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State, Justice Department near settlement on lawsuit

Oklahoman Modified: December 2, 2010 at 5:20 pm •  Published: May 27, 2008
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TULSA -- The executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs said the state and the U.S. Justice Department are close to reaching a settlement agreement in a lawsuit over conditions at a juvenile detention facility.

The OJA's Gene Christian said talks have been ongoing since January and could be completed during the next 30 to 60 days. The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division filed the lawsuit in December 2006, claiming juveniles held at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs had been subjected to sexual and physical assaults.

"The settlement discussions are going very well," Christian said. "We are close and I anticipate that we will have a settlement by early summer. There could still be funding issues that (the state Legislature) must address, but we should have an agreement."

The 215-bed Rader Center is Oklahoma's only maximum-security lockup for youthful offenders. Records show that either juveniles at the facility or staff members have reported 1,277 assaults during a three-year period.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa is overseeing the case. A trial date, set for April, was canceled, and Christian said that if a settlement is reached in the case, the lawsuit would be stayed if the state complies with the agreement.

Christian said the OJA either has addressed or will address security and treatment issued raised in the lawsuit and that $2 million in supplemental funding, which the agency received in February, will be used to curtail the potential for suicide attempts at the facility.

Some of that money also will go toward attempts to better detect juveniles who try to assault other inmates, either sexually or physically, Christian said.

One safety upgrade, Christian said, will be a wireless radio identification system that will be installed at the Rader Center.

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