With assaults on staff members of the Lloyd E. Rader Juvenile Center continuing to climb, local legislators said they were awaiting investigations at the federal, state and local level.
During the first half of fiscal year 2004, residents at the center committed 82 assaults on staff members and other residents. That is nearly twice the number as in 2003.
“Just this past weekend there was a huge brawl that left 17 people hurt, including 10 members of the staff.
This is a serious problem that seems to be worsening. Obviously something is going on and we need to get to the bottom of it,” said Senator Nancy Riley.
Riley, R-Sand Springs, along with Rep. Chris Benge, R-Tulsa and Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa, have asked Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris for a formal investigation.
“Mr. Harris is also concerned about the rising number of assaults. At this point he’s awaiting the findings of an ongoing Department of Justice investigation,” Riley said. “But he has also been in contact with the Sand Springs Police Department and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.”
Rep. Benge said the D.A. pointed out some of the issues raised by the lawmakers were the responsibility of the Oklahoma Juvenile Authority.
“While the D.A. says he has jurisdiction over criminal matters committed at Rader, there are other issues he does not have jurisdiction over. We’re hopeful that these issues will be addressed by the federal investigation,” Benge said.
“We’re definitely concerned about the trend we’ve seen at Rader. This is the state’s only maximum-security lockup for juveniles. These are kids who’ve been accused of murder and other violent crimes, and we need to ensure that they are truly in a secure environment where they are not a risk to the staff or to the general public,” Lamons said.
Sen. Riley said she and her fellow lawmakers appreciated the response of D.A. Harris and hoped the investigations would be concluded as soon as possible.
“I think we’ve been lucky so far that these disturbances haven’t been worse—but that isn’t to say it couldn’t happen. It is imperative that all the entities involved from the federal level on down complete their work so we can begin making whatever changes are necessary,” Riley said.