A Texas state representative is calling for an investigation into the youthful offender program, an all male youth inmate program housed at the Clemens Unit in Brazoria, Texas. The program has come under fire after numerous allegations of assault and abuse went ignored by administrative officials.
State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), who serves on the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee, wrote in a letter to TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier, “I am concerned that in an effort to appease complaints, TDCJ has chosen to move the program rather than address the systemic problems that appear embedded within the program itself.”
These issues were first raised by former supervisor in the Clemens Unit, Dominque Mitchell. In an interview with a Texas newspaper, Mitchell accused the program of fostering a “culture of cover-up” for first ignoring her complaints and then retaliating against her for raising them.
After reviewing the complaints, TDCJ decided to move the Youthful Offenders Program to the Ellis Unit hoping to remedy the situation.
Those raising the concerns say that moving the program to another unit does little to solve the underlying problems of the program, it’s simply a move to appease the complaints.
“I am concerned that moving the program to the Ellis Unit is a way to quell public concern without addressing the fundamental flaws that have been alleged,” reads his letter, “most important of those being the protection of minors in TDCJ custody.”
One of Mitchell’s complaints was that the unit didn’t sufficiently separate minors from adults as required by federal law. Because of the prison’s failure to do so, a minor inmate was sexually assaulted by an adult inmate working as a janitor. There are also complaints of employees taunting mentally-ill minor inmates, excessive use of solitary confinement, and lack of supervision.
These problems, some say, will follow the program to the new unit.
When asked for comment, Cain said that the problem is also a fiscal concern.
“Any program using taxpayer dollars should be held to the highest standards and ensure that the money they are being given is used efficiently, effectively, and transparently.”
As part of his role on the Juvenile Justice committee, Cain is hoping to see a thorough investigation into the program to make sure that what has happened to minor inmates in the past doesn’t continue and that the program begins to serve its purpose of rehabilitation.
“Simply put, sexual assault should never be a part of the punishment.”