Last summer, federal agents investigated allegations of abuse following a riot at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg.
The findings of that investigation are still pending, as is a multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit filed by several students.
Statewide, the agency suffered a 48 percent turnover rate among staff last year.
The recidivism rate for inmates, Harris told the panel, is hovering around 50 percent. Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from Mc Allen, asked about an alleged case of sex abuse by staff members at the West Texas State School in the rural town of Pyote west of Odessa.
Both men denied the allegations, but investigators collected dozens of statements from students and staff, conducted polygraph tests on students, and collected DNA samples from semen-stained carpet and furniture at the school, according to a TYC inspector who assisted with the investigation.
Yet there has been virtually no mention of the case in the media since the two men resigned nearly two years ago, nor have there been any arrests.
The incident was a particularly ugly one, though few people outside the Permian Basin have ever heard of it.
Following an investigation by the Texas Rangers and the FBI in February and March 2005, two of the highest-ranking officials at the school—the assistant superintendent, Ray Brookins, and the principal, John Paul Hernandez—were accused of having sexual relations with several students over an extended period.An internal agency review of the incident—which to date very few people have read—documents a string of missed opportunities to uncover the abuse at Pyote.The Rangers were not summoned by TYC administrators, but by a volunteer math tutor frustrated by what he considered the agency’s own unwillingness to investigate.And the agency’s response to the problems at Pyote, records obtained by the show, was anything but diligent.When Dwight Harris, executive director of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), appeared before the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on February 1 to discuss his agency’s fiscal needs for the next biennium, he came prepared for some tough questions.It has been a difficult year for the troubled agency, which oversees the system of correctional facilities for boys and young men known as state schools.