Texas Youth Commission, feds strike deal on treatment of juvenile inmates in Edinburg

Justice Department had assailed conditions at prison in Valley

08:00 PM CST on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 By DOUG J. SWANSON / The Dallas Morning News dswanson@dallasnews .com

The Texas Youth Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed on measures to stop unconstitutional treatment of juvenile inmates at TYC's Evins prison in Edinburg.

The agreement, filed Friday in federal court in McAllen, includes a number of actions designed to give "protection from harm" to Evins inmates. Among them: TYC will provide adequately trained staff, will track incidents of assaults against youth and will use "only safe methods of restraint." The agreement was reached after months of negotiation between the Justice Department and TYC. Last March, the Justice Department ruled that conditions at the Evins prison violated the constitutional rights of inmates. The Evins unit has a history of trouble. TYC investigators have found gang-related problems throughout the prison, and guards have been caught smuggling drugs to inmates.

In 2004 a nurse-manager complained to supervisors about broken teeth and fractured bones suffered by inmates at the hands of guards.

Evins inmates rioted that same year. Inmates later alleged in a still-pending lawsuit that they were beaten and abused by guards who quelled the riot.

TYC staff "have engaged, and continue to engage, in a pattern or practice of failing to ensure that the youth at Evins are adequately protected from harm," the Justice Department declared in papers filed Friday. "This Agreed Order is intended to enhance conditions at Evins."

The agreement, which must be approved by a federal judge, gives Justice Department monitors complete access to Evins and to TYC records related to treatment of inmates there.

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