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Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it would open an investigation into the conditions in five juvenile correctional facilities in Texas, citing reports of physical and sexual abuse.

Driving the news: The department has investigated a number of states over their treatment of juveniles because "protecting the rights of children throughout the juvenile justice system is a top priority," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Details: The DOJ is launching the investigation under a law that allows them to look into the "systemic violations of the rights of young people in juvenile correctional facilities." According to Clarke:

  • At least 11 staff members have been arrested for sexually abusing children in the Texas facilities.
  • There have been reports of physical abuse by staff members, "including kicking, body-slamming and choking children to the point of unconsciousness."
  • "We will also investigate whether there is a pattern or practice of harm as a result of the excessive use of chemical restraints, excessive use of isolation or a lack of adequate mental health services," Clarke said.
  • "The Department of Justice stands ready to protect the rights of children who end up in juvenile facilities and our investigation will ensure that the treatment of these children comports with constitutional standards," Clarke added.

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2021 - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5–11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11, pending authorization from the FDA of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, and tens of thousands of pharmacies to administer the shots.

Utah school district ignored widespread racial harassment, DOJ says

The U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington D.C. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Utah school district intentionally ignored racial harassment and abuse for years despite repeated complaints, the Justice Department said this week.

Why it matters: An investigation launched in 2019 revealed "persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment of Black and Asian-American students by district staff and other students," according to the DOJ.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.