The Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs today approved an updated State Plan for the Establishment of Juvenile Detention Services, which will determine the number of juvenile detention beds necessary for the state’s current needs and the locations of those needed beds. The plan also determines the number of juvenile detention beds for which the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) will pay.
Board members also approved new contract guidelines as well as rates, following through on key recommendations of last year’s performance audit by a private firm selected by the Agency Performance and Accountability Commission. The new rates include a Tier I rate to recognize detention centers that provide higher standards in the areas of education, mental health and quality of life.
“I’m pleased that we have approved a new state plan for detention,” said board Chairman Warren A. “Tony” Caldwell. “We have worked on it for nearly a year and it completes the work of reforming the way in which we contract with our provider partners which we have been working on for several years.”
The current state juvenile detention services plan was adopted in 2008 and called for 365 juvenile detention beds. Since then, two juvenile detention centers have forfeited contracts with OJA. Creek County commissioners, who have 16 licensed juvenile beds in their center, do not have a contract with OJA. The number of OJA-contracted juvenile beds for the current 2020 fiscal year is 296.
The proposed updated plan calls for 266 juvenile detention beds in 14 counties across the state. The plan will take effect July 1.
Each county is responsible for the secure detention of their juveniles. Detention centers in four counties - Oklahoma, Tulsa, Canadian and Comanche -- are operated by the local county juvenile bureaus.
OJA contracts with county commissioners for secure juvenile detention centers. Counties that do not have detention centers contract with other counties that do have centers.
“There will always be a percentage of Oklahoma youth who require secure detention services due to the nature of their criminal charges,” said OJA Executive Director Steven Buck. “OJA’s hope is that these numbers continue to decrease across the state. Every effort has been made and will continue to be made to establish a statewide system that will neither be quickly outgrown nor overbuilt. The state of Oklahoma in conjunction with local county governments is committed to a cost-effective detention system that serves the public interest and provides a safe, humane environment for the population for whom it is designed to serve.”
The proposed plan also calls for reducing the number of contracted beds by two in Craig County, from 18 to 16. The number of juvenile detention contracted beds would be reduced in Oklahoma County from 72 to 60. The Oklahoma County juvenile detention center daily census has shown that 72 beds is not necessary to meet their county needs, as Oklahoma County only detains children from Oklahoma County.
OJA suspended its contract with Muskogee County commissioners in September after state inspectors had concerns regarding licensing standards. The plan approved today did not include an allocation of detention beds in Muskogee County.
Bryan County commissioners in October notified OJA that they no longer desired to provide juvenile detention services; they forfeited six juvenile detention beds. In 2017, Osage County forfeited its six beds.
The plan calls to allocate contracted juvenile detention beds to detention centers in the following counties:
Beckham County: Remains at 6.
Canadian County: Remains at 10.
Cleveland County: Remains at 26.
Comanche County: Remains at 25.
Craig County: 16, down from 18.
Garfield County: Remains at 10.
LeFlore County: Remains at 10.
Lincoln County: Remains at 12.
Oklahoma County: 60, down from 72.
Pittsburg County: Remains at 10.
Pottawatomie County: Remains at 12.
Texas County: Remains at 6.
Tulsa County: Remains at 55.
Woodward County: Remains at 8.
The detention centers are not OJA facilities, but are operated by county employees or a subcontractor selected by the county commissioners of the host county. OJA pays 85% of the approved operating costs for each bed, while counties pick up the remaining 15% of the operating costs when the bed is occupied by a child from their county. Not every child in a detention center is in OJA custody. Oklahoma law only allows secure detention of juveniles in necessary circumstances, including while the juvenile’s legal case is pending adjudication and pending placement identified by OJA for juveniles and youthful offenders in OJA custody.
The number of children in secure detention has been declining, from 3,998 in fiscal year 2017 to 3,306 in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30. In recent years, OJA has paid for excess capacity due to no clear plan for periods of declining need.
The number of beds in the new detention plan was determined by developing projected need determined by prior usage, subtracting the number of beds used that were not eligible for detention, minus an adjustment for implementation of alternatives to detention as outlined in the state detention plan and minus an adjustment for youth detained awaiting OJA placement. Those funds would be reallocated from detention to therapeutic placements and community-based support agencies. The amount that could be allocated instead for alternatives to sentencing is estimated about $75,000 annually. The right-sizing will also allow OJA to provide a rate increase to detention providers.
“We had true collaborative dialogue with the detention providers association and I appreciate their contributions to the planning process,” Buck said. “It is imperative to the mental and physical health of Oklahoma’s children and their future that the use of secure detention is limited to the children that meet statutory requirements for detention and that detention stays are continuously assessed for appropriateness and are as brief as possible relative to the nature of the offense requiring detainment.”