Death at Privately Run Texas Juvenile Detention Center Raises Questions

The death of a 14-year-old boy at a juvenile detention center in Texas now the public wondering whether official will take a closer look into what exactly is happening in these Texas juvenile centers.

The middle school boy was found unconscious in his cell at the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center in early October. He was found with bed linens wrapped around his neck; he died several days later at a Fort Worth hospital. Authorities are uncertain whether it was an accidental death.

One of the most troubling aspects of this incident is that it is not an isolated incident for this center. According to state records, in the last four years over 250 complaints about serious incidents have been filed — ranging from juvenile-on-juvenile assault to neglect and physical abuse from supervisors. During the same period, the center logged 133 attempted suicides.

Given this high number of incidents at one single juvenile center, one cannot but help wonder why nothing is being done. A reporter at the Star-Telegram suggests that perhaps it is because it is a for-profit juvenile center that does not cost the state or taxpayers any money.

The for-profit juvenile center has had a problematic history, suffering from a lack of profitability and compliance with state health regulations. Efforts were made to increase security and provide better supervision and medical care for the juvenile detainees. But the question still remains — even in these privately run juvenile centers — isn’t it ultimately up to the state to make sure that it is taking care of the juveniles housed there?

Source: Star-Telegram, “Boy’s death in juvenile detention center should jolt state lawmakers into action,” 10/25/11.