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Texas Senate calls for youth prison reform

March 01, 2007|From the Associated Press

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Gov. Rick Perry replaced the chairman of the state's juvenile prisons board Wednesday over a report that the agency covered up sex abuse of inmates, but lawmakers demanded bigger changes.

The Texas Senate held a rare evening session and approved a resolution urging Perry to overhaul the Texas Youth Commission by replacing the seven-member board and the executive director with an independent administrator who could investigate and fire employees who covered up abuse.

A recent discussion of the agency's budget drew attention to a 2005 Texas Rangers investigation that found the assistant superintendent and the principal at the West Texas State School in Pyote had repeated sexual contact with inmates.

Lawmakers also recently learned that an internal investigation had found that many prison staffers had complained about the abuse to their bosses and to officials in Austin, but that for more than a year, no one in charge did anything to stop it.

Neither of the investigations has resulted in criminal charges, although a special prosecutor is on the case, said Sen. John Whitmire, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

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