Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Image - MICHAEL AINSWORTH/DMN A student does science coursework at the West Texas State School in Pyote, Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas Feb 28, 2007 (AP)— Lawmakers outraged by allegations of sexual abuse of juvenile inmates and a coverup within the Texas Youth Commission promised to hold officials accountable and hinted they might try to take over the troubled agency.

"We're going to get to the bottom of this," said Sen. John Whitmire, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "There are no untouchables. We will not rest until this agency is shaken up from top to bottom."

The Texas Youth Commission houses offenders ages 10 to 21 who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic. The West Texas State School at the heart of the controversy houses 250 male inmates.

An internal investigation found that many prison staff members had complained about the abuse to their supervisors and to officials in Austin, but for more than a year, no one in charge did anything to stop it.

A Texas Rangers investigation in 2005 found that the prison's assistant superintendent and the school's principal had repeated sexual contact with inmates. Neither of the investigations have resulted in criminal charges, though Whitmire said a special prosecutor is on the case. The officials allegedly involved resigned in 2005.

Before the hearing, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, called the allegations "awful."

"We can't have criminals and predators manning our prisons," Dewhurst said.

The Senate panel is considering legislation that would create an independent investigator and increase youth corrections staff and training. It also would prevent the agency from housing inmates as young as 11 with inmates in their late teens and early 20s."

---These people have to be trained not to have sexual contact with children?

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