BELL COUNTY — Amy Cage fears for her son’s life while he’s locked up at the Bell County Juvenile Detention Center.
“He has been kicked by guards with boots on. He has been put in chokeholds. He has been punched while he was in handcuffs,” said Cage.
Cage recently filed a lawsuit against the county claiming staff at the facility are mentally and physically abusing her 16-year-old son Jordan Hampton.
“He has been completely put in a pod by himself since April 7. He was not allowed to go to school. He has to eat in the pod,” said Cage.
She gathers with a small group, week after week near the center in protest. Hampton is awaiting trial on a murder charge, since arriving a year ago. Cage said she learned about the alleged abuse, during visits with her son.
“The only time that I know that abuse happened was when I would come and I would see the marks on my son or see him limping to visitation. I will keep on him about what happened and then he’ll tell me,” said Cage.
She said spoke with several other mothers like Ashante Hughes who also claims her son 17-year-old Keymari Hughes experienced the same treatment.
“Imagine trying your hardest to get out of here anything and you’re doing everything you gotta do then you get ready to go to court and you have 27 write-ups out of nowhere. That is the means of how Bell County keeps these kids inside of the facility,” said Hughes.
Hughes’s son was moved to The Bell County Jail in June after getting an additional charge, which mom believes is much safer. Cage now said she wants her son moved to the adult facility, as well.
Cage also wants the Governor to send state investigators to talk to Juvenile about the conduct in the facility and investigate alleged abuse in the center.
We reached out to Bell County officials and they released the following statement from Judge Blackburn:
“Bell County believes the allegations in the lawsuit to be baseless and false, and we will defend it vigorously.
In addition to that, I did want to share the information below, which we have previously shared with another media outlet in August.
We take the safety and security of those juveniles that are entrusted to our care very seriously, as do we the safety and security of staff that is charged to deliver these services. Each and every allegation, grievance, and complaint is investigated, reviewed, and acted upon in a manner that is appropriate.
Grievances can be filed by residents for any reason. If grievances are found to be of significant concern, they are elevated to complaint status. Grievances are not screened prior to being submitted by a resident. Regardless of a report’s origin or subject matter, each grievance is thoroughly reviewed. To that end, Bell County Juvenile Services (BCJS) has two designated grievance officers, who conduct initial reviews, and two supervisory level staff, who conduct any appeals of the initial findings requested by the submitting resident. These staff do not work in the facility and are uninterested, neutral parties.
BCJS takes all allegations seriously and investigates each and every allegation. As mentioned above, in addition to an internal investigation, physical assault complaints are forwarded to both TJJD and the Killeen Police Department for outside, independent review and investigation as those agencies deem necessary. With very few exceptions, the allegations have been determined to be false. When allegations of abuse of a juvenile in the care of BCJS are substantiated, that employee is disciplined, up to and including termination or resignation prior to termination. We also review our policies and procedures to ensure we mitigate against such occurrences in the future. We are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for the juveniles we have in our custody.
BCJS does not prohibit resident visits with family as a sanction. Any notion that visits are denied as sanctions or as retaliation is not true. BCJS takes appropriate measures to ensure that entitled visits occur. There have, however, been some instances when a resident has been aggressive and combative, and allowing them to enter the visitation area would threaten safety and security of the facility."