Texas youth lockup being investigated for sexual misconduct
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — At least four former staff members of a northern Texas juvenile correctional facility may face prison time amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Former Gainesville State School correctional officer Samuel Lee Wright was convicted in July of having improper sexual activity with youths in custody, according to Texas Juvenile Justice Department officials. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Correctional officers Alicia Adams, 29, and Samantha Kranick, 25, have been arrested on charges of having sex or attempting to have sex with 18-year-olds in custody. Department records show an additional officer is also expected to be arrested.
The agency said the recent arrests indicate that the agency’s policies, reporting mechanisms and camera footage are effective.
“The Texas Juvenile Justice Department takes its mandate to protect youths and communities very seriously, and has implemented new guidelines providing additional measures designed to ensure safety,” said an internal agency report provided to state officials.
Officials said all youth transports will be conducted with at least two staff members present. If two staff members aren’t available, staff will be required to wear body cameras.
Agency investigators said they’re focusing on determining how widespread the sexual activity is between staff and youths.
The sexual misconduct comes as the agency is struggling to properly staff facilities statewide.
Lawmakers previously overhauled the juvenile system after allegations surfaced in 2005 that staff members at a state-run juvenile correctional facility were engaging in sexual misconduct with at least 10 incarcerated youths.
Many leaders of the agency, which was then known as the Texas Youth Commission, were terminated and dozens of staff members were fired and faced sexual assault charges.
The agency started a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual and physical abuse. It also installed more than 9,000 cameras in the agency’s lockups.