Prosecutor Seeks Help To Investigate Youth Jail

A West Texas district attorney said he has asked for state help to investigate claims that high-ranking officials at an isolated state juvenile prison molested young male inmates.

A Texas Youth Commission internal investigation found that many prison staffers at the West Texas State School in Pyote had complained about the abuse to their immediate bosses and to officials in Austin but that for more than a year, no one in charge did anything to stop it.

A Texas Rangers investigation in early 2005 found that the prison's assistant superintendent and the school's principal had repeated sexual contact with inmates.

Ward County District Attorney Randall Reynolds said Monday that the case wasn't prosecuted because of a "breakdown in communications."

He said he has asked the Texas attorney general's office for help in determining whether the two former prison officials should be prosecuted.

"I think the case is going to move pretty quickly now," he said.

Also Monday, state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the commission's management needs to be held accountable.

"If I were king, I'd fire everybody and start over," said Hinojosa, who has filed a bill to set up more independent oversight of the commission.

Hinojosa said he plans to call commission Executive Director Dwight Harris to appear at a hearing.

Commission spokesman Tim Savoy said Monday that agency officials had no comment.

Harris has said that agency officials were stunned to learn that the Texas Rangers had substantiated charges of abuse at the Pyote facility in 2005.

An internal report alleged that the former principal of the school lured inmates into sexual acts with offers such as birthday cake and promises of help getting into college. The former assistant superintendent was accused of sexual contact with several youths.

Ray Brookins, former assistant superintendent at Pyote, and John Paul Hernandez, former principal, both resigned their jobs in 2005 in lieu of termination.

Brookins, 41, has declined comment. Hernandez, 41, has denied the allegations and declined further comment.

Spokesman Ted Royer said Gov. Rick Perry was pleased that the Ward County district attorney was speeding up his investigation.

"The governor wants to ensure those who have failed to do their duty in the administrative process are held to account," Royer said.

The Texas Youth Commission houses offenders ages 10 to 21 who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic.

The West Texas State School is located between Midland and Pecos in rural Pyote and houses 250 male inmates.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.