Seven guards at a Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJ) facility have been fired or disciplined for assaulting teenage prisoners. Many of the incidents were caught on video.
The TJJ established the Phoenix Program in 2012 to calm and counsel incarcerated youths. Guards, who internal reports say were inexperienced and sloppily trained, apparently thought that fighting was the best way to deal with the youths.
Fight clubs are not an unusual event in such troubled facilities, but this situation is different because the guards were involved in the fighting. The Phoenix Program, which is located inside the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility, involved fights for several months.
Internal reports and videos show guards accosted teens and throw them to the ground. Guards would then punch the youth. A video from August 2013 shows guards slamming youths to the ground, and one “youth could be seen flailing legs and arms, the staff would ‘complete’ the pinning and move on to another youth, repeating the act,” said TJJ independent ombudsman, Debbie Unruh.
“This isn’t horseplay. It’s inexcusable and inappropriate conduct,” said TJJ spokesman Jim Hurley. “We have zero tolerance at this agency for this kind of behavior.”
The investigation resulted in the firing of three guards and the disciplining of another three guards. Hurley referred the agency’s reports for investigation, but McLennan County grand jury refused to indict the guards.
Source: Associated Press
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