SAND SPRINGS — Officials at the state's youth detention center will begin implementing changes outlined in a proposed settlement agreement over civil rights issues, despite ongoing legal wrangling over how the agreement will be enforced.
In a settlement filed last month, the state agreed to modify policies at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs and is already taking steps to meet the requirements of the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, said Gene Christian, director of the state's juvenile affairs office.
"We're moving forward as if the agreement is final,” Christian said. "We're leaving it solely in their hands to figure out legal ramifications. We're moving forward on our end.”
What are the accusations?
In 2006, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division filed a federal lawsuit against the state and the Office of Juvenile Affairs, alleging:
•The conditions at Rader deprived youths of their civil rights.
•Staff did not adequately address mental health issues and protect offenders from abuse by staff and other offenders.
•There were sexually inappropriate relationships between staff and youth.
•Imporoper management of psychotropic drugs and offenders who are suicidal.
Nearly two years after the lawsuit was filed, the state and the Justice Department have reached a tentative agreement that includes 90 recommendations to address issues in training, policies and conditions at Rader.
"I think we've addressed some of the deficiencies, and there are some things that we have learned in the process,” Christian said. "We've worked hard to reduce some of the image problem we've had there. The staff has made great strides.”
Agreement outlines changes
In mid-June, attorneys for the state and the Justice Department filed a proposed settlement agreement. For Christian, it was a blueprint of where Rader needs to be. The settlement, however, is awaiting judicial approval. U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell, in an order, said he was concerned about the legal aspects of the agreement and whether it met the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which puts limits on how agreements can be enforced. The proposed agreement would be in place for three years.