TULSA, Okla. (AP) The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Friday, saying conditions of violence and misconduct at the L.E. Rader Center, a Sand Springs juvenile facility operated by the state, violate the civil rights of inmates.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, comes after a 2 1/2 year investigation that found problems at the facility, the largest of its kind in Oklahoma that houses 215 boys up to 19 years old.
``In this case, the facility was uncooperative,'' said Cynthia Magnuson, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice. ``It got to a point where we needed to file a lawsuit.''
The Justice Department said in a written statement that a letter sent to Gov. Brad Henry in June 2005 detailed a series of violations at the high-security center.
The 16-page letter, also copied to Attorney General Drew Edmondson and juvenile and Rader officials, said the state failed to protect youth confined at Rader from ``sexually inappropriate relationships with staff and other juveniles; juvenile on juvenile violence; self-injurious behavior; inadequate management of psychotropic medication; and excessive use of force by staff.''
Some incidents described in the letter include a female staff member having a sexual relationship with a male youth, staffers refusing to break up a fight where one youth was choked and slammed to the ground and an incident where a youth attacked another juvenile and a staff member with a four-foot long piece of metal.
Additionally, the letter documents that between 2003 and 2004, youth at Rader made at least 12 suicide attempts and that in each case, staff there ``failed to take adequate precautions'' to protect them from harm.
It also cites several instances where the center failed to properly monitor how medicine was distributed to the mentally ill. In one case in 2003, a male youth had to be taken to the hospital for detox because he took medication meant for somebody else.
Robert Christian, the newly named executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, said in a statement Friday that his office ``has been involved in this discussion for at least two years and we anticipated this legal action.''
``We are looking forward to final resolution, which we think will be beneficial for both the Office of Juvenile Affairs and all Oklahomans,'' he says in the statement.
Paul Sund, a spokesman for Gov. Henry, said he couldn't comment because the issue was under litigation.
Magnuson said her office is still open to resolve the issue out of court.