updated 4/3/2007 12:13:04 AM ET 2007-04-03T04:13:04

Texas' troubled juvenile prison system plans to release more than 550 inmates who have completed their minimum sentences and haven't caused any trouble behind bars, officials announced Monday.

The inmates will be released in the coming week, as soon as agency officials are able to line up the services they will need in the community, including parole supervision and counseling, Texas Youth Commission spokesman Jim Hurley said.

The move is part of a top-to-bottom investigation of agency policies amid allegations that inmates were sexually and physically abused and employees who knew about the problems did nothing to stop it.

The system incarcerates about 4,700 offenders ages 10 to 21 who are considered the most dangerous, incorrigible or chronic.

Advocates for inmates and their families have complained that sentences are often extended for capricious reasons or in retaliation for filing grievances.

Jay Kimbrough, whom Gov. Rick Perry appointed to fix the troubled agency, on Friday decided to suspend an agency policy requiring inmates to reach a series of academic, behavioral and therapeutic benchmarks before they can be released. The suspension came amid questions over whether the program was effective.

The move made nearly 300 inmates immediately eligible for release, along with about 250 who already were in the pipeline, Hurley said.

"It's not just going to be all these kids walking out at one time," Hurley added. "We have to make sure that services are available for them."

Hurley said a panel of community activists, attorneys and TYC employees still plans to review the extended sentences of other offenders who aren't currently eligible for release. Hundreds more inmates could be released after that review, Kimbrough has said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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