TECUMSEH — Earthwork is underway marking the start of a building and renovation project by the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) to modernize and consolidate Oklahoma’s secure-care treatment programs for juveniles.
The Next Generation Campus is being developed on the grounds of the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) in Tecumseh. Operations will continue at the juvenile center while construction is underway. The project, funded primarily by a $45 million bond issue, is expected to be completed in June 2021. Flintco is the building contractor and the DLR Group developed the architectural designs.
The project is part of a plan that includes consolidating OJA’s secure care facilities for juveniles in a modern campus to be built at COJC, which has buildings more than 100 years old. Last year, OJA closed its facility for females in Norman and moved those operations to Tecumseh. Males at Southwestern Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou will be moved to Tecumseh when the new campus is completed. As part of the legislation authorizing the Tecumseh project, OJA is working with the governor and the Legislature to propose an alternative use for the Manitou campus.
The project consists of new construction while some existing buildings, like the gymnasium, will continue to be used. Buildings that will continue in use will receive modernization work.
The Next Generation campus will have a capacity of up to 144 beds. If in future years fewer beds are needed, the refurbished buildings will be renovated in such a way that they may be used in other capacities.
“The new campus will have a much more therapeutic environment,” said OJA Executive Director Steven Buck. “This modern campus will not only facilitate effective treatment for our residents, but will promote safety for our staff. This Next Generation Campus demonstrates our state's commitment to providing secure, juvenile justice services in a setting specifically built to facilitate rehabilitation for young people needing this level of care. The new campus is a better setting for our treatment programs such as trauma-informed care and evidence-based treatment curriculums.
“And by having one centralized facility, OJA will address technology inefficiencies, improve medical and treatment services, and save money in transportation and travel.”
The setting of the new campus will be small, home-like cottages with ample natural light. Research supports natural lighting as being extremely therapeutic.
The Next Generation Campus will feature individual rooms with high-ceiling day rooms full of natural colors. Each resident will have a bedroom with a window.
The units at COJC now are open-dorm style with very little natural lighting.
The new campus also will offer space and landscaping designed for walking and talking. The athletic fields also will be updated.
COJC is on 30 acres of a nearly 150-acre plat and has long been in need of an update. The campus first opened in 1907 and has gone through many transformations over the years. Previously, it was known as the Russell Industrial School, Oklahoma State Industrial School for Incorrigible Girls, the State Industrial School for White Girls, Girls Town and the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Treatment Center.
At various times, it has housed orphans, children in need of mental health treatment, and youth adjudicated as delinquent and/or youthful offenders.