EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Formerly incarcerated individuals and their allies are raising awareness about living conditions in Texas youth prisons. 

One Texas youth organization is working to close the remaining juvenile detention centers in the state.

Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg is one of the final remaining juvenile detention centers in Texas.

Austin Liberation Youth movement is calling for a change of law during the Texas Legislative session.

The call for change comes after the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the conditions in five juvenile correctional facilities run by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

“A big part of the reason we’re doing this is because there have been several reports that came out this past summer about the conditions of these prisons, primarily that the kids are subjected to violence and abuse within that system,” Krupali Kumar, an organizer with the Austin Liberation Youth Movement said. “45% of the kids in TTJD are on suicide watch and there were reports about kids being locked in their cells for up to 22 hours a day.”

The group is also advocating for community-based alternatives to incarceration, with the ultimate goal to build a large-scale youth-led fight for prison abolition.

They hope the remaining juvenile detention facilities will slowly close by 2030.

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department gave the following response to the campaign:

“TJJD maintains that all five of our secure facilities are needed to serve the youth who are committed to us by juvenile courts from across the state. These residential facilities provide educational services and specialized therapies to the youths who’ve been sent to TJJD for felony offenses.  TJJD vigorously supports the development of local diversion and prevention programs at the county level through state-funded grants and a variety of collaborations. We and our county juvenile justice partners aim to keep justice-involved youth as shallow in the system as possible. When that’s not possible, judges will commit high-need youth to TJJD residential care for a chance to reform before they become adults, when their offenses would send them to adult prison.”