Texas Appeals Court opens door for licensing jails as child care centers

November 28, 2018

3rd Court of Appeals rules that no one is allowed to challenge a state agency rule that permits unrelated adults to be assigned to children’s bedrooms

AUSTIN — Today, a court ruling opened the door for implementation of a state agency rule that would allow jails to be licensed as child care centers, and unrelated adults to be assigned to children’s bedrooms. The 3rd Court of Appeals reversed a 2016 trial court judgment that ordered the state to refrain from licensing such facilities.  Grassroots Leadership and detained families had successfully argued in front a district court that the licensing of family detention centers violated Texas law.  

In 2016, Judge Karin Crump of the 250th District Court invalidated the Texas regulation that allowed for the licensure of the family detention centers. According to that ruling, the regulation would have also authorized licensure without compliance with fundamental state minimum standards that ordinarily apply to child care facilities -- including a standard prohibiting children from sharing bedrooms with unrelated adults.

Today’s ruling by the 3rd Court of appeals overturns Judge Crump’s ruling, effectively deciding that no one can ever challenge the rule.  The ruling was cheered by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who said, incorrectly, that it “helps ensure the safety and well-being of children.”  The Appeals court issued no such ruling. Instead the court only held that Texas courts lack jurisdiction to protect children.

“We are obviously disappointed and horrified by this decision,” said Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership’s executive director.  “Licensing of these facilities hurts children.  Texas agencies refused to license these facilities for years, and only did so under pressure from ICE.   Now children will be hurt and the courts say they can’t be involved.”

The nation's two largest family detention centers - the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas and the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas — had applied for licenses from the state. Both of these facilities are run by private prison corporations, with the Dilley facility run by CoreCivic (formerly CCA), and Karnes operated by GEO Group.

“The only ones who may benefit from this ruling are the private prison companies which make millions off their massive baby jails,” said Libal.  “We are committed to continuing this fight, in the courts, in the legislature, and by fighting alongside families in these notorious detention centers until they are released.”

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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation, and criminalization are things of the past. Follow us @Grassroots_News.


Bob Libal, blibal@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111