With the Crockett State School closing, employees wonder what's next

CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - Hours from closing it's doors forever, Crockett State School employees prepare for what's next.  While some of them transferred across the state to other youth prisons, the others have no idea where their next paycheck will come from. State, county and city leaders are trying to fill the void with the new jobs.

"Maybe there were iron bars and all this stuff around, but for some of them it was home," says Sammy Danner, a former Crockett State School Employee.

For five years, Sammy Danner fed juvenile inmates in the Crockett State School Cafeteria.

"It'll make you cry. We're talking about single moms who no longer have insurance, no longer have a means to support their family," says Danner .

The Texas Youth Commission decided to close down the school to save money.

"The last couple of days it's really hit - our job ends Thursday at 4:00," says Gloria Miller, former corrections officer.

Saying goodbye to the kids they'd become close to wasn't easy.

"A couple of them I'd say you tell them to be good to you or they're going to have to answer to us over in Crockett," says Danner.

In the days since the last juvenile inmates were transferred out, the state school has been like a ghost town. In fact, the large security gate only opens for trucks and caravans moving the equipment and supplies to other state schools.

Some employees will also move to those facilities, but for others that's not an option.

"It's not feasible to move so far off. The other campuses are on the border of Mexico or the border of Oklahoma," says Jeff Higginbotham, a former maintenance man.

With this major blow to the economy, State Senator Robert Nichols turns his focus to jobs.

"We're going to try to work with Houston County to see how we can put the facility to use. How can we get those jobs here?" says Senator Nichols.

The county is now in his East Texas District after redistricting plans.

Nichols says he'll be working with county and city leaders to fill the void left by the school's closure.

"We need to go out and get those companies looking for those facilities and people and connect the two," says Nichols.

Hopes are high that will happen soon.

"A private corrections could come in here and open this up. Who knows?" says Steve Harris, former corrections officer for the school.

"I hope it's something wonderful. Crockett deserves the best," says Danner.

The state school will close after almost 60 years of service to thousands of troubled youth.

Copyright 2011 KTRE. All rights reserved.