent monitor oversee the prison for four years. The civil action is similar to those the department has brought in recent years against juvenile detention centers in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi and Tennessee.

A TYC spokesman said no agency employee has been prosecuted for abusing inmates at Evins. The only criminal charges brought were in state court against 15 inmates who rioted.

Porn and sex toys

Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski arrived at the West Texas State School in isolated Pyote on Feb. 23, 2005, a few hours after receiving a tip from a volunteer teacher.

As detailed in the Ranger's 229-page report, five teenage boys told Sgt. Burzynski that Ray E. Brookins, the prison's assistant superintendent, and John Paul Hernandez, the principal at the prison's school, had sexually abused them.

Mr. Brookins was accused of ordering students into his office late at night. There, he was alleged to have shown them pornographic movies and to have used a sex toy on at least one inmate. One inmate who resisted his advances told Sgt. Burzynski that he was shackled in an isolation cell for more than 13 hours.

Other inmates said that Mr. Hernandez had sexually abused them in locked closets and classrooms, sometimes in exchange for candy or promises of help on the outside. In one instance, he allegedly offered to seek college financial aid for one student in exchange for sex.

Within a day of beginning his inquiry, Sgt. Burzynski approached the FBI. He said he worried that the local prosecutor, Ward County District Attorney Randy Reynolds, lacked aggressiveness.

"I never had a high opinion [of him]," Sgt. Burzynski told The News. "This was not a case for him."

Mr. Reynolds did not respond to requests for comment.

After being contacted by the Ranger, the FBI notified U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton's office in San Antonio. Bill Baumann, a senior prosecutor, was assigned. He called Robert Moossy, a criminal attorney in the Civil Rights Division in Washington.

On March 21, 2005, Mr. Baumann and Mr. Moossy arrived in Pyote to inspect possible crime scenes and interview alleged abuse victims. Over the next three weeks, the federal attorneys discussed where to convene a grand jury and executed a federal search warrant on Mr. Hernandez's residence.

To Sgt. Burzynski, the steps were evidence of the Justice Department's interest. "I thought, 'Holy smokes, these guys are thinking what I'm thinking,' " he said.

The Ranger was particularly impressed with Mr. Baumann. "He was one of the most enthusiastic prosecutors I've ever worked with. He flat said, 'We're going to the grand jury,' " Sgt. Burzynski said. But he cautioned, the Ranger said, " 'This is not my call. This is not my decision.' "

The prosecutor's biggest concern, Sgt. Burzynski said, seemed to be whether sufficient proof existed to show that sex between the victims and administrators was coerced. All but one of the teenagers was above the state's legal age of consent. And while some victims said Mr. Brookins had threatened to extend their sentences, some also told investigators that they had not resisted the advances and enjoyed the sex.

Ultimately, Mr. Baumann and Mr. Moossy concluded the evidence would not prove victims' constitutional rights to privacy and against cruel and unusual punishment were violated, a Justice Department source said.

In July 2005, Mr. Baumann told Sgt. Burzynski the U.S. attorney's office was dropping the case. The prosecutor was not happy, the Ranger recalled.

"You could hear it in his voice," Sgt. Burzynski said. "It was a blow to him, to me. ... In fact, I think his exact words [were] it feels like his heart had been cut out."

TYC officials in Pyote received a letter in September 2005 from Mr. Moskowitz at the Justice Department, saying there was insufficient evidence to prosecute a federal civil rights crime.

Mr. Baumann was not allowed to talk to reporters, his boss, Mr. Sutton, said.

Mr. Sutton, chairman of the U.S. attorney general's advisory committee and a Bush family friend, said the decision not to prosecute the Pyote case was made on legal grounds by Mr. Baumann and his supervisor.

"The bottom line is prosecutors have to follow cases where evidence leads them," Mr. Sutton said. "In this case, it was a fairly easy decision."

The case, he added, belonged in state court.

Defining bodily injury

Historically, the Justice Department has taken a conservative approach to civil rights prosecutions. It routinely declines to prosecute more than 95 percent of the complaints it receives each year.

The number of abuse of authority cases prosecuted as civil rights violations averages fewer than 60 per year. But during the Bush administration, prosecutions dropped sharply, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The year the Pyote case was declined, TRAC data showed that the Civil Rights Division's criminal section prosecuted 20 such cases, the lowest total in the Bush era.

Federal lawyers faced at least two obstacles to prosecuting TYC abuses, said one Justice Department attorney familiar with the case: the limited reach of civil rights law and department policies that forbade high-risk prosecutions.

The criminal statute most often employed by the Justice Department in such cases was originally intended to protect the civil rights of emancipated slaves. The law was rooted in a belief that state authorities would be reluctant to prosecute violators.

In a letter explaining why his office was declining prosecution of the Pyote case, Mr. Baumann, the federal prosecutor in San Antonio, cited two main problems.

Prosecutors had to prove Mr. Brookins and Mr. Hernandez willfully deprived TYC inmates of a constitutional right while acting in their capacities as state officials.

There also had to be proof the victims had suffered bodily injury, or conviction would be limited to a misdemeanor and a maximum of one year in prison.

The legal definition of bodily injury routinely used by federal prosecutors requires that the victims suffered physical pain.

"As you know, our interviews of the victims revealed that none sustained 'bodily injury,' " Mr. Baumann wrote to Sgt. Burzynski. "None of the victims claimed to have felt physical pain during the course of the sexual assaults which they described."

Civil rights law does not define bodily injury. The definition citing pain as a requirement is found in four other federal criminal laws. A fifth law, on domestic violence and stalking, defines bodily injury as "any act, except one done in self-defense, that results in physical injury or sexual abuse."

The definition of sexual abuse in the same chapter of the federal criminal code includes oral sex and masturbation – the alleged misconduct in the Pyote case.

Prosecutors believed the definition of sexual abuse in domestic violence law could not be applied to civil rights prosecutions, said a representative from Mr. Sutton's office.

In summer 2005, Mr. Baumann called the Ward County district attorney to tell him that he would have the responsibility for prosecuting the TYC case in Pyote, his boss said. District Attorney Reynolds, however, did nothing until early 2007, after several rounds of questions from lawmakers and reporters.

He then ceded the case to the state attorney general's office, which took it to a grand jury. Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Brookins were indicted in April on felony charges.

Two years after the Justice Department bowed out, the West Texas case still is awaiting trial.

Ms. Jackson Lee, whose congressional committee has oversight of the Justice Department, asked Attorney General Gonzales in March to launch a criminal investigation of TYC.

She, too, is still waiting.

"They frustrate justice, as far as I'm concerned. They certainly don't pursue justice," she said. "These children, they are still suffering."
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
i]Do something real, however, small. And don\'t-- don\'t diss the political things, but understand their limitations - Grace Lee Boggs[/i]
I do see the present and the future of our children as very dark. But I trust the people\'s capacity for reflection, rage, and rebellion - Oscar Olivera


Offline Anne Bonney

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Tx Youth Commission's Superintendent Arrested
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2007, 04:21:24 PM »
When you start really looking into things and researching where all this came from, the links between Sembler/Bush, DFAF(Sembler)/Bush and all the rest of the shit, the "crackpot conspiracy theorists" don't sound so cracked.

What an absolute and utter shame this all is.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »
traight, St. Pete, early 80s
AA is a cult

The more boring a child is, the more the parents, when showing off the child, receive adulation for being good parents-- because they have a tame child-creature in their house.  ~~  Frank Zappa