For more than a decade, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has been slammed for reports of repeated sexual and physical abuse, as well as a lack of control. Credit: Jennifer Whitney for The Texas Tribune

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The federal government opened an investigation Wednesday into Texas’ long-troubled juvenile lockups.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would examine whether children detained in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department’s five lockups are reasonably protected “from physical and sexual abuse by staff and other residents, excessive use of chemical restraints and excessive use of isolation.”

The announcement comes days after the agency reported the latest arrest of a former staffer accused of improper sexual activity with a person in custody. Devin King, 29, was arrested Friday for allegedly touching the breast of an 18-year-old detainee while he worked as a detention officer. The incident was first reported in July, the agency said.

For more than a decade, TJJD has been slammed for reports of repeated sexual and physical abuse, as well as a lack of control. Last year, advocacy groups called for the federal government to step in, saying in a complaint that the department allowed “grievous violations of children’s constitutional rights.”

“Too often children held in juvenile detention facilities are subject to abuse and mistreatment, and deprived of their constitutional rights,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in the DOJ’s release. “State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions.”

This story will be updated.

The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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