The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday that it is launching an investigation into the treatment of juveniles at five facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

The agency said in a statement it will investigate whether the state provides children “reasonable protection from physical and sexual abuse by staff and other residents,” DOJ said in a statement.

The investigation will also look into excessive use of chemical restraint, excessive use of isolation and whether Texas provides adequate mental health care.

Camille Cain, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said in an emailed statement that the agency will “cooperate fully" with the investigation.

“We all share the same goals for the youth in our care: providing for their safety, their effective rehabilitation, and the best chance for them to lead productive, fulfilling lives. That has been the agency’s mission since I joined TJJD, and it remains our constant focus,” Cain said.

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights, told reporters that the investigation follows an “extensive” review of publicly available information and information gathered from stakeholders. 

Clarke also pointed to reports of staff members paying children with cash and drugs to assault other children, and of staff sharing pornographic materials with minors. She also noted that at least 11 facility staff members have been arrested for sexually abusing children.

“All too often, children in correctional facilities, like those at issue here, are abused, mistreated and deprived of essential services,” Clarke said. “And because they are children, still growing and developing, they are uniquely vulnerable to harm and abuse inside these institutions.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed the Texas Rangers to investigate reports of staff engaging in potentially illegal behavior in July. 

"Throughout his time serving the people of Texas, Governor Abbott has always prioritized the safety and well-being of all Texas children, including those in the state’s care," Abbott's press secretary Renae Eze told The Hill. "The State of Texas will cooperate fully with the Department of Justice’s investigation.” 

The investigation is the latest as the agency tackles conditions in prisons across the country.  In August, the agency announced that it reached a consent decree with New Jersey to monitor its treatment of incarcerated women following allegations of abuse at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women

Last month, the agency launched a civil rights investigation into violence between inmates and targeting of gay and transgender prisoners in Georgia facilities.

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