The state Office of Juvenile Affairs is requesting a budget increase of nearly $50 million, including $20 million for a new youthful-offender facility. OJA Executive Director Gene Christian made the request to the state House Human Services Committee at a time when the Legislature is in the midst of heavy budget negotiations.
The youthful-offender facility is intended to house OJA's older population of offenders, who are above the age of 18 and clogging the system. OJA would like to house the older population away from younger offenders.
"A 13-year-old delinquent and a 19-year-old youthful offender do not need the same services," Christian told the committee.
After the committee meeting, Christian said possible locations for the new facility could either be in the Oklahoma City or Tulsa area since most of the youthful offender population comes from those two cities. The proposed facility would hold 60 beds.
But Christian believes the more important aspect of providing a separate place for youthful offenders is the security it would provide. He said unstable security environments are preventing him from hiring more staff members, who are desperately needed.
"For those who work in conditions that are very important (security-wise), they are saying, 'Wait a minute, I'm being paid this amount and I don't know if I'm going to have to wrestle 11 kids to the floor or none,'" Christian said. "There, that low pay is a major issue." "Scott Cooper