This makes the third TYC facility closed this year. Reported AP:
Detainees will be transferred from the Coke County center, in Bronte, to other TYC facilities on Tuesday. The facility holds 197 young offenders, said TYC spokesman Jim Hurley.
"TYC's number one priority is the safety and well being of those youths under our care," Dimitria D. Pope, the agency's acting executive director, said in a statement. "The unsafe conditions I witnessed at Coke County this weekend are unacceptable. We have zero tolerance for any form of abuse within the system, and those responsible parties will be held accountable."
A TYC official found unsanitary conditions during a visit to center on Sept. 24. State officials followed up with an unannounced audit that began Wednesday and continued through the weekend, the Texas Youth Commission said Monday in a statement.
The audit found the facility was in an advanced state of disrepair and rehabilitation and other programs weren't being pursued, leaving detainees mostly constrained. It led officials to believe the health and safety of the youth housed at the center was in jeopardy, Hurley said.
A couple of thoughts here: First, why did TYC earlier this year propose moving all the younger kids into contract care if their only contract unit was doing so poorly? Had nobody been out there to check on the Geo unit? The agency came within a whisker this summer of shifting all 10-13 year olds into contract care. Thankfully they stopped the move after the decision was first reported on Grits and the MSM began poking around, but then Tim Savoy announced they still intended to move young kids into contract care. (Hopefully this new development will scuttle the idea completely.)
Finally, this decision will exacerbate staffing problems at state-run TYC facilities, which were already struggling to maintain adequate ratios. The agency continues to hemorrhage staff and cannot meet statutory 12-1 child-JCO ratios, despite contrary claims by the leadership. Now the other units will get a couple hundred extra kids, but not the staffing assistance they need to manage them. It's possible the kids will be moved to new private facilities, probably in Kerr County, but at this point nobody knows.
Closing this facility, to my knowledge, wasn't on anybody's radar screen, and it certainly wasn't discussed at the legislative hearing in August. The surprising news shows TYC remains in a rocky transition period where leadership is still learning about the agency (and for that matter, about juvenile justice in general). So we may continue to expect radical changes announced with little or no warning, as Geo employees at this unit just found out.
Ever since TYC tossed aside the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations that were supposed to guide reforms, it's getting harder and harder to tell where the agency is headed next. And nobody at TYC is providing a road map.