Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sexual Abuse and Juvenile Detention

To most Texans, the West Texas State School here is the troubled institution at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the state’s juvenile detention system.

But to the residents of this town of 129 and the neighboring communities, it is a source of badly needed jobs.

That is why about 200 people gathered outside the county courthouse in Monahans on Tuesday to oppose a state auditor’s recommendation to close the school, and why nine residents made the 750-mile round trip drive to Austin this week to address legislators on the matter.

“This facility has been a part of the community since 1965,” said Donna Garcia, community relations coordinator at the school. “It feels like a personal vendetta against this community. We feel like the Legislature needs somebody to blame this on.”

In February, news accounts reported that from 2003 to 2005 two officials at West Texas State had had late-night sexual encounters with incarcerated boys and then were allowed to resign without facing criminal charges. Responding to the disclosure, and to pressure from the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry forced the resignation of the Texas Youth Commission board and ordered a review of all of its facilities.

The agency is currently investigating 1,200 complaints against juvenile facilities around the state.

“Obviously, we’re outraged at the kind of things that are alleged,” Judge Greg Holly of the
By Barbara Novovitch, N.Y. Times Link to Article (Last visited 4-1-07 NVS)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2007/04/sexual_abuse_an.html

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