More changes are coming to the Texas Youth Commission after a recent report that sexual abuse of youth inmates is still going on.
Of the 13 TYC facilities surveyed by the Bureau of Justice for a study released earlier this month, seven had rates of sexual abuse of more than 20 percent in the past year.
The report said all but two Texas youth lockups had rates above 14 percent; and two TYC facilities -- Corsicana Residential Treatment Center and Victory Field Correctional Academy at Vernon – were among the worst facilities nationwide when it came to sexual abuse of underage inmates.
The Corsicana facility had a 32 percent sexual assault rate, and the Vernon facility had a 25 percent rate.
Nationwide 12.1 percent of youths incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities reported being sexually abused while in confinement in the past year.
"While we have implemented a great number of safety reforms since mid-2008, I do not feel that I can trust or assume that we’ve done everything we need to do to prevent sexual misconduct, or that every reform is working as intended," Townsend wrote. "And, because this issue has been so prominent in TYC’s recent history, I do not believe others have 100 percent confidence in us either."
TYC faced a major overhaul in 2008 after scathing reports of widespread sexual abuse in TYC facilities across the state. Several staffers were fired and have been convicted for crimes associated with the accusations.
Townsend has directed TYC staff at both Corsicana and Victory Field to re-survey the youth to make sure the reforms that are in place are working. She has also invited advocates to observe the surveys to ensure its integrity and sensitivity to the potential victims.
"TYC will obtain the services of an outside expert to thoroughly review the effects of our reform efforts at all TYC facilities and to identify any possible gaps in policy, procedure or culture that could jeopardize youth safety." Townsend wrote.
A warning has been issued by officials for those TYC staffers accused and charges with sexual assault of any inmates. The Texas Office of Inspector General says it will investigate every allegation it receives to the fullest extent.
"Anyone found to participate in this type of behavior, whether staff or youth, will be vigorously prosecuted," Townsend said.