Budget crunch clouds Oklahoma juvenile center's future

BY JULIE BISBEE Modified: December 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm •  Published: December 23, 2009
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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 care
An 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.”

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