Report details violations at juvenile center

Saturday, September 25th 2004, 11:16 am
By: News On 6

SAND SPRINGS, Okla. (AP) _ An investigative report into the Lloyd E. Rader Center cites the juvenile facility and the state Office of Juvenile Affairs for mistreating residents and accuses OJA officials of attempting to obstruct the investigation.

The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth report, which was obtained by the Tulsa World, claims more than 25 violations of a federal consent decree, state law and juvenile facility rules.

Among the allegations are that some residents at the 215-bed center for juvenile delinquents were kept in solitary confinement for more than one month.

In one instance, an emotionally disturbed youth allegedly was kept in solitary confinement for 68 days, which would violate a federal consent decree. The federal lawsuit known as the Terry D. case, filed in 1978, concerned conditions and practices in the state's juvenile facilities.

The suit was settled in 1984, when the state agreed to a variety of reforms, including a three-hour limit on solitary confinement and an end to hog-tying youths.

The resident allegedly was held in solitary confinement for 68 days between October 2002 and January 2003, the report states.

Investigators with the Office of Juvenile System Oversight, a division of the Commission on Children and Youth, also allege that state juvenile officials withheld facility documents and instructed staff not to talk to investigators.

OJA Executive Director Richard DeLaughter denied those claims.

``We opened the doors to (OJSO), and they have had total access by law,'' DeLaughter said. ``I am somewhat confused by the statement that we withheld anything.''

The center is the state's only maximum-security lockup for the state's most violent juvenile offenders.

In addition to allegedly violating the Terry D. decree, Rader and OJA facilities were cited for violating state laws governing the treatment of juveniles, OJA policy, Rader policy, and rules of the American Correctional Association, an accrediting organization.

Other allegations involve claims that high-ranking OJA officials, including DeLaughter, were aware of such conditions of confinement yet ignored them. DeLaughter disputed all 25 claims of violations outlined in the report.

``I don't believe OJA has violated Terry D. or OJA policy as it relates to the Rader clients,'' DeLaughter said. ``There were staff members on the unit, and these kids were not locked away in some dark room without windows. It just did not happen.''

DeLaughter said his office has spent an estimated $500,000 creating the mental behavioral unit at Rader. He said the unit is addressing the more severely disturbed youths in the OJA system who once fell through the cracks.

The report is critical of the unit, detailing an alleged lack of qualified staff watching over residents. Treatment plans for disturbed youths failed to deliver on counseling and meaningful activities for the residents, it says.

The report also makes 28 recommendations, including action against OJA administrators for possible violations of state law, and calls on a federal court monitor to review the report.