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Texas agency fires youth prison workers

Dallas_The Texas Youth Commission fired seven employees, including four quality assurance monitors, in response to a report of juvenile inmates living in squalid conditions at a West Texas lockup.

Commission Inspector General Bruce Toney said Wednesday that he has opened a criminal investigation into the operations of the Coke County Juvenile Center. Its 197 male inmates were moved to other commission facilities on Tuesday.

The state this week canceled its $8 million annual contract with GEO Group Inc., which had operated the prison since 1994. Officials cited the "deplorable conditions" outlined in a review by commission ombudsman Will Harrell. His report cited dirty bed sheets, feces-smeared cells, insects in the food and examples of inmates being placed in solitary confinement for five weeks.

The closure of the facility in Bronte is the latest problem in a year of turmoil for the commission, which was placed in state conservatorship this spring after a sex abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up.

Commission officials haven't been able to explain why four full-time quality-assurance monitors at the Coke County facility failed to report the substandard conditions.

The agency also fired an employee from the agency's Fort Worth district office who wrote a report in February awarding the prison an overall compliance score of 97.7 percent. In the review, monitors thanked GEO staff members for their positive work with juvenile inmates.

Commission spokesman Jim Hurley would not disclose the specific job titles or place of employment of the remaining two employees who were fired, although he said they were in contract care management. The fired employees were not identified by name.

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