Here we go again.
The feds, in the form of the U.S. Justice Department, are taking Oklahoma to federal court over civil rights violations.
This time the problem centers on the L.E. Rader Center, in Sand Springs, Oklahoma’s only maximum security juvenile facility.
The latest action was filed last year in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in Tulsa, by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and in it the feds provide a laundry list of failures on the part of the staff at Rader and the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, which operates the ‘juvie jail’.
Among these alleged failures; that state and Rader officials are not protecting the youths from harm and sexual assault, are failing to offer adequate mental health treatment, that youths at Rader are having consensual sex due to a lack of adequate supervision, that sexual or other inappropriate relationships exit between Rader staff and youths, that youths are assaulting and raping each other frequently and that mentally ill youths have been punished for harming themselves.
In a nutshell, the feds are claiming that the Rader Center is a zoo and that the zoo keeper is asleep in the guardhouse.
In the latest round of action the feds are seeking an injunction to force Oklahoma to:
Increase supervision at Rader, especially for sex offenders, predators and other high-risk juveniles.
Control access to sleeping quarters at the facility and use an alarm system and staggered patrols to stop unauthorized movements.
Strictly monitor access to bathrooms, showers and areas out of sight to staff members.
Establish a toll-free hot line for juveniles, their parents or attorneys to report allegations of sexual misconduct.
Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Gene Christian has met with Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and they are working up a reply to the federal injunction request and will likely attempt to convince the judge that Oklahoma is compliant with the Civil Rights laws.
A lost cause if ever there was one.
A similar approach was taken previously when the feds sued over conditions in Oklahoma’s adult prison system and in the infamous Hissom Memorial Treatment Center, also in Sand Springs.
In each of these cases Oklahoma lost and lost big time, as for many years the feds were in control of the Department of Corrections under a “consent decree” and the Hissom Memorial Treatment Center was closed, dumping many mentally ill individuals onto the streets of Sand Springs and Tulsa, without a place to live and without treatment.
Let’s hope that this time our state leaders make the smart move and give the feds what they want up front and do so without wasting many millions of dollars fighting a lost cause.
Ultimately Oklahoma will do as the feds wish. It’s only a matter of how long we stall and how much money we want to pour down the drain in the mean time.
Unfortunately there’s one thing we Oklahomans always seem to do.
And that is refuse to learn from our past mistakes…