As director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Gene Christian has one of the toughest jobs in state government. It’s getting more difficult all the time, thanks in part to budget cuts that have hit every state-funded office. Adding to the stress for Christian is a Justice Department report released last week that included Oklahoma’s maximum-security juvenile detention facility among the worst in the nation for the amount of sexual abuse and victimization going on behind the facility’s walls. A whopping 25 percent of the youths surveyed at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs said they had been subject to some type of sexual victimization, such as sex acts with a staff member, intercourse or contact with another person’s genitals. That’s more than double the national average of 12 percent. Rader’s rate placed it among the top 13 juvenile lockups nationwide. In addition, a survey of those incarcerated at the state’s juvenile detention facility in Tecumseh showed 16.7 percent said they had been sexually victimized. This isn’t a pretty picture. It’s also not one that surprises Christian. He quibbles a bit with the Justice Department’s methodology — few of the allegations made have been substantiated, for example — but he has been dealing with the issue of in-house violence since his appointment in 2006 and understands the challenges presented by the way Rader is laid out. Its design makes it difficult to monitor staff and juveniles at all times; the facility’s cottages have blind spots in some areas. This is one reason why he plans to begin closing cottages at Rader. By July, Christian hopes to have only about half as many juveniles at Rader than are there now. That will mean fewer staff will be needed, which will save the agency money but also should provide a chance to keep a better eye on staff and the young inmates, and potentially reduce the number of incidents such as sexual assault. Rader has a long history of violence, which shouldn’t come as a shock considering the violent records of those housed there. In early 2007, a Tulsa World review of three years’ worth of OJA records showed the number of assaults and violent attacks at Rader had more than doubled. Many involved staff members allegedly assaulting juveniles. A 2006 federal lawsuit alleged that youth at Rader weren’t adequately protected from other juveniles or staff. Changes were implemented, and in 2008 federal monitors said conditions had improved. Further improvements have been made. Now more are planned, driven in part by a painful state budget crunch. "We’re taking to heart the Legislature’s recommendation to make changes,” Christian said. "OJA will not look the same in five years as it looks today.” With any luck, neither will statistics regarding violence done to and by juveniles in state custody.