CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The U.S. Justice Department has announced it has opened a statewide investigation into five Texas juvenile correctional facilities.
The announcement comes days after the Texas Juvenile Justice Department reported the latest arrest of a former staffer accused of improper sexual activity with a person in custody.
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department's reports show in a given year, more than 50,000 juveniles are referred to the juvenile probation system and sent to one of the five institutions in the state. These are the Gainesville State School, Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex, the Midland District Location, Giddings State School and the Evins Regional Juvenile State School.
Nearly 700 teens currently are being held in the centers who officials say need heightened supervision or have committed violent crimes.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would examine children in all five facilities that are being reasonably protected.
"Our investigation will focus on whether there is a pattern or practice of physical or sexual abuse of children in Texas's secure facilities," assistant attorney Kristen Clarke said. "We will also investigate whether there is a pattern or practice of harm as a result of the excessive use of chemical restraints, excessive use of isolation or lack of adequate mental health services."
A year ago, advocacy groups called for the federal government to step in after various reports of sexual and physical abuse happening at the state's five youth lock-ups.
In a statement, Texas Juvenile Justice Department Executive Director Camile Cain said the agency will cooperate fully with the DOJ.