Federal monitors who visited a maximum-security juvenile lockup facility this week found conditions have improved since a lawsuit was filed two years ago over the treatment of offenders at the L.E. Rader Center. Gene Christian, executive director of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs, told agency board members Friday that monitors at the Sand Springs facility Monday found the conditions improved. Some monitors met with offenders who said they "don’t fear for their safety and because of that are now able to concentrate on their treatment,” he said. "We haven’t seen that in the past,” Christian said. The visits are part of a consent decree that lets federal investigators monitor changes in the education, living conditions and protection of juvenile offenders. The decree ended the litigation and was finalized in September. In 2006, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division filed a federal lawsuit against the state alleging policies and conditions at Rader did not address the mental health or educational needs of offenders. The lawsuit also said offenders were not adequately protected from abuse by staff or other juveniles. Federal monitors will keep visiting for three years, and the facility must stay in compliance with the agreement for at least a year after the monitoring period, Christian said.
Improving educationJuvenile Affairs has hired a director for education of juveniles at Rader, the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center and the Southwest Juvenile Center. The Justice Department said Juvenile Affairs wasn’t meeting the needs of special education students. Christian said the new position will oversee the special education component and look for ways to improve juvenile offenders’ instruction. Christian said assaults at Rader continue to drop. Juvenile-on-juvenile assaults dropped 40 percent during the last reporting period, which ended in October, he said.