Seven inmates who were held at the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center have filed a federal civil rights suit against the GEO Group, the AP reports. The Texas Youth Commission facility, which was handed over to the private prison behemoth GEO Group in 2003, was abruptly shut down in October after a surprise TYC audit found “unsafe conditions” at the facility. (For background on Coke County, check the Juvienation backlog and, of course, Grits for Breakfast.)
According to the AP, the inmates allege “they were mentally, physically and sexually abused in 2006 and early 2007 by David Andrew Lewis, 24, who worked the night shift until he was fired in March.” Lewis, a registered sex offender, was dismissed after TYC officials learned he was on the public sex offender registry. Lewis claims he divulged his sex offender status when he applied for the position. A GEO spokesman had no comment.
Regardless, the GEO Group should have seen, and acted on, warning signs before the company dismissed Lewis in March. Holly Becka at the Dallas Morning News writes, “TYC grievance records obtained by The News show the agency recorded four mistreatment allegations against Mr. Lewis by inmates whose identities were withheld. He was cleared on three allegations, including an accusation of sexual abuse. In February, an allegation of unprofessional conduct was sustained against Mr. Lewis.”