- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

DALLAS — The superintendent of a Texas Youth Commission facility was arrested Friday, the latest in a series of problems for a system that has been plagued by complaints involving physical and sexual abuse and cover-up schemes by administrators.

Jerome Parsee, 53, superintendent of the intake center in Marlin, was arrested for purportedly covering up sexual-assault accusations at the central Texas facility. He was charged with making a false report, a misdemeanor.

According to youth commission special master Jay Kimbrough, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to investigate the system, Mr. Parsee lied to Texas Rangers when he told them there had been no sexual abuse at his institution.

Mr. Parsee became the second youth commission superintendent to be arrested in the burgeoning investigations. Sylvia Machado, superintendent of the Ayers House halfway house in San Antonio, was arrested March 9 on charges she shredded reports and records after being told not to do so by superiors.

The Justice Department has termed some of the facilities “unconstitutional” and has threatened legal action.

Mr. Perry also named Ed Owens, a 30-year veteran of the state Department of Criminal Justice, to restructure the agency after the Legislature forced the resignation of the entire six-person youth commission board.

Within days, Mr. Owens proposed a far-ranging plan to move the system from what he called “a crisis” to a “healthy” state.

“It is my intent,” he said, “to build the plan on a solid foundation that embraces a change in the agency’s organizational culture, a revised values system, centralized systems of control. … I intend to make a difference.”

His proposal includes an upgrade of facilities, more extensive checks of job applicants, closer supervision and a way for victims to report illegal activities without fear of reprisal. A hot line to report abuse has been set up and a probe of computer records at all facilities has begun.

In the past six years, youth commission officials reported 6,652 abuse and neglect cases to law-enforcement officials — including 39 sexual assaults. Only 18 cases were prosecuted; 6,634 were deemed not worthy of action.

A Dallas Morning News investigation determined that 92 youth commission employees had been disciplined or terminated by the agency since 2000 for sexual contact with inmates. Five had been convicted — of lesser crimes — and none served prison time, the News reported.

At the beginning of this year, there were more than 7,500 youths housed in the system’s institutions.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised the swift action by state officials and lawmakers.

“We are turning over all the rocks,” he said, “and making sure we know everything. You’d have to have a death wish to go out and try to harm anybody right now.”

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