OJA Interim Director Thanks Governor, Legislators for Approving Measure Limiting Young Teens Being Placed in Juvenile Detention Facilities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) interim Executive Director Rachel Holt today thanked Gov. Kevin Stitt for signing and legislators for unanimously passing a measure that limits placing young teens in detention centers.
House Bill 1282, by Rep. Mark Lawson and Sen. Dave Rader, establishes limits on placing children 12 years of age and under into juvenile detention centers. The measure, OJA’s only request bill this session, also sets limits for 13- and 14-year-olds admitted to detention.
“I applaud Governor Stitt and lawmakers for their bipartisan support to consider and approve this measure, which will improve our state’s response to juveniles involved in the justice system,” said Holt. “Oklahoma’s children have the highest rates of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the nation. One night in secure detention contributes to a child’s ACEs score and can have lifelong consequences. As Oklahoma continues its momentum as a Top Ten state for juvenile justice, these limits on young children in detention will be powerful juvenile justice reform.”
The House of Representatives approved HB 1282, 87-0, and the Senate passed it, 44-0. The measure takes effect Nov. 1.
In addition, the bill orders OJA to pay 100% of the detention costs for any child in OJA custody awaiting an OJA placement bed. OJA currently pays 85% of the operating costs for every contracted detention bed. The fiscal impact would be minimal and covered by unencumbered funds reserved for such expenses, Holt said.
OJA’s placement wait list has been historically low this past year as the agency worked with courts to move children through the adjudication process faster, allow children to receive services in their community, and lower the length of stay in placements.
On May 12, OJA’s governing board updated its State Plan for the Establishment of Detention Services that will further reduce the allocated number of contracted detention beds for the 2021 fiscal year by 37 beds for a total of 229 beds.
“This is a data-driven decision, which will provide efficiency in line with recommendations from OJA’s 2018 Agency Performance Audit by BKD to ‘right-size’ the number of detention beds,” Holt said. “With this new decrease of beds in the 2021 fiscal year, setting limits in detaining 12- to 14-year-olds will allow Oklahoma to have enough available beds in our statewide juvenile detention system for those children who need it.”