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A grand jury has indicted two former employees of the Texas Youth Commission. They're accused of sexually abusing teenage inmates. These are the most serious charges to emerge from a growing scandal involving the youth prison. The indictments come two years after a lengthy Texas Ranger's investigation detailed allegations of abuse.
Ben Philpott of member station KUT in Austin reports.
BEN PHILPOTT: Authorities arrested former West Texas States School Assistant Superintendent Ray Brookins and former School Principal John Hernandez. A grand jury indicted the pair on 23 counts, ranging from having an improper relationship with a student to sexual assault. Both men resigned in 2005 after allegations of sexual misconduct by the two were documented. That report by a Texas Ranger was ignored until this past February, when media investigations highlighted the alleged abuses. Since then, the Texas juvenile justice system has enveloped state lawmakers and authorities. Juvenile justice advocate Isela Gutierrez called the arrest a very symbolic move.
Ms. ISELA GUTIERREZ (Texas Coalitions Advocating Justice for Juveniles): And to have them indicted and facing charges and finally seeing this case move forward really, I think, demonstrates that the state does have - it's certainly is a good sign, that the state has the commitment to advancing justice in this case and other cases and really making sure the Texas Youth Commission is cleaned up.
PHILPOTT: The Texas Youth Commission is entrusted with the care of more than 4,000 kids aged 10 to 21. They are the state's worst juvenile offenders. Even so, the commission's newly appointed conservator, Jay Kimbrough, announced last week that many TYC inmates had their sentences lengthened without legitimate reason or for retaliation. Over the weekend, the TYC began releasing almost 500 inmates who had served their time. Joseph Galloway was one of those freed over the weekend. Although he spent four years behind bars, the 19-year-old is hardly a kid anymore. He says he was beaten and raped while in custody. Yesterday, he filed a class-action lawsuit against the TYC in federal court.
Mr. JOSEPH GALLOWAY (Former TYC inmate): I have a goal in life right now, and that's to change TYC for - change TYC, get rid of all the negative people, all the negative things that occur in TYC, all the things that could possibly lead to something bad happening to a youth.
PHILPOTT: Galloway's lawyers hope to add hundreds of names to the suit. Already investigators have received more than 2,000 calls to a new abuse hotline, and the state has begun inquiries on each one. State Representative Jim Dunnam says the current investigations and yesterday's high-profile arrests are a good start.
State Representative JIM DUNNAM (Democrat, Texas): But we need to understand that this is just the thing that started it all. And we need to look at who knew about these allegations a year ago and why they didn't take action sooner. I'm glad that it happened, but why did it take so long?
PHILPOTT: Since late February, top TYC officials and the agency's governing board have been fired or forced to resign. TYC conservator Jay Kimbrough says more drastic changes and additional mass releases should be expected. A new advisory panel has begun pouring over records of every TYC inmate to determine whose sentence increases were legitimate and which inmates should be released immediately.
For NPR News, I'm Ben Philpott in Austin.
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