SAND SPRINGS — Changes in policies and programs at the state's juvenile detention facility have drastically reduced the number of assaults at the L.E. Rader Center, according to figures released by the Office of Juvenile Affairs. From July 2007 to June 2008, the number of assaults at Rader dropped by 286, according to the figures. During that time, a total of 65 assaults were reported. Juvenile assaults on staff members accounted for more than half of those assaults. The report also showed that there were 27 juvenile assaults on juvenile and one sexual assault by a staff member on juvenile. Figures from this past fiscal year are in sharp contrast to numbers from the previous two years. During the fiscal year that ended in June 2006, there were 406 assaults reported at the Rader Center. The number of assaults between July 2006 and June 2007 was 351, according to the report. "The numbers for this year are so good they're scary,” said Gene Christian, Office of Juvenile Affairs executive director. "It's an amazing turnaround.” The decrease in the number of assaults at Rader comes as the Office of Juvenile Affairs and state officials work to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. The 2006 lawsuit filed in a Tulsa federal court claimed staff and policies at Rader did not protect children at the center and violated their civil rights.
What does the lawsuit say?The lawsuit alleges staff did not adequately address mental health issues or protect offenders. The lawsuit also claims staff engaged in sexually inappropriate relationships with youth at the center. The Office of Juvenile Affairs and the Department of Justice have drafted a tentative settlement agreement and are making changes to the agreement to satisfy legal requirements. Changes made as a result of the lawsuit also have helped lower the number of assaults, Christian said. Recommendations from the settlement agreement include adding video cameras and standardizing the definition of assault, Christian said. Now, assaults are often caught on camera and a team of staff members are able to review the incidents, said Everett Gomez, Rader superintendent.
Teens with mental illnesses movedThe department also has moved offenders with serious mental health issues to a residential treatment center in Norman. This allows staff members to focus on offenders with treatable behavioral problems, Gomez said. "Kids are going to get attention, good or bad, they're going to get attention,” Gomez said. "We want to focus on good attention.” Since taking over the job, Gomez said the facility has increased its recreation and work programs to help the juveniles build self confidence and channel energy. "They need to run that energy off,” Gomez said. "We want them to compete and feel confident about themselves.” Rader holds about 136 teens, and the median age is 16. Juvenile offenders as young as 14 and as old as 20 are placed there after being convicted of a crime.
Record of assaults at the Rader Center
July 2005 to June 2006Juvenile assaults •322 juvenile assaults on juvenile •75 juvenile assaults on staff Sexual assaults •4 sexual assault of staff by juvenile •4 sexual assault of juvenile by juvenile •1 sexual assault of juvenile by staff
July 2006 to June 2007Juvenile assaults •278 juvenile assaults on juvenile •61 juvenile assaults on staff Sexaul assaults •4 sexual assault of staff by juvenile •6 sexual assault of juvenile by juvenile •2 sexual assault of juvenile by staff
July 2007 to June 2008Juvenile assaults •27 juvenile assaults on juvenile •37 juvenile assault on staff Sexual assaults •0 sexual assault of staff by juvenile •0 sexual assault of juvenile by juvenile •1 sexual assault of juvenile by staff Source: Office of Juvenile Affairs