Bill filed to keep Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center open
Mike Seals - January 24, 2021 10:51 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Waurika, and Rep. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton, have filed legislation to keep the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center (SWOJC) in Manitou operating. The 60-bed secure-care facility for boys will be consolidated in accordance with 2017 legislation—moving all secure-care treatment for Oklahoma youth to one location, the Next Generation Campus, at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (COJC) in Tecumseh. The new center, scheduled to open in fall 2022, will provide secure, juvenile justice services in a setting specifically built to provide rehabilitation for young people needing that level of care.
Senate Bill 742 would allow the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) to continue operating the Manitou facility and contract for and/or operate group homes of any level for OJA youth.
“Allowing OJA to continue using the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center will help provide much-needed services to a wider group of young Oklahomans in need,” Kidd said. “The center is also a major employer in Tillman County, and we want to make sure that we protect those jobs by continuing to utilize the facility.”
SB 742 would also authorize OJA to contract with any state agency for the placement of children or young adults in their custody to reside and participate in any identified OJA-contracted or -operated program or facility. In consultation and approval by the governor and attorney general, it would also allow OJA to contract with any tribal nation or federal agency or department for the placement of youth within their custody to reside or participate in OJA programs or facilities.
“Senator Kidd and I are doing everything in our power to continue OJA’s mission of providing a high level of care for Oklahomans in need at the Manitou facility,” Caldwell said. “We’re hopeful our colleagues will approve this bill and allow OJA to repurpose this facility into quality group homes.”
The two legislators have been working with OJA Executive Director Rachel Holt to convert the facilities into group homes to provide for more OJA-operated placements.
“The employees at the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou have a long history of dedicated work in improving the lives and outcomes for the highest level youth in the juvenile justice system,” Holt said. “I appreciate the support and advocacy of Senator Kidd and Representative Caldwell who share my commitment to find options for the amazing OJA staff at SWOJC to be able to continue their service to Oklahoma in a different level of programming for OJA youth, or even programs for Oklahomans in other agencies. SWOJC has deep ties to the community, and OJA appreciates the strong history of support from the community for our youth and our employees.”