Crockett State School workers struggle with unanswered questions

Millie Cloer is a Registered Nurse at the Crockett State School.
Millie Cloer is a Registered Nurse at the Crockett State School.

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Millie Cloer's husband has cancer, the state just shut down her work, and she's left with questions.

After more than 60 years, the Crockett State School is set to close its doors, displacing more than 280 workers and 111 delinquent youth.

The school is one of three being closed by the Texas Youth Commission.

"I have to have insurance," said Cloer. "We could sell, we could move, but this is my home."

A registered nurse at the Crockett State School, Cloer just learned the TYC gave the Houston County Campus the axe.

At 63 years old, she worries about finding a job, but knows she's not alone.

"I have some friends that have been out there 18 years, 19 years," said Cloer.

Her daughter worked there 11 years.

"There was no other community in the TYC system that had as much to lose as Crockett," said Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt.

Hunt was one of the representatives at a TYC board hearing on Friday who had a chance to argue why it should be saved.

"Since they closed the Crockett and Beaumont units, that leaves nothing for the eastern half of the state," Hunt said.  "The closest now are Corsicana or the McClennan unit. I don't think that's a good idea. The closer they are, the greater the opportunity to involve the parents in the rehabilitation of the kids."

Without the school, he said the county loses close to $40 million dollars and more than 500 jobs will be impacted in some way by the decision.

"It is certainly a severe blow to the economy, no doubt about that," Hunt said. "One of the things the commission said it was considering was the local economic impact but I don't really think they placed enough weight on that. These are jobs that we just simply cannot replace right now."

The TYC board did not give a specific reason as to why it's axing the Crockett facility.

"There was no one reason why the Crockett State School was selected," said Jim Hurley, the director of Public Affairs for TYC, in a telephone interview on Friday. "There were a number of factors that were considered for each facility, including going forward, which facilities would best meet the needs of the Texas Youth Commission."

However, Hunt said if they really considered all the factors, the school wouldn't be closing.

"This facility first opened as a correctional facility for black girls," Hunt explained. "When no one else in the state wanted it, Crockett and Houston County opened their arms...we were here for the state of Texas 60 plus years ago when they really needed us. Unfortunately, the state was not here for us this time when we really needed them."

"We had the greatest community support and I just don't understand it," said Cloer. "My heart is broken."

With no choice, they take their sentence with a heavy heart.

Youth transfers from facilities scheduled for closure will begin in June and be completed by the end of July.  No releases to parole will occur simply because of facility closure. Staff at the affected facilities will be given opportunities to transfer to similar positions at other TYC facilities where job vacancies exist.

Currently, 111 youth inmates are housed at the Crockett State School. The facility's staff works to create a new future for delinquent youths.

The facility still belongs to TYC, but there's no word yet on what will be done with it.

Hunt said there is a provision in the law allowing the buildings to be transferred to the county or city with the stipulation that it be used for a public purpose.

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