Sweeping reforms are taking place at TJJD facilities, including Brownwood's Ron Jackson
BROWNWOOD, Texas —
Significant reforms are underway at the five youth lockup facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, with discussions currently taking place on the possibility of closing one of their facilities.
TJJD Executive Director Camille Cain announced the long-term and short-term reforms on Friday in a report sent to Governor of Texas Greg Abbott and she highlighted how the number of youth inmates being housed at its detention centers are at historic lows.
"We have more [Juvenile Correctional Officers] than we do youth in our facilities," TJJD Communications Director Brian Sweany said. "I think that's a positive first step."
Part of Cain's short-term goals include equipping all of the juvenile correctional officers with body cameras that have audio, which will help in reviewing complaints made by youth inmates against state employees.
"That may seem like something that's an obvious thing to have, but all we've had are fixed cameras with no audio," Sweany said.
According to the TJJD, at least 93 percent of complaints made against its staff members are false, but some complaints have been proven to be true and have led to firings and arrests, especially at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood.
Ron Jackson Juvenile Correctional Officer Gavin Middleton was arrested on Thursday on an charge of official oppression for allegedly assaulting a youth inmate back in 2016.
Middleton's arrest was the second one in four months of an employee at Ron Jackson.
In February, former correctional officer Morsello Hooker was arrested by the Texas Rangers for reportedly body slamming a youth inmate.
A KTXS News investigation found that 34 employees at Ron Jackson have been fired from working at the facility since 2013.
The TJJD's plan outlines several measures to combat employee misconduct and the agency is currently reviewing its background check procedures to make sure that its staff members are "well-suited to the rigors of the job and possess the character to be successful."
Furthermore, the TJJD will make sure that there is a proper balance of work and life for its employees.
When it comes to rehabilitating youth, the state agency stated that a long-term goal of theirs is to keep youth in facilities closer to their communities and to partner with local probation departments.
"Hopefully this is the only time they're touching this system, we want them not coming back as adults," Sweany said.
Sweany said that the TJJD is currently engaging in discussions on closing one of its facilities, but it is not part of the agency's plans for right now.