AUSTIN, Texas – The entire board of directors for Texas' troubled youth prisons resigned Friday following weeks of criticism sparked by reports that agency workers covered up sex abuse of inmates.
The six-member Texas Youth Commission submitted resignation letters to Gov. Rick Perry after recommending a reform plan that calls for stricter supervision and new rules on sex abuse allegations, Perry spokesman Ted Royer said.
The board met briefly by conference call to hand over its power to acting executive director Ed Owens, who was hired to overhaul the agency dogged by accusations that inmates were sexually and physically abused in youth facilities around the state.
"I've got to instill and enforce that we are changing," Owens said. "As the plan says, it's a time for action."
The resignations came a day after the U.S. Department of Justice released a report saying the high rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults at a juvenile prison in Edinburg created a "chaotic and dangerous" atmosphere that violated the residents' constitutional rights.
The Texas Youth Commission incarcerates about 4,700 offenders ages 10 to 21 who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic.
The commission has been in turmoil since reports surfaced last month that employees had covered up allegations that two officials at the West Texas State School in Pyote had molested male inmates.
Perry demoted the board's chairman and appointed special master Jay Kimbrough to oversee a sweeping investigation of the agency, which so far has produced hundreds of new inmate complaints of abuse.
But until Wednesday, when the full Senate voted for the board's ouster, the governor had been reluctant to replace them. He said there was no proof they had done anything wrong.
The board members praised Owens' 24-point rehabilitation plan, which calls for improving staff-to-student ratios and redrafting complaint policies so top agency staff review all allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.