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Juvenile center standoff raises overcrowding question

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A recent standoff at the Oklahoma County Juvenile Detention Center may be the spark for reform within the state's juvenile justice system, which is facing its most serious crisis in years.

On Aug. 10, five juveniles acted out inside the facility, resulting in a massive force of city and county law enforcement officers arriving on the scene to quell the situation.

"We had some juveniles who refused to return to their rooms and started tearing up the day room and took a fighting stance," said Larry Hicks, administrator of the detention center. "They were totally out of control."

OFFENDERS
Once the police and sheriff's departments were called in, the juveniles quickly ended their rampage. A county judge ordered the five juveniles to the Oklahoma County Jail. No staff member was attacked and no one was injured.

Hicks said four of the juveniles were 15 years old, with one of them a 13-year-old. He warned not to be deceived by their age.

"These are juveniles who probably, if they were older, would be youthful offenders," Hicks said.

OVERCROWDING
Hicks said the juveniles took advantage of a situation, which led to the standoff. Prior to the event, several older juveniles were ordered by a county judge to be moved out of the detention center and into the Oklahoma County Jail, due to overcrowding.

"We moved out those youthful offenders who were extremely serious, and it kind of left a void within the facility," Hicks said. "You always have this power struggle within a facility. These particular juveniles kind of rose to the top as troublemakers. They had already been identified as being a problem, and sure enough, they posed it." "Scott Cooper

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