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Published on September 16, 2023 by Carreras Law
According to a report recently released by the Texas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a federal investigation concluded that the Texas Juvenile Justice Department provides an “unsafe environment” for youths in custody in large part due to a lack of resources and understaffing. The report goes on to describe conditions that are capable of “further traumatizing youth” and exacerbating existing mental health issues.
All of this is in addition to the decades of physical and sexual abuse scandals that have plagued the Texas juvenile justice system. These accusations have included but are not limited to minors in custody waiting 140-plus days for trial, being locked inside cells for almost 24 hours a day, being denied medical attention, and living in substandard living conditions while being held for trial.
Neglected Mental Health Needs, Violence, and Civil Rights Violations
Yet perhaps of most concern was the finding that most children in these facilities have “clear mental health needs,” and the department simply lacks the resources to provide proper treatment for the mental health of minors in custody: According to the report, almost 70% of detained youth were identified as having moderate to severe mental health needs, and in 2021, there were more than 2,000 reports of self-harm and 6,500 suicide attempts in the facilities.
The report also indicated that chronic understaffing led to increased violence, a lack of basic healthcare and mental conditions, and unsanitary living conditions, which undoubtedly have the potential to further traumatize detained children and exacerbate their mental health challenges. The report found that more and more minors were being isolated in the cells at an increasing rate in order to offset a lack of staffers, and this resulted in these children spending approximately 23 hours a day alone in their cells without access to bathrooms.
The report hypothesizes that the increase in violence over the last few years is likely due in part to decreased peer monitoring and low staff levels, providing opportunities for predatory staff to engage in abuse and/or exploitation of juvenile offenders. There was also an increase in sexual misconduct investigations of these facilities conducted between 2020 and 2022, and restraints were used on minors in almost 3,000 cases between January and August 2020 alone.
Fort Worth, Texas Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Committed to Youths’ Rights
The report outright states that these issues, as they go unchecked, every day is another day that the rights of those held in these facilities are violated. For juvenile offenders in Texas, your life is nothing short of in jeopardy if you end up in TJJD facilities.
Attorney Kara Carreras is a skilled criminal defense attorney serving Fort Worth and surrounding areas and is committed to protecting the rights of youth offenders. Contact the Carreras Law Group, P.C. today if you have any questions to find out more.
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