LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Allegation of sex abuse scandals have a former Texas Youth Commission speaking out on how he thinks it could have been prevented.
One former prison official, Ray Brookins was sentenced to ten years in jail for sexually assaulting boys at the West Texas State School in Pyote. And Monday the trial of John Paul Hernandez, 45, the former principal there continues. Hernandez pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of sexual abuse from six years ago.
A former policy and financial auditor of the TYC, Eric Etheredge, said there were questions of this type of abuse when he worked there decades ago. He said his auditing team tried to change policies back then, but they reported their findings and everything stayed the same. He's actually surprised it took so long for allegations to come about.
"Staff always voiced concern that there was nothing in place to protect the staff if a student were to say I've been abused," said Eric Etheredge, former TYC management auditor.
Etheredge said during audits in the 1990's they interviewed TYC students and staff. Etheredge said the policy for staff being alone with students behind closed doors went back and forth, but nothing was set in stone.
"The thing that was shared across the agency was we are setting ourselves up perhaps. I heard that from parole officers, even some of the contract care people saying, I usually take one person in with me. Of course the fear was the kid might feel like he is being ganged up on," said Etheredge.
So when allegations popped up about John Paul Hernandez sexually abusing boys in his care, Etheredge said he was not shocked. "When I was working there, there were questions abuses and mistreatment. And that's true of any organization like that," said Etheredge.
And in the Hernandez trial ex-inmates said the former prison official gave them special treatment and candy, which Etheredge said is against policy.
"These kids are in a locked up environment, candy and food from outside the cafeteria was considered contraband just like it would be in an adult prison," said Etheredge.
Former inmates have testified that Hernandez sexually abused them in closets and classrooms. One victim said it happened 18 times. Etheredge said if more strict policies were put in place back then, these type of allegations could have been prevented.
"It seemed kind of backward to us. We felt like everything else you are saying you want to be at the highest level. But here we have the minimum level. We really felt this was going to come back and bite us one day," said Etheredge.
Hernandez said the boys lied about the abuse to get released from prison. Lawmakers closed the facility last summer.
KCBD NewsChannel 11 will continue to update you until Hernandez's trial is over.