From the Office of State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2006
CONTACT: Melissa del Bosque (512) 463-0120, cell (512) 947-4046

SEN. HINOJOSA CALLS FOR IMPROVED SECURITY, MORE TRAINING, STRICTER ACCOUNTABILITY IN STATE’S JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM

PROPOSED SAFETY REFORMS PART OF COMPREHENSIVE MIDDLE-CLASS AGENDA

(McALLEN) -- State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa today called for greater oversight of the state’s juvenile justice system, saying that reports of violence and abuse show the need for improved security, more training, and stricter accountability measures in Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facilities.

“The families of the young people in state care and the loved one of the guards who work in our juvenile facilities have a right to know that we are doing everything to protect them,” Sen. Hinojosa said.

Sen. Hinojosa’s bill would improve security by requiring TYC guards and other staff to undergo at least 300 hours of training before being assigned to guard duty. It would also set standards of at least one guard for every 12 youths to maintain order and safety.

In addition, Sen. Hinojosa’s proposed legislation would prohibit housing young inmates with legally adult inmates.

“Kids as young as 11 and 12 should not be sharing dorms with 19-year-olds,” Sen. Hinojosa said.

Sen. Hinojosa said an independent authority such as the Texas Rangers or trained personnel from the Inspector General’s Office should be instructed to help TYC staff ensure safety in their facilities. These outside experts should make unannounced monthly visits and submit detailed reports to state leaders as part of TYC Sunset review operations.

Finally, Sen. Hinojosa’s bill provides for the creation of a criminal investigation unit to look into crimes committed by TYC youth, guards, and other employees. The unit should report to the TYC Board, not the agency’s executive director, Sen. Hinojosa said.

Sen. Hinojosa’s juvenile justice reform bill is part of an ambitious legislative agenda that includes a three-year moratorium on rising college tuition rates, increased homestead exemptions for local taxpayers, investments in proven public education programs, and a measure to help restore balance and integrity in the state’s campaign finance laws.

Sen. Hinojosa said he will unveil additional elements of his legislative agenda for middle-class families in the days ahead.

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