AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – A Texas Juvenile Justice Department spokesperson said Wednesday that as COVID cases rise, members of the Texas National Guard have been called in to help at youth prisons due to issues with staffing levels.

The spokesperson said that the TJJD made a STAR Request through the Texas Division of Emergency Management for support. The TJJD said they also reached out to BCFS, a San Antonio non-profit with whom they have worked with in the past, but they did not have enough resources available to provide assistance.

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The TDEM was able to arrange with the Texas Military Department an agreement wherein six members of the Texas National Guard will be called in “to assist on our campuses in support roles such as supply runs, transportation, medical support, food service, and bed checks when youth are in their rooms.”

The TJJD said that the National Guardsmen “do not provide direct care” and that “the goal is that their support will allow TJJD direct-care staff to focus on their primary duties of  supervising and engaging with our youth.”

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The National Guardsmen will be “on campus for each 12-hour shift” and “arrived yesterday afternoon at Ron Jackson and Gainesville, with Evins and Mart receiving help starting this week.” The spokesperson said that the Giddings State School is not currently scheduled.

The contract is scheduled to run through Jan. 9, but the TJJD said it could be extended if necessary.

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“Our agency’s priority remains the safety of our youth, and as the rise in COVID cases across the state has impacted staffing levels, this additional help will allow TJJD staff to focus on the direct care of youth and help ensure the smooth operation of our campuses,” the spokesperson said.

CBSDFW.com Staff