Juvenile Incarceration: Morales v. Turman (continued)
Using information garnered from the 1972 interviews, the plaintiffs amended their pleading to focus on the treatment of incarcerated juveniles. Attorneys from the Mental Health Law Project, a public interest firm focused on the rights of institutionalized individuals, joined the suit, as did the Department of Justice as amicus curiae.
A six week trial in the summer of 1973 revealed that 60% of boys were committed for stealing, 19% for disobedience and immoral conduct, and only 9% for crimes of violence. Of girls, 68% had been committed for disobedience or immoral conduct and only 4% for crimes of violence. Inmates at the Mountain View and Gatesville facilities testified that newly committed boys suffered physical and psychological abuse from staff and other inmates. Boys were often given “make-work” assignments, or tasks with no intended purpose other than labor. Punishment was at the discretion of the staff and use of force was encouraged.
Following the trial, Judge Justice issued an order permitting reasonable physical force only for self-defense, defense of another, or to prevent escape or destruction of property. The use of corporeal punishment, mace, and tear gas was strictly limited. Further, Judge Justice required that dorms be desegregated, prohibited make-work assignments, barred segregation based on suspected sexual preference, established conditions for solitary confinement, allowed inmates to speak in other languages, prohibited censorship of mail, and increased visitation rights. Further, the order required that twenty-four-hour health care by provided to inmates and that potential TYC employees be screened to ensure psychological and psychiatric fitness.
In September 1973, almost immediately following Judge Justice’s order, rioting began at the Gatesville and Mountain View facilities. Executive Director Turman and other TYC officials blamed Judge Justice’s prohibitions, while others cited misunderstanding by guards and TYC officials as to what controls were permitted under the order.