TJJD Response to COVID-19
As an agency focused on public safety, the highest priority of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is to protect the youth in our care and our dedicated employees. TJJD remains in daily contact with the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Texas Department of Emergency Management to remain fully informed and respond to events as the situation changes. Additionally, the agency’s leadership team has been meeting throughout each day to ensure services while maintaining safety. The 2,000 employees of TJJD are committed to doing their part to help Texas beat COVID-19.
- Screening. Everyone who enters our facilities receives a health screening and has their temperature taken at the gatehouse. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher or who otherwise does not pass the screening is immediately sent home. Additionally, all youth committed to our care receive a health screening by the local probation department prior to movement and again upon arrival at TJJD. All newly admitted youth wear a mask until a complete medical history and assessment can occur.
- Hand washing. TJJD has installed portable handwashing stations outside our gatehouse for staff and throughout the secure facilities for both youth and staff. Staff and youth are reminded to wash their hands frequently during the day.
- Masks. All staff at TJJD secure facilities and halfway houses are issued and required to wear protective masks. Additionally, any staff member who is visiting a jail or detention facility or must work within the community is also required to wear a mask.
- Small groups. TJJD has implemented policies to ensure that youth within the facilities are kept in the smallest groups possible and that these groups remain intact without social crossover.
- Volunteers and visitors. In-person volunteer activity and family visitation have been cancelled. TJJD has increased the use of virtual visits and has provided each youth with additional funds for their phone account to allow maximum connection with families during this time. We will still allow a chaplain or attorney to enter a campus, but strongly encourage and enable virtual visits.
- Intake. On April 14, TJJD temporarily halted all new admissions to its facilities to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Admissions have slowly resumed since May. For those counties that have had a issued for their facilities because of a positive test for COVID-19, local officials are required to meet a certification process and submit formal paperwork to TJJD to request a release from the hold.
- Medical quarantine and COVID-19 testing. Each TJJD facility has set aside space for medical quarantine. Any youth who shows symptoms that could potentially be the result of a COVID-19 infection are moved to quarantine and administered a test. Youth are released from quarantine following a negative test and a medically observed resolution of symptoms based on CDC guidelines. In addition, youth are tested under the following circumstances:
- At intake to a TJJD facility
- If they had interactions with any staff member who tests positive for COVID-19
- If the TJJD medical team determines that a potential COVID-19 infection of a staff member warrants the testing of particular youth
As of June 2, 2020, 121 youth have been tested for COVID-19. At this time, no youth at a TJJD facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Cleaning. We have provided guidance and our facilities are cleaning routinely with a focus on high-touch surfaces. Guidance includes safety standards on use of multiple cleaning products.
- Education. Youth are receiving alternative education through assignments with a small number of teachers providing support and tutoring on the dorm and are observing rules that require no more than 10 people to a group, social distancing, and masks. We continue to work on developing virtual IT options.
- Recreation. We understand that engagement and interaction are essential to our youth and that when youths’ daily activities are interrupted, it can cause frustration and anxiety. From both Central Office and our facilities, we have a team charged with providing as many structured activities, physical activities, and opportunities to be outdoors or other recreation spaces as possible.
- Non-essential travel. All non-essential travel is restricted.
- Telework. Most non-direct-care staff are telework eligible and TJJD has facilitated broad use of telework by updating our virtual private network (VPN) and distributing devices to those who previously had no laptop or other device from which to work at home.
- Parole supervision. Parole visit schedules have been altered based on level of supervision. We are increasing video and phone contacts and continuing in-person contact on a more limited basis and by risk level of youth.
- Community service and work for youth. For halfway houses, we have closed all community service work that occurs outside of the house and are increasing internal opportunities. For parolees, we are offering parents or 18-year-old youth the option of suspending the TJJD parole requirement to do community service or obtaining work during the duration of this situation.
Response & Communications Systems
- County COVID updates. TJJD has sent notifications to the county probation departments related to how they must inform TJJD if any staff or youth in their facilities tests positive for COVID-19. This will better assist TJJD in coordinating system-wide responses. TJJD places a hold for intake on any detention facility, contract care facility, or county jail with cases of COVID-19.
- Ongoing support to field. Probation departments continue to receive guidance related to compliance with standards, training, and information related to COVID-19 response from federal and state agencies.
- COVID Report Management Center. TJJD has established a management center for any reports of COVID or concerns related. The OIG Incident Reporting Center serves as the single point of intake for such reports. The COVID Report Management Center then receives those reports and takes actions to advise the staff member about appropriate actions to take, escalates concerns, and flags for any needed follow up. Each TJJD staff member is required to report to the IRC any potentially COVID-related symptoms they experience, tests delivered, and results received. Additionally, we have staff available to answer any internal questions or concerns about COVID-19.
- Staffing response methods. Should TJJD encounter COVID-19 confirmed youth within a facility, our staffing responses will be deployed based on a four-tier approach ranging from our current Readiness Phase to one or more confined cases, a larger number of cases, or widespread cases. Each phase would trigger an elevated staffing response including deployment of our Quarantine Response Teams, which are specially trained direct-care staff members who will provide direct supervision for youth with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
FAQ for Parents
To help understand what it happening at TJJD, we created this FAQ for parents, guardians, and caregivers for youth in the juvenile justice system as well as for the general public. If you would like to reach a TJJD employee for additional information, please visit the Contact Us page.
