Budget cuts could force the state Office of Juvenile Affairs to shut down its maximum-security juvenile detention facility, the agency’s director said Tuesday. Citing security and staffing concerns, agency Executive Director Gene Christian said capacity at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs already is being decreased, and officials may decide to close the facility to save money. "Right now the Rader facility is the most expensive,” Christian said. "We would have to put that one at the top of the list.” The agency’s board in September began requesting proposals to build a new maximum-security facility. Christian has said that one existing detention center would have to close to absorb the cost of a new facility. The state operates detention centers in Tecumseh, Manitou and Sand Springs. The Office of Juvenile Affairs, like other state agencies, is looking for ways to cut costs after the Office of State Finance ordered agencies to cut their budgets for December and January by 10 percent after revenue figures for November came in 25 percent below estimates. Agency budgets were cut by 5 percent for the previous four months. The agency will begin furloughing employees who work with juveniles at the detention centers four hours a month in January. Administrative employees already have been furloughed and will continue to take time off, up to two days a month, Christian said. The agency also has cut contracts with private firms for community-based services, boot camps and other prevention services, Christian said. Furloughs are expected to continue through the rest of the budget year, and Christian said it’s possible that the agency will have layoffs if the cuts remain in place. "We’re going to have to wait and see, but at this point, this is what we’re going to have to do to balance our budget,” Christian said. "We’re waiting to see what options are on the table.” A voluntary buyout plan offered earlier this year thinned the ranks of employees at Rader. Those employees who left their jobs are not being replaced, and officials are having a hard time adequately staffing the Rader Center, Christian said. The facility houses 110 juvenile offenders. "There’s a risk inside the facility,” Christian said. "We’re reaching the point at the Rader facility that the needs are greater than our ability to provide staff.” Christian said officials are putting some juveniles from Rader at other sites and closing down some units of the facility.
Maintaining careAn earlier round of budget cuts forced the Office of Juvenile Affairs to end a construction contract to make improvements at Rader required by a decree in a federal lawsuit. In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed a federal lawsuit against the state and the agency over assaults and suicide attempts by youth at Rader. Litigation ended in 2008, and the agency was required to make changes to improve safety and work with federal monitors. State Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, said there have been discussions about how to cut down the per-bed costs at Rader. Because juveniles are housed in cottages and open areas, the center requires more staff members than a traditional detention center does. "We’ve got to take a serious look at the services we provide and the level of care to those kids,” Newberry said. "We need to cut the number of employees needed, but we need to maintain the quality of care to those kids.”