At least 100 employees of the Texas Youth Commission have a felony charge or warrant in their backgrounds, and some have convictions, and while spokesman Jim Hurley says they now are being identified, the system won’t be able to get rid of them right away anyway.

“The Texas Department of Public Service is delving into these numbers right now,” Hurley told WND. “So, we should be getting the number of actual felons on the TYC payroll very soon now.”

Hurley told WND that prior TYC policy allowed prior felons to be employees. He also confirmed that prior TYC hiring was decentralized, with many decisions made at the individual unit level.

“When a unit wanted to hire a known felon,” Hurley explained to WND, “the felon’s file had to be forwarded to the executive level of the TYC central office. There would have to be a waiver signed by the executive director or the deputy executive director.”

But Hurley acknowledged to WND that TYC may have hired some felons whose criminal records were not fully disclosed at the time of hiring.

“Supposedly, criminal background checks were done on every TYC employee,” Hurley said. “But unfortunately, the background check doesn’t always turn up everything. It is possible that we are going to have some felons being employed in the system who did not disclose their criminal records at the time of hiring. This, of course, would be a violation of policy that would be a firing offense in itself.”

The TYC is the state agency now under investigation after allegations arose of abuse and rape of youthful inmates – sometimes by guards or staff members.

Hurley also acknowledged to WND that the TYC may not be immediately able to fire all felons found in the criminal background checks being undertaken now.

“We are still working out plans as to how exactly we are going to deal with the convicted felons we find on the TYC staff,” Hurley acknowledged. “We are working on an accelerated pace, but I can’t tell you if it’s going to be tomorrow or next week before we have an exact plan worked out for handling the problem of felon employees, but it will be soon.”

“We will find a way, however, to release from TYC all the felons we find,” Hurley assured WND. “We are also going to dispose of TYC employees with criminal misdemeanors, even though those offenses did not have to be reported under previous TYC hiring practices. This is especially the case if the misdemeanor involved an initial charge such as aggravated sexual assault that was pled down to a battery misdemeanor. That’s also a person we are not going to want working for TYC any more.”

Hurley also said TYC may end up closing units in Texas.

“Ultimately, that’s the legislature’s decision,” Hurley said. “But I think the legislature is looking at the wisdom of having some of these facilities in such extreme areas. It’s problematic when you have some of these TYC facilities out there in the middle of nowhere. So, it is conceivable that offices could be closed.”

He said probably what will be found is workers with drug offenses.

“Though, we probably shouldn’t speculate at this point. It’s probably best to wait and see out what exactly our investigation uncovers,” he said.

WND asked Hurley if he thought there was a “culture of abuse” in these facilities.

Hurley agreed.

“Yes, it certainly seems that way,” he said. Still, he cautioned that not all the instances of abuse that the on-going investigation will document are going to end up being sexual abuses.

“There are probably a number of reasons for the inmate abuse in the TYC system,” Hurley said. “One reason could be the inadequate staff-to-inmate ratio. Another could involve the big open-bay dorms in some of the facilities, with 50 beds in them. Then also, you have some bad actors out there that unfortunately were hired and put in place within the TYC system.”

“If it were Jay Kimbrough’s preference,” Hurley stressed, “there would be no felons whatsoever working for TYC. That’s the goal we are working to accomplish.”

WND has previously reported that Jay Kimbrough, Gov. Rick Perry’s former staff chief, has been appointed by the governor to serve as “Special Master” in the TYC investigation.

WND has also reported that for two years a cover-up successfully kept Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski’s TYC investigation from resulting in prosecutions or from becoming public knowledge.

Gov. Perry’s office was notified of the TYC investigation in Feb. 2005, when Burzynski first presented his investigation to prosecutors in the attempt to get criminal indictments.

For two years, Ward County District Attorney Randall Reynolds brought no prosecutions in the TYC investigation and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott waited on the sidelines.

WND has also reported that U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office declined prosecution on July 28, 2005. On Sept. 27, 2005, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., also declined to pursue a prosecution.

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