Violent Incidents Continue at Giddings State School
After months of reported problems at the Giddings State School, there were two violent incidents that occurred at the facility last Thursday and Friday. Jim Hurley, spokesperson for the Giddings State School, reported to the Leader that pepper spray was used to quell a fight involving six youths at the facility on Thursday, May 3. Also, on Saturday, May 5, a juvenile correctional officer was injured when a youth punched her in the face. According to Hurley, she suffered a sore jaw, swollen eye and, perhaps, a scratched cornea. She was taken to the emergency room and released that same day.
Hurley also confirmed that three youths formerly incarcerated at the Giddings State School, escaped from a halfway house in Austin on Monday, May 7. One of the youths has returned, but two others remain at large. One of the escapees was identified as a ringleader, and the other two, gang members of a gang inside the Giddings facility.
Officials with the Texas Department of Juvenile Justice, formed last year, replacing the Texas Youth Commission and the state juvenile probation department, said they were investigating reports of gang violence in which members “bought and owned other youth” for obtaining illicit drugs, cigarettes and money at the Giddings location.
A nine-page investigative report to legislative leaders by Debbie Unruh, Texas Juvenile Justice Department ombudsman, said, “Youth ringleaders are controlling the culture on this campus; staff have a lack of control over youths; youths have refused to leave security detention for fear of their safety; and bullying and extortion of food are common.”
In the report, agency officials said they have identified five ringleaders, one of which was one of the escapees in this Monday’s incident. The report also states that random drug tests and dorm searches are being done to curb contraband trafficking.
Hurley said, “We have a zerotolerance policy for abuse of incarcerated youths, whether by the staff or the youths themselves. We are taking steps to address each of the items detailed in the nine-page report from the Texas Department of Juvenile Justice. The Giddings facility is an important institution. We are very interested in insuring the Giddings facility continues to be a smooth and efficient organization. It houses some of the toughest kids in the system, so we are focused on making it very safe for everyone involved.”
The Giddings State School is a 300-bed facility that currently has 263 incarcerated youths. It is the largest facility of its kind within the state.