Dallas Black Clergy Demand Justice for Youth at Henry Wade Center

DALLAS – The Dallas Black Clergy is demanding answers and immediate action following a whistleblower report of harsh conditions for juveniles at the Henry Wade Justice Center in Dallas. The group held an emergency press conference on Sunday, describing the conditions as “inhumane and harsh.”

Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters emphasized the failure of the facility to rehabilitate juveniles, stating, “The building behind us is supposed to be a place of rehabilitation; instead, it’s a place of trauma.”

The Dallas Black Clergy is requesting a meeting with the entire Dallas County Juvenile Board to address these issues. Rev. Dr. Irie Session declared, “We want to meet with you because we want to be sure that our children stop being dropped and start being cared for with dignity and humanity. We will not settle for anything less.”

Former detainees, including Shavondra Smith, shared their traumatic experiences. Smith, now 36, recounted multiple lockdowns and collective suicide attempts during her time at the center from age 13 to 17. “We were locked in our cells multiple times. Five of us, I know, tried to commit suicide at the same time because we were put on lockdown,” she said.

Another woman, who wished to remain anonymous, described the unsanitary conditions during her three and a half months at the center when she was 14. “Insects come out of the shower room. Hair and mold cover the walls; it is disgusting,” she said. “We’re not lying, and we deserve to be heard. These babies have a voice and do not deserve to be locked down like caged animals.”

Last year, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect at the center. In response to the press conference, Darryl Beatty, the executive director of the Dallas County Juvenile Board, conducted a walk-through of the facility and reported that the conditions did not match the descriptions provided.

The Dallas Black Clergy aims to meet with the juvenile board in July ahead of the board’s scheduled meeting in August to discuss necessary reforms and ensure the humane treatment of juveniles in the justice system.

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