Abbott addressed the request in a July 12 letter (pdf) to Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. According to the letter, the Office of the Inspector General of TJJD and department ombudsmen have reported for prosecution multiple allegations against “certain TJJD staff members.”
“I am directing you to have the Texas Rangers immediately investigate the allegations and provide me with a report so that appropriate remedial action can be taken,” Abbott wrote. “I expect full cooperation by TJJD leadership and staff with any assistance deemed necessary to accomplish a thorough investigation.”
In a statement, TJJD executive director Camile Cain thanked Abbott for getting the Texas Rangers involved. She said the agency was already looking into cases dating back to 2017 “in an effort to ensure that we are as vigilant as possible in identifying potential illegal conduct and isolating any patterns of behavior that could help remove staff members before they can prey on the youth in our care.”
“I am thankful to Governor Abbott and Colonel McCraw for providing the assistance of the Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of illegal conduct among TJJD staff members,” Cain said. “Our agency will, of course, cooperate fully in an effort to ensure that our facilities are as safe as possible for our youth and that any criminal behavior is identified and punished appropriately.”
More than 50,000 juvenile offenders are arrested each year and enter the state’s juvenile probation system, according to TJJD. Local county juvenile justice systems handle many of the cases, while the most serious offenders are assigned to TJJD.
In the fiscal year 2020, almost 30,000 juveniles with an average age of 15 were referred to juvenile probation programs throughout Texas, according to an annual TJJD report. Nearly three in four of the youths were male.
In 2020, the TJJD’s office of inspector general opened 385 investigations of alleged abuse, neglect, and exploitation. A third of the investigations confirmed the allegations, according to the report.