Arbitrary Justice at TYC

Joseph Galloway – one of first inmates released from troubled Texas Youth Commission system post new oversight – files federal suit, names as co-defendants the guards who allegedly assaulted him during his incarceration, the guards who failed to protect him, and TYC

Joseph Galloway, who last Thursday became one of the first inmates to be released from the Texas Youth Commission system by conservator Jay Kimbrough, filed a federal class-action suit Tuesday in Austin, naming as co-defendants the guards who allegedly assaulted him during his incarceration, the guards who failed to protect him, and TYC. The suit, which lists 28 defendants, alleges physical and sexual abuse, as well as multiple violations of Galloway's civil rights, including disability discrimination. In addition to unspecified damages, the suit seeks "speedy and systemic reform of the whole organization," said the Texas Civil Rights Project's Scott Medlock, Galloway's attorney.

Like many other inmates, Galloway had his basic sentence extended for seemingly arbitrary reasons before his unexpected release. The 19-year-old's family members are asking why Galloway was locked away for so long so far from home and now has been freed with no explanation or apology.

In March 2003, the then-15-year-old Galloway entered TYC care, where he alleges he was sexually abused by guards and inmates. He was never supposed to go into a TYC facility in the first place, however. After it was originally discovered that he had inappropriately touched his twin siblings, a family-court judge ordered him to receive counseling. Since there were no suitable outpatient resources near his home in Houston County, his family agreed to let him receive his treatment with TYC. Youth sentences are indefinite, supposedly until the child has been rehabilitated, but come with a minimum recommendation – in Galloway's case, nine months. Galloway has been clinically diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, the neurological condition that gives sufferers involuntary tics. His behavior, caused by his affliction, led to his sentence being repeatedly extended, with no due process and no right of appeal. Nine months turned into four years.

According to Medlock, some of the reasons given for keeping him behind bars included sitting in the wrong place in church, staring into space in class, and wearing pants that were too baggy – even though they had been issued to him by TYC. "He was doing normal things that normal teenagers do, and his sentence at TYC was extended because of them," Medlock said.

Part of the problem was that Galloway was kept far away from his family, Medlock said. Like all TYC inmates, Galloway began his sentence in the Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit. Then, rather than being placed near his family at Crockett State School, he spent 3 years in Giddings State School. A three-hour drive from his family, Giddings specializes in dealing with the most violent young offenders in the system, not at-risk youth like Galloway. When his parents complained, he was transferred to Evins Regional Juvenile Center, more than 400 miles away. When TYC become engulfed in scandal two months ago, Galloway was finally moved to Crockett. His discharge paperwork simply said Kimbrough had made an executive decision.

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