PRESS RELEASE from the office of Senator Carlos Uresti

Date: March 1, 2007
CONTACT:Diana Martinez

Texas Senate seeks conservator for the Texas Youth Commission
Senator Carlos Uresti seeks confirmation that youth are safe

AUSTIN -- State Senator Carlos Uresti voiced concerns regarding recent revelations of serious problems within the Texas Youth Commission, and in particular, with the West Texas State School in Pyote. Uresti questioned whether offenders at the West Texas State School may have had their sentences extended or compromised as a result, as well as why the individuals involved were not prosecuted.

"The abuses occurring within the Texas Youth Commission send exactly the wrong message to youth offenders at these facilities. These young men have gone in the wrong direction in life, and now some apparently are being victimized by a system designed to reform their lives. Many of these young men are minorities; they have a history of abuse or neglect; and they have mental health issues. These boys need an environment that will provide structure and support, not victimization at the hands of a broken state system," said Uresti.

Senator Uresti is co-author of Senate Bill 103, introduced by Senator Juan Hinojosa. SB 103 will require: (1) TYC to provide 300 hours of training to guards before they begin guarding duties at facilities; (2) Staff at least one guard for every 12 youth at facility; (3) Youth under 15 years old would not be allowed to share dorms with youth over 17; (4) The Texas Rangers would make monthly unannounced visits; (5) A criminal investigation unit would be created; and (6) When a crime occurring within TYC is prosecuted by a district attorney, the state would reimburse the county for expenses they incurred during the prosecution.

Last night, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst took the unusual step of calling the Senate into back into session after having previously adjourning for the day. Senate Resolution 384 was introduced and passed out of the senate by a vote of 30 to 0, calling for the Legislative Audit Committee to meet and recommending that Governor Perry appoint a conservator for TYC. The Legislative Audit Committee consists of the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house, two senators and two representatives.

The Texas Rangers began an investigation into the West Texas State School in February of 2005. The two employees that were the center of the investigation were allowed to resign from the school. While TYC did implement some corrective remedies after it investigated the allegations of abuse, it did not ensure that those responsible for the incidents were disciplined or ensure that similar incidents would not occur again.

Carlos Uresti is the senator from State Senate District 19, a 23 county area stretching along the U.S.-Mexico border, from San Antonio to El Paso County, including all or part of the following: Bandera, Bexar, Brewster, Culberson, Crockett, El Paso, Edwards, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Loving, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Reeves, Sutton, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, Ward, and Winkler counties. Covering 55,000 square miles, the district contains 62 school districts and spans two time zones.