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U.S. Justice Department investigating McLennan County juvenile detention facility, 4 others in Texas

The McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Mart, Texas.
The McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Mart, Texas.(Bill Gowdy for KWTX)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 1:43 PM CDT
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(KWTX) - The Justice Department on Wednesday announced it has opened a statewide investigation into the conditions in the five secure juvenile correctional facilities, including one in McLennan County, run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

Federal officials said 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 five facilities are the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg, the Gainesville State School in Gainesville, the Giddings State School in Giddings, the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility in Mart, and the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood.

“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.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham, of the Northern District of Texas, said, “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 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 Justice Department the authority to investigate systemic violations of the rights of young people in juvenile correctional facilities.

Individuals with information relevant to the investigation are encouraged to contact the department 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.

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