Investigators find systemic flaws in report on Brownwood youth detention center

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BROWNWOOD, Texas -- An agency charged with investigating the Texas Juvenile Justice Department issued a scathing report against its Brownwood youth facility.

Through an open records request, KTXS obtained an ombudsman report completed on Feb. 28 that highlights several systemic issues at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex, including insufficient staffing.

As of Jan. 17, there were 58 staff vacancies at Ron Jackson SJCC, which houses boys and girls who are serving time for felonies.

Two investigators with TJJD’s Independent Ombudsman's office visited the facility on Jan. 18 and Jan. 19. On the first day they were at the detention center, they witnessed three youths assaulting another inmate and then run away from staff, according to the report.

Forty-eight inmates were interviewed by investigators. A few said they weren't allowed to leave their rooms for the required one-hour of recreational activity. The investigators learned inmates weren't allowed to leave for recreation due to "insufficient staff."

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department responded to that allegations by stating kids are taken to outdoor recreation if "weather and behavior permits."

Another criticism highlighted in the report was investigators found teens walking across campus in a cold December rain with shower shoes instead of sneakers. The inmates also had their hands in their pockets because the juvenile correction officers wouldn't give them gloves.

According to the TJJD, the youth were "misusing" the state-issued gloves by boxing with them. TJJD said it followed up with staff in an email instructing them to ensure kids wear tennis shoes during inclement weather and to re-issue gloves.

A spokeswoman for TJJD told KTXS the agency addressed staff vacancies by initiating "recruitment and retention bonuses” on Feb. 1.

Below is a fully copy of TJJD's statement:

In an effort to address Juvenile Correctional Officer staffing vacancies at Texas Juvenile Justice Department secure facilities, the agency initiated recruitment and retention bonuses for non-transport JCO positions on Feb. 1, 2018.

These apply to new hires and existing employees, with some limitations. (Current employees must have a satisfactory evaluation and have been free of discipline issues, for example.)

The bonuses being offered are for:

• Existing JCOs who have 12 months or more of service (on Feb. 1, 2018) can receive a bonus of $2,000 after completing an additional 12 months of service.

• Existing JCOs who have less than 12 months of service (on Feb. 1, 2018) can receive a one-time merit bonus of $1,000 at the completion of 12 months of service from hiring date, and receive a retention bonus of $1,000 for staying another 12 months on the job.

• New hires can be eligible for $2,000 in total bonuses as well – a $1,000 recruitment bonus for signing on, and an additional $1,000 retention bonus earned for staying for 12 months in service. (The total $2,000 will be paid at the completion of 12 months of service.)

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