Mixed reaction to changes to Texas juvenile prison system

Staff Report

The Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) - Nearly ten months after reports of inmate abuse first surfaced, at least one parent disputes claims of progress in reforming the agency that oversees the Texas juvenile prison system.

State lawmakers ordered the Texas Youth Commission to revamp its programs and change its managers after the scandal broke. But since

then, inmate abuse allegations have risen, staffing shortages persist and controversy remains over the continued use of pepper spray on juveniles.

Jon Halt is a member of a watchdog group. His teenage son was sexually assaulted by another inmate in a juvenile prison.

Halt says tells The Dallas Morning News said the changes have been very small.

The commission's own assessment of its progress is more positive. "I'm going to say excellent," says Dimitria Pope, the commission's acting executive director.

February reports by The News and the Web site of The Texas Observer revealed that officials at a West Texas youth prison had been accused of sexually abusing inmates. The revelations that followed included reports of youth beatings, lax medical care and a culture of retaliation against whistleblowers.

Legislation passed in May was supposed to address the problems and, to some extent, it did, according to one lawmaker.