Judge calls for federal probe into allegations of sex trafficking

Judge calls for federal probe into allegations of sex trafficking

Isabel Webb Carey
Isabel Webb Carey
|
March 31, 2022

In the latest hearing in an ongoing 11-year-old investigation into Texas’ child welfare system, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack called for federal probe into allegations of sex trafficking at a Bastrop shelter for teens.

The hearing focused on The Refuge, a state-licensed shelter for female foster children between the ages of 11 and 17 who have been victims of sex trafficking. Earlier this month, a court revealed that staff members were themselves trafficking the children in their care. Nine staff members were accused of subjecting seven children staying at The Refuge to sexual and physical abuse, neglectful supervision and medical neglect. Following this news, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued an emergency suspension of The Refuge’s license to care for children and told shelter officials to close the facility immediately. They have since testified on changes implemented to fix the foster care system. 

After the situation at The Refuge became public in a federal court hearing on March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Rangers to investigate the situation at The Refuge. According to a subsequent letter sent by Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, the Texas Rangers investigation found there to be “no allegations or evidence that these residents were sexually abused or assaulted by anyone.”

However, after reviewing thousands of documents and recordings, the court’s monitors said in a filing on Monday there is “ample evidence” to substantiate allegations of child sex abuse, exploitation, neglectful supervision and physical abuse at The Refuge. 

On Wednesday, Jack judged the Texas Rangers’ investigation to be “very poorly” conducted and said that she has lost confidence in the state’s investigation. She went on to announce her intention to request a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Texas for an investigation into the possible production and distribution of child pornography and sex trafficking at The Refuge.

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Texas is reading.

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey attends the University of Texas at Austin in the Plan II Honors Program with a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her interests include education, local governance, sustainability, and equity. Isabel enjoys dancing, hiking, and live music. She is also a staff writer for the Texas Orator. Email her at isabelwebbcarey@gmail.com
Our Privacy Policy has been updated to support the latest regulations.Click to learn more.×