The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a statewide investigation into the conditions in the five secure juvenile correctional facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
The investigation will examine whether Texas provides children confined in the facilities reasonable protection from physical and sexual abuse by staff and other residents, excessive use of chemical restraints and excessive use of isolation. The investigation will also examine whether Texas provides adequate mental health care.
“Too often children held in juvenile detention facilities are subject to abuse and mistreatment, and deprived of their constitutional rights,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions. The Department of Justice stands ready to protect the rights of children who end up in juvenile facilities and our investigation will ensure that the treatment of these children comports with constitutional standards.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all persons, including vulnerable young persons incarcerated in Texas Juvenile Justice Department secure facilities,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas. “We look forward to partnering with the Civil Rights Division and other U.S. Attorney’s Offices in our state to conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these allegations.”
“Young people, even though they are confined in a juvenile facility, should not be abused, mistreated or deprived of essential services,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery of the Southern District of Texas. “We have a duty to ensure young people incarcerated in our state are held under safe and constitutional conditions.”
“No matter who they are – or what they’ve done – our state’s kids deserve safe environments,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham of the Northern District of Texas. “We cannot expect juvenile offenders to thrive later in life if they emerge from confinement traumatized by sexual abuse, excessive force, or incessant isolation.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas is committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all Texas children, including those incarcerated in Texas Juvenile Correctional Facilities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei of the Eastern District of Texas. “We are proud to partner with the Civil Rights Division and the other U.S. Attorney’s Offices of Texas to conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these allegations.”
The department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter. The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Both statutes give the department the authority to investigate systemic violations of the rights of young people in juvenile correctional facilities. The department’s work has led to important reforms to protect the rights of young people housed in those facilities.
The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section is conducting this investigation jointly with the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in the Western, Eastern, Southern and Northern Districts of Texas. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department via phone at 1-866-432-0438 or by email at TX.Juveniles@usdoj.gov.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division’s work regarding juvenile correctional facilities and the administration of juvenile justice is available on its website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/rights-juveniles.