Eighteen-year-old Erik Rodriguez was fighting off an assault from another inmate at the state juvenile prison in Corsicana when three other boys rushed into his dorm room.
They held his arms and legs, he said, while one of the inmates "kicked me on the side of my jaw about 20 times." When they finished, he said, "blood poured out of my face like a fountain."
While Mr. Rodriguez absorbed the blows, the two guards for his dorm at the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center were elsewhere. They later were fired for neglect.
The teen's mother said that the Texas Youth Commission assured her that its high-security facility for juveniles with mental or emotional problems would provide her son the best care it had to offer. "I was told that all the boys would be supervised 24-7," Alice Smith said. "As long as they did what they're supposed to do, they would be safe."
What happened at Corsicana is not an isolated incident. Texas Rangers, who were dispatched across the state this week to investigate sexual misconduct at TYC prisons, will also learn of widespread physical abuse.
Records obtained by The Dallas Morning News under the Texas Public Information Act include accounts of guards striking handcuffed inmates, encouraging inmates to fight one another and standing idle while beatings occurred. In one case, a guard threatened to throw a handcuffed inmate off a roof.
"Every day that the ... investigation moves forward, it shines more light on the numerous failures throughout the TYC system," said Ted Royer, spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry. "We suspect there are vast numbers of cases of potential criminal activity that have not been reported and that no one has been accountable for."