OPEA Speaks to OJA Board about Rader Closing

The Executive Director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association Sterling Zearley presented employee concerns with the closing of the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs to the Board of the Office of Juvenile Affairs at their meeting Friday in Oklahoma City.

“The employees at the Rader Center asked that I come here today and present their concerns with the closing of the only secure facility for Oklahoma’s troubled youth,” said Zearley. “Last month OPEA sent a letter of employee concerns to OJA Board members and the Department of Justice. We are asking today that you postpone any action on the Rader Center and consider reorganizing, downsizing the property and using any proceeds from selling or leasing the land.”

Zearley told the Board that OPEA was concerned the Board as the governing body of the agency had not voted on this critical issue.

According to news reports and Rader employees, the OJA administration is citing budget cuts and the Department of Justice investigation as reasons for closing the Rader Center. However, employees were informed on April 13 that the facility would close and the budget agreement was announced almost a month later on May 10.

“OJA received a three percent cut, or less than $3 million,” said Zearley. “This hardly justifies the closure of the only maximum security facility with a budget of $10 million. In addition, the Association knows of no recommendation by the Department of Justice that OJA should close the only maximum security beds in the system.”

“Our members tell us that corporations want to locate in the area and Rader is being sacrificed for economic development,” Zearley continued. “This should not be the reason to close this important facility. However, possibly both goals can be achieved by selling or leasing some of the property and decreasing the perimeter.

“This session, the legislature passed a bill to allow OJA to contract with a jail or juvenile detention center to house juveniles requiring maximum security,” he said. “This would be very unfortunate for the Oklahoma’s most troubled youth. Neither a jail nor detention center would be an appropriate setting to successfully treat juvenile offenders. We all know the next stop will be a lifetime in adult corrections.

“I hope you will consider the concerns of the dedicated people who carry out OJA’s mission every day,” concluded Zearley. “Rader has traditionally been the last chance for Oklahoma’s most violent and aggressive youth to turn their lives around. Unfortunately, troubled youth will continue to commit crimes and engage in predatory behavior. The state must have a maximum security facility to ensure public safety, while they are in treatment.”

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