Assaults on staff members at juvenile detention centers spike after Rader Center closing
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
1/23/13 at 4:25 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The lack of a maximum-security facility to house violent juveniles has contributed to a dramatic increase in assaults on employees at the state's two medium-security facilities, a legislative panel was told Tuesday.
Lawmakers are conducting budget and performance hearings with state agencies as the Feb. 4 opening day for the legislative session approaches.
In 2011, the Office of Juvenile Affairs closed the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs.
It was the only state juvenile facility that could house juveniles in need of maximum security.
Its demise resulted in the loss of 48 beds in the Intensive Treatment Program, which was for the most-aggressive youth.
Rader had 186 beds in all.
Costs were part of the reason for the center's closure, along with concerns that the aging facility wasn't amenable to housing juveniles.
In fiscal year 2011, some 12 percent of residents at the state's secure facilities in Manitou and Tecumseh were involved in assaults on staff members, a figure that rose to 27.6 percent in fiscal year 2012.
The assaults have contributed to a high turnover among employees, said Dick Parish, OJA's director of institutional services.
"Until I can get a facility to transfer these most dangerous clients to, we are going to rock and roll," he said.
The agency is seeking $2 million to provide housing for extremely violent youths and juveniles with mental illnesses, said OJA Executive Director Keith Wilson.
At present, those clients are mixed in with the other youths requiring medium security, Wilson said.
The agency recently put out a request for proposal for a private contractor to provide care, treatment and housing in a 16- to 32-bed maximum-security facility for youths who are violent or have serious mental-health issues, he said.
More than half of the juveniles at the two facilities have significant mental-health concerns, Wilson said.
"For the most part, we are just trying to survive with the drastic budget cuts we have had," Wilson said.
Original Print Headline: Assaults on staff spike at juvenile detention centers
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465