New Rader superintendent faces security problem

Tuesday, July 13th 2004, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

SAND SPRINGS, Okla. -- The new superintendent at the state's only treatment center for violent juveniles will confront a growing security problem without the methods he has used in state penitentiaries.

Jimmy W. Martin, the deputy warden of the Oklahoma State Reformatory, was named superintendent of the Lloyd E. Rader Center Tuesday as the troubled facility attempts to restore order and boost staff morale.

"Communication is going to be our biggest tool, letting the inmates know we're there for them, letting the staff know, too," Martin said after reporters were given a tour of the Sand Springs institution.

Martin, 43, said he will first have to learn the rules that govern treatment of the state's youthful offenders -- codes far more restrictive than those determining how adult prisoners are handled.

For example, Rader staff call the offenders there clients, not inmates, and unlike adult prisoners, they cannot be thrown "in the hole" for failing to follow the 215-bed institution's rules.

Martin will replace John Miller Aug. 1. Miller was demoted to deputy superintendent last month amid an increase in violence that officials blame on reduced staff and more aggressive residents.

"You have an older population, a different type of crime, so you have a more difficult time trying to find programs to affect these kids," said Richard DeLaughter, executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs. "OJA has been struggling to keep up."

During the first six months of fiscal year 2004, juveniles at Rader committed 82 assaults on staff members and other residents -- nearly double the number during the same time in 2003 year.

A brawl in June injured seven inmates and 10 staff members, prompting area lawmakers to request an independent investigation into the center's security.

A state commission is already investigating treatment of Rader residents, and the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division is looking for violations of the U.S. Constitution in resident confinement.

In response to the violence, the office is opening a separate unit in August to segregate violent and noncompliant inmates from the rest of the population.

Howard Snowbarger, an OJA official who has been interim superintendent at Rader since Miller's demotion, will lead a team of experts to assess problems and find solutions at Rader.

Also, OJA will hire two new staff members to implement recreational programs designed to reduce inmates' idle time. The number of recreational therapists has been cut at Rader in recent years to save money.

"I think it's hurt us," DeLaughter said. "We have not been able to keep our kids busy enough when they're not in school."

In Martin, Rader gets a 20-year Department of Corrections employee who has served on the staff of five state prisons, including the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

He's been deputy warden at the 1,000-bed facility in Granite since July 2000. Martin's annual salary at the reformatory is $47,400, his employment file shows.

"We thought we could go outside the agency and find someone who has a lot of experience and knowledge in how to run a secure facility," DeLaughter said.