For 24/7 mental health support in English or Spanish, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s free help line at 800-662-4357. You can also reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.
Every month, independent investigators visit the five juvenile prisons in Texas to evaluate how each is doing its job, and whether the children in their care are being well treated.
The continuing chaos within the agency, which worsened after a surge of employees quit following the pandemic, has led to children being locked in their cells for most of the day. The trend has coincided with a spike in suicidal behavior and overall distress among detained youths.
The Texas Tribune reviewed six months of these site visit reports by the Independent Ombudsman for the Texas Juvenile Justice System, spanning November 2021 to April 2022.
Between the lines of dense bureaucratese that typify such reports can be found the stories of individual teenagers whose actions depict the desperation, violence and lack of supervision that plague the state facilities.
Below are notable excerpts from these audits, with reported responses from TJJD officials and Texas Tribune annotations.
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