IRAAN, Texas (AP) – The Texas Youth Commission conservator told workers at the Sheffield Boot Camp on Thursday that the youth prison will be closed.
"It's apparent that the agency will continue to experience staffing difficulties that make the long-term viability of the Sheffield facility tenuous," Conservator Richard Nedelkoff wrote to state legislators, the Odessa American reported for its Friday editions.
Jim Hurley, a TYC spokesman, said the boot camp has always had staffing problems. The facility, with a military approach to rehabilitation, had 42 officers and 17 juveniles on Wednesday. It could house up to 80 youths and was budgeted for a staff of 85 correctional officers.
Hurley said the boot camp will close March 31.
Every TYC facility is being examined for its effectiveness and need.
A scandal involving the TYC erupted last year when two West Texas State School administrators were accused of sexually assaulting imprisoned male youth, and state-level commission officials were accused of weakly addressing the allegations.
Nedelkoff announced the plans for Sheffield to the staff on Thursday. He later met with the management of the West Texas State School in Pyote and told them it would remain open through September 2009.
"Deep down inside we sort of figured it wasn't going to be closed, but it was great for someone to give us the official word," West Texas State School Superintendent Wallace Brown told the newspaper.
Hurley said 60 people would lose their jobs with the Sheffield closing, but they are being encouraged to apply for transfers to other TYC facilities. Brown said the West Texas State School is understaffed.
Iraan Mayor Dana St. Clair said the loss of jobs would be a blow to the local economy.
"For our community, we have a lot of people who live here and work down there," she said. "This has been their home. A lot of these people are not people who have moved here to work here."
The Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District oversees the education of the youths at the boot camp, and its enrollment numbers include the youths.
The district's state funding will go down without the boot camp and the school district may have to reduce its staff as well, Superintendent Kevin Allen said.
Allen said the school district had anticipated the closure.
Two former TYC administrators will stand trial later this year on charges that they sexually abused juvenile inmates at the West Texas State School facility.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.