Records show 34 employees have been fired from Brownwood youth facility in last five years
BROWNWOOD, Texas —
The State of Texas' only co-ed youth detention center is in Brownwood, but it has recently come under fire for several issues, including a high turnover rate for employees.
In documents obtained by KTXS News by using an open records request, 34 employees at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex have been fired from working at the facility since 2013.
April Jameson is the superintendent at Ron Jackson, which is one of five youth lockup facilities in Texas and the center houses more than 160 inmates that range in age from as young as 10 to as old as 19.
Ron Jackson is also the only facility in the State of Texas that incarcerates female juvenile offenders.
Jameson said that it is important that kids leave the Ron Jackson facility ready to contribute to society in a positive way.
"The families have to be prepared for that," Jameson said. "To try to move them away from the criminal mentality into being more positive and pro-social."
Each of the youth wake up daily from 4:45 a.m. to 5 a.m. and dive into planned activities, which include body exercises and school and they are also enrolled in a treatment program to address issues such as mental health or drug addiction.
All the incarcerated juveniles have committed a felony, some as serious as murder, and a state judge is the one who decides whether to the send them to a county jail or a Texas Juvenile Justice Department facility.
In the past six months, Governor of Texas Greg Abbott and state law enforcement have scrutinized the agency.
In February, the Texas Rangers arrested four former juvenile correctional officers, including one who worked at Ron Jackson.
Morsello Hooker was caught on video surveillance footage lifting a Ron Jackson youth off the ground and body slamming him to the floor, according to court documents.
Last year, a 13-year-old boy at Ron Jackson hanged himself and a TJJD spokeswoman told KTXS News that at the time, nobody had died at the Brownwood juvenile detention facility since 1999.
Still, Jameson said that her employees are dedicated toward improving the lives of the troubled youth.
"Some people come in here and think, 'I'm just going to be supervising kids.' And yes, they're kids, but they're kids that have committed some pretty serious offenses," Jameson said.
Of the 34 Ron Jackson employees that were fired in the last five years, KTXS News obtained the records of 12 of the fired employees.
Some of the reasons for the firings included juvenile correctional officials allowing inmates to engage in sexual behavior while they watched and causing physical harm to the youth by using excessive force, according to records.
In another case, a male correctional officer was accused of engaging in verbal or written communication with a female inmate and at one point, he allowed the youth to sit in his truck, although both the correctional officer and the inmate denied to investigators that any sexual activity had occurred between the two of them.
However, Jameson said that all potential new employees are put through a rigorous process, which includes a background check and drug test.
Also, there are also surveillance cameras throughout the Ron Jackson facility that capture every move they make while they are on duty.
"We're constantly recording everything that's going on to safeguard kids and to safeguard staff," Jameson said.
Jameson said that her mission in the more than 20 years that she has been at the Ron Jackson facility is to teach these constantly abused and neglected children empathy.
The Ron Jackson facility currently has nearly 60 job vacancies, which was highlighted as an issue in an independent ombudsman's report.
As a response to the findings of that report, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department has begun offering bonuses to new hires and long-term employees.