Airick Browning is in a bad situation. The Texas Youth Commission inmate could get out of the detention centre at Bart, Texas to return to his family home if he confesses to his crime of attempted rape.
The thing is Browning says he’s innocent, so instead of being at home he sits in a cell.
The confession is part of his TYC treatment and it’s the only out of jail ticket he has right now. His case though is on appeal and if he confesses to a crime that he swears he is innocent of then he won’t receive immunity and he could watch his appeal go down the drain.
This Catch-22 is the focus of a legal motion filed on November 19. His lawyers are asking for the TYC to quit trying to get the sixteen year old Browning to confess. By forcing the teen to confess his constitutional right against self incrimination is being violated. The lawyers are also asking for the court to release the youth from the centre.
“From talking with him and other children in TYC, it was pretty apparent that this policy of coercing confessions out of children was unconstitutional,” said Scott Medlock, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is representing Airick and other inmates in a pending class-action lawsuit against TYC.
“It’s a big problem to force kids to give up their rights to go through the treatment that TYC is required to provide,” he said.
At this time there has not been a hearing scheduled. This could be a landmark case for youth who’s cases are on appeal and the ruling could make a difference to others in the Texas youth detention system.
Juvenile detention centres are different from prisons. The “goal” of these centres is to rehabilitate the children that reside within the facility. Inmates must complete educational, behavior and correctional therapy objectives before they are released. Each category that must be completed is called a step. If a inmate gets into trouble then they are pushed back down a step. There have been complaints from some youth saying that guards and staff get back at them by lodging disciplinary actions that require longer stays.
TYC has been dealing with past abuses of their inmates and working on improving their programs. On December 1 they plan on starting a new treatment program at their Beaumont unit. Other units will gradually begin new programs.
Airick has completed the steps that he needs to be released from the program. He earned his GED and was the valedictorian of his class. He hasn’t gotten into trouble while a reside.
Airick “is frequently asked by TYC staff to assist with work in the facility, such as serving other children food,” the court filing noted. He “was even designated by TYC to distribute grievance forms to other children, an important position of trust.”
Because he maintains his innocence Airick has been denied the chance to enroll in TYC’s sex offender treatment program which is a condition of his release.
“Airick has done his part by progressing through the academic and behavioral components of the TYC program, and, but for this confession issue, he would be out with his family for Thanksgiving,” Mr. Medlock said.
His mother had received a call saying her son would be released on Nov. 14. Later she was told that because of conditions dealing with his parole that release would be delayed. The conditions deal with the fact that until he wins his appeal Airick is considered a sex offender. He has to register as a sex offender to be released from TYC. Airick signed on the dots and x’s and agreed to see a parole officer and even attend outpatient sex offender treatment. Then came the Catch-22. TYC can’t release him because he hasn’t completed its treatment program. The one he isn’t allowed to attend.
TYC will not allow [Airick] to participate further in its rehabilitation programs because he is asserting his Fifth Amendment rights,” his lawyers said in the court filing. “As such, the plans for release were canceled.”
Something is wrong with the system. Hopefully the judge will right the wrongs in this case. Until then Airick sits in detention instead of celebrating the holidays with his family.