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Home > Publications > Quill > Winner: The Dallas Morning News


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Winner: The Dallas Morning News

“Faces of TYC: Abuse & Scandal Plague the Texas Youth Commission”

Jim Poyser

These are the faces behind the news, people whose lives have been changed forever: abused youth, broken-hearted parents, beleaguered staff, courageous whistleblowers and committed watchdogs. They were caught up in a scandal that unraveled in early 2007 as The Dallas Morning News began documenting abuses at the state agency created to rehabilitate young offenders. Now they are telling their stories.

The Texas Youth Commission had a responsibility to protect young offenders but an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found many of them had been beaten and raped by the TYC staff.

A groundbreaking investigation by The Dallas Morning News exposed their outrageous conduct — as well as a cover-up. They spent months crisscrossing the state in search of youthful offenders, parents and agency employees who risked their careers by complaining about the abuses they witnessed.

Six months was devoted to reporting, videotaping, editing and production work before “Faces of TYC” appeared on DallasNews.com in December. “Faces of TYC” project team included staff photographer Lara Solt, projects writer Gregg Jones and multimedia producer David Guzman.

Leslie White, director of photography, noted the effects the story had: “All of Texas Youth Commission upper management resigned, retired or was fired. The agency’s advisory board was dissolved, and the governor appointed a conservator. Abusers faced criminal charges. The Texas Legislature unanimously passed sweeping reforms with unprecedented speed and consensus. Inmates who should have been released from TYC prisons years ago — and who had been arbitrarily held past their release dates — were finally set free.”

Judges said, “There is nothing more powerful than seeing the faces and listening to the voices of the afflicted, and the Morning News’ multimedia presentation does a masterful job at conveying the kind of emotion that keeps users hooked. … This is exactly how you transform a printed piece into one for online.”

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