What are you doing to protect the staff and youth from contact to the virus?Our direct-care staff and any essential personnel have their temperature checked and a screening completed before entering the facility. Upon entrance, they are given a mask to wear for the duration of their shift. In addition, we have added hand-washing stations both inside and outside the gates. Anyone who reports contact with a person with COVID-19 is managed according to CDC guidance.
Additionally, we understand the unique environments in which our youth live, so we are focused on steps such as regular hand-washing and maintaining appropriate social distance.
How is the agency handling employees who have been sick?
We follow the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including all updates, to determine when a staff member with the virus or with potential contact can return to work.
How is the agency handling youth who have been sick?
In addressing the potential cases of youth with COVID-19, any youth within our facility will be isolated if they have a fever, and supportive and medical care will be given based upon associated symptoms. Youth with either flu or COVID-19 will have rest as their primary modality for recovery. Given the seriousness of potential negative outcomes with transferring infected youths, a youth will not be transported between secure facilities, including contract care. The only time a youth will be transported is if hospitalization is believed to be necessary and the youth will be transported by EMS only in these cases.
At this time, TJJD has had no youth in our secure facilities or halfway houses infected by COVID-19.
How many staff and youth at TJJD’s secure facilities and halfway houses have tested positive for COVID-19?
Two staff members at secure facilities have tested positive for COVID-19. On April 2 an IT employee at the Giddings State School tested positive, and on May 19 a youth development coach at the Gainesville State School tested positive.
At this time, no youth in our secure facilities or halfway houses have tested positive for COVID-19.
How has the agency responded to counties that have reported cases of COVID-19?
On April 14, TJJD temporarily halted all new admissions to its facilities for two weeks. The policy can be extended depending on the circumstances. The decision was made to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 to our facilities.
Is the public allowed to enter TJJD secure facilities?
At this time, the agency has enacted broad restrictions to limit access to our facilities. We have suspended in-person visitation, and we have contacted families to provide options such as virtual visitation or additional phone calls. Volunteers, with the exception of attorneys and individuals who lead religious services, are also not allowed inside our facilities at this time.
Has the agency changed its travel policy?
Yes, at this time, per the instructions of Governor Abbott, all non-essential travel has been canceled.
For those employees who had personal travel, we have established an internal email address to help answer their questions or determine risk based on their history and interactions.
Has the Office of the Independent Ombudsman changed its procedures?
The Ombudsman has postponed in-person site visits at this time. The Ombudsman has reached out to the secure facilities and is working with case managers and youth rights specialists to set up schedules for youth to make regular contact with the Ombudsman for virtual visits.
The Ombudsman has also created a procedure for youth who need to speak to the Ombudsman directly. As always, the agency’s hotline calls are monitored and responded to as well.
Finally, the Ombudsman has contacted Contract and County facilities to set up similar procedures to maintain a virtual presence in those facilities as well.
Has the agency implemented any new cleaning procedures?
At all times, TJJD is sensitive to the concerns and safety issues related to any illness within our secure facilities and TJJD has regular safety and cleaning plans in place. Because of COVID-19, we have stepped up those procedures and provided guidance to our facilities to ensure they are cleaning routinely with a focus on high-touch surfaces and high-trafficked areas. Guidance includes safety standards on use of multiple cleaning products.
How has COVID-19 affected the classrooms that are operated by TJJD within the secure facilities?
Our schools were on Spring Break during the week of March 16, and that break was extended through the week of March 23.
Because the school buildings will remain closed to avoid large gatherings of people, beginning on March 30, teachers began providing instruction inside the dorms by observing the Rule of 10, which means that groups larger than 10 are to be avoided and social distancing must be observed.
Like any other essential personnel who work at the facilities, teachers must pass a health screening to enter the campus and engage with the youth.
How have the halfway houses been affected by COVID-19?
At this time, we have implemented safety measure similar to those at our secure facilities to protect staff and youth. In addition, we have postponed all community service work that occurs outside of our halfway houses and are increasing internal opportunities for the youth to meet community service requirements.
Have parole supervision visits changed?
Yes, those visits have been altered based on the level of supervision. We are increasing video and phone contacts and continuing in-person contact on a more limited basis and are prioritizing the visits by the risk level of youth.
For parolees, we are offering parents or 18-year-old youth the option of suspending the TJJD parole requirement to do community service or obtaining work during the duration of this situation. To request a waiver, please contact your child's parole officer or call TJJD's Marqus Butler at (512) 490-7768.
Are resources available for Texans who are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by COVID-19?
Yes, the Texas Department of State Health Services has established a mental health hotline that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The number is free to call: (833) 986-1919.
In addition, DSHS has created a comprehensive site for helpful information related to COVID-19.
Executive Director Orders
In addition to the temporary hold on all new admissions that began on April 14, TJJD has placed formal holds on juvenile dention centers and county jails in which a youth or staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. Here is the complete list:
|JUVENILE DETENTION FACILITIES||COUNTY JAILS||CONTRACT CARE|
|Brazoria County Juvenile Detention Center||Austin|
|El Paso County Detention Center||Bell|
|Harris County Juvenile Detention||Bexar|