Children housed at Texas Juvenile Justice Department, or TJJD, facilities routinely suffer sexual assault, physical abuse and other forms of mistreatment, according to a complaint sent to the U.S. Department of Justice by two Texas justice groups last week.
The groups – Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas – culled data from open records requests and spoke to youth housed at the facilities and their parents. Brett Merfish, director of youth justice for Texas Appleseed, told Texas Standard that understaffing is one of the biggest problems at TJJD.
“The youth that are in TJJD’s custody are some of our most vulnerable youth, and they really deserve the best care and were really giving them something that’s completely inadequate right now,” she said.
Children aged 10 to 17 who have committed crimes can be sent to one of five TJJD facilities around the state. But those facilities are chronically understaffed and have a high turnover rate. Merfish said that’s partly because of the remote location of the facilities, which are all in rural areas with a limited employment base.
